Easy Steamed Fresh Oysters

Growing up Chinese-American meant enjoying seafood in all forms: fresh, of course, but also dried, salted, smoked and in sauce form. My Chinese-American friend Lillian Chou remembers that one of her favourite treats as a child was the dried salted squid she would chew on like candy. It remains to this day a real comfort food for her.

When we Chinese-Americans ate fresh seafood, we mostly preferred it steamed, a technique designed to bring out all the delicate natural essences of the food. In our homes, even oysters were steamed rather than eaten raw, as in this recipe. A bit of ginger and spring onion, finished off with a wisp of hot oil, turns ordinary oysters into a marvellous delicacy. This recipe makes a wonderful first course.

Ingredients

  • 16 large fresh oysters
  • Seaweed or coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons finely shredded spring onions
  • 2 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • Fresh coriander sprigs, to garnish

Method

Scrub the oysters clean; open them by removing the top shell. Keep the oysters and juices intact in the bottom shell. Lay seaweed or sea salt on a heatproof platter. Place the open oysters on their bottom shells on top of the seaweed or salt. This will keep them from rocking and spilling their juices. Scatter the ginger and soy sauce over the open oysters.

Next set up a steamer, or put a rack into a wok or deep pan, and fill it with 5 cm (2 in) of water. Bring the water to the boil over a high heat. Gently lower in the platter so that it sits firmly on the rack. Turn the heat to low and cover the wok tightly. Steam gently for 5 minutes.

Remove the oysters from the steamer and scatter the spring onions evenly over them. Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, pour it all over the oysters. Garnish with coriander sprigs and serve.

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