Oysters and kombucha. There can’t be many times those two words have turned up in the same sentence. But as high summer hits and the briney air proves irresistible, seafood recipes and refreshing drinks are high on our agenda.
Here at REAL, the essential non-alcoholic food pairing for anything from the seafood or fish menu has to be Dry Dragon. It’s that slightly tart, citrusy flavour that dances around the taste of the sea. Hot days, sparkling, refreshing, complex drinks, combined with some of nature’s most beach-friendly foodstuffs… don’t know about you, but there are mouths watering here.
Which is the best way to serve oysters? Some of the REAL team have been lucky enough to travel far and wide, so we asked them (and some of our friends) for the best oyster recipes they’ve come across. Here’s what they served up.
Japanese Recipes for Oysters
In the UK, we often think of oysters as a food to be slurped raw. Oddly enough, in Japan – the home of sashimi – many of the best oyster recipes involve cooking. Our co-founder, Jon Wilks, spent 10 years living in Fukuoka and Tokyo, and he swears by two recipes in particular.
Jon says: “The first of the two is the celebrated way for cooking oysters (kaki) in Hiroshima. More specifically, the recipe comes from the small island of Miyajima, famed for its ‘floating tori gate’. You take a ferry from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial park, right next to the Atomic Bomb Dome, and soon you’re out on the open water where you can see the oyster farms stretching out across the Inland Sea. The island of Miyajima is incredibly touristy, but you definitely get a sense of times gone by. The streets are narrow, the noises of the street hawkers visceral, and the smell of grilled oysters drops over you like a curtain.”
“Oysters from this part of Japan are prepared with real minimalism. You don’t need much more than a hot charcoal grill and a splash of ponzu sauce. Sure, you can add grated daikon or even a little grated cucumber as a kind of relish, but the thrill is in the freshness. We talk a lot about farm-to-table cooking. Well, this is sea-to-tongue. The fewer touch points along the way, the better.”
“Incidentally, the best place I ever tried Hiroshima-style oysters was not actually in Hiroshima at all. If you’re lucky enough to be travelling in North Kyushu and you can get up to Setomachi and the Tanoura Warf area near Moji, there are fresh oyster barbecues alongside the fishing quays. You just have to poke about a bit and look for a friendly welcome. The fishermen bring the oysters in and cook them there and then. No tourists, no glamour. Just you, the oysters and the Inland Sea. Glorious.”
Hiroshima-syle oysters recipe
- Fresh oysters, the deeper the shells the better (order online via Wright Bros)
- Ponzu sauce (can be bought from most East Asian supermarkets, or made at home using this recipe)
- Yuzu kosho (if available; here’s a decent homemade recipe)
- Daikon radish
- Green onion stalks
You’ll need to grill these from the bottom up, so don’t expect to make this recipe work under your oven grill. A charcoal barbecue can work on a nice summer’s day, but wait until the flames have completely died down and the coals are glowing red.
Thinly slice your green onion stalks. Grate your cucumber and your daikon. Set aside the stalks, the cucumber and the daikon in their own small bowls.
In a small serving jug, mix a quarter of a teaspoon of yuzu kosho with 3 tablespoons of ponzu sauce.
Scrub your oysters so that no grit or broken shell pieces are attached. Place the oysters on the grill. After 4-5 minutes, they will begin to pop open. Some will open slightly, others fairly wide. Using a pair of tongs, remove the oysters from the heat and place them on a plate. Discard the oysters that have not opened at all.
Place the opened oysters on a tea towel, with the cup side of the oyster at the bottom. Fold the towel over the top of the oyster slightly so that you have a way of protecting your hand. Prize the oyster open enough to slide a sharp knife beneath the lid, severing the muscle from the shell. The lid can now be thrown away.
Inspect the oyster and remove any shell pieces. You can also discard any remaining brine, as it will prove too salty alongside the sauce.
Serve the oysters with the daikon, cucumber and onions, as well as the ponzu mixture. You can either place the grated and sliced vegetables into the shell as a relish and pour the ponzu mixture over it, or you can simply serve with the sauce. It all depends on preference.
Serve with a chilled glass of REAL Dry Dragon to really bring out those citrusy flavours.
Jon says: “This is the guilty pleasure, kiss-me-quick version of Japanese seaside cooking. I’ve taken a slightly different approach to it, given that I’m now living in the UK and I’ve got a different set of ingredients to hand. The real trick here is in getting your ‘panko’ right – panko being the breadcrumbs that you deep fry the oysters in – and making sure they’re served really fresh on a delicious bed of white rice (just to soak up the residual oil). The Dry Dragon kombucha cuts through these flavours wonderfully, adding a light, refreshing tang to an otherwise chunky, fairly oily dish.”
- 16 fresh oysters (order online via Wright Bros)
- Two large eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Enough vegetable oil for deep frying
- Plain white flour
- Quarter of a loaf of white sourdough bread
- Lemon juice
- Tonkatsu sauce (available from most East Asian supermarkets); alternatively tartare sauce
Shuck your oysters carefully. Remove the oyster from the shell, rinse to remove any broken shell pieces, set aside.
Begin your vegetable oil in a pan or deep fryer. You’re aiming for around 180°c.
Beat the eggs in a bowl, season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.
You’ll need to turn your quarter-loaf of sourdough into breadcrumbs. One way to do this is break it into chunks and then place them in a food processor or blender. Whizz them up for a few minutes, occasionally stopping and stirring so that the larger chunks get broken up. Japanese panko is usually made from very fine breadcrumbs, but this version allows for a slightly crunchier option, so bigger crumbs are fine. Set the crumbs aside in a bowl.
Place the flour in a bowl and set aside.
Once your oil is at the right temperature, line your bowls up side by side. Take each oyster and roll them in the contents of each bowl, one by one, starting with the flour, followed by the beaten egg, and then the breadcrumbs. When the oysters have their three coats on, place them carefully into the oil and deep fry for 1-2 minutes on each side. They’ll float in the oil when ready.
Remove them from the pan and place on kitchen towel to soak away some of the oil. Serve with white rice, green salad and either a light squirting of tonkotsu or tartare sauce.
Goes wonderful with a chilled glass of REAL Dry Dragon.
Oysters a la Arcachon
REAL founder and foodie obsessive, David Begg, believes that the best way to serve oysters is au naturel, just as they do in the South of France.
David says: “My wife was brought up much of her life in Arcachon, out on the coast from Bordeaux, and arguably the producer of the best oysters in the world (but don’t tell the Bretons!) Always the greatest pleasure of visiting the Bassin d’Arcachon in the summer is the first taste of an oyster behind a little shack on the small inland harbour in La Teste de Buch, or on the grassy back porch of our favourite oyster bar just across the water in Cap Ferret. The oysters have just been lifted from the waters of the bay in front of us and served straight out of the crates as they arrive on shore.”
“In French restaurants, oysters are generally served with bread and butter and with a squeeze of lemon. For the real oyster people, however, it is a dash of red wine vinegar that has soaked up the flavour of finely sliced shallots. Some also serve with the acidic verjus. But for me, to get the real taste of the sea, leave a touch of sea water in the shell and slurp the oyster followed by home made bread served with sea salted butter, the best of which generally comes from the North West of France.”
“And I have even introduced Dry Dragon to my wife’s family as an almost equivalent oyster accompaniment to a fine white Bordeaux (I am always one to take risks). The first time I met my wife’s family, I took a box of the best English cheeses from Neil’s Yard. And they are still talking to me today…!”
Oysters in Mignonette Sauce, by Mark Hix
REAL co-founder, Adrian Hodgson, is a foodie tourist – the kind of person that plans their holidays around the quality of food on offer at his chosen destination. He’s also a huge fan of oysters aficionado, Mark Hix.
While we were unable to get Mark’s recipe on this occasion, we can tell you that he’s a huge fan of Dry Dragon kombucha and will always cook up an amazing seafood spread that will not let you down.
Adrian says: “My last (and currently best experience) of oysters was on a recent trip to Lyme Regis, where we visited Mark Hix’s Oyster and Fish House. On the menu were three types of Oyster – Brownsea Island, Ortland Pearls and Rock Oysters. The Brownsea and Ortland Pearls were fresh and raw, while the Rock Oysters were scrumpy-fried, served with a Scotch bonnet mayonnaise. The Brownsea Island were really meaty, while the Ortland Pearls were strangely sweet. Both were accompanied with Mignonette Sauce, a home made pickled hot sauce as well as Tabasco. I can’t recommend one above the other. All were amazing.”
For more info, head to Mark’s Oyster & Fish House Facebook Page.
If all that doesn’t get you in the mood for oysters, who knows what will? But just to make sure we had all the oyster bases covered, we asked some of our non-alcoholic brewer friends if they had any other ideas.
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Our good friend Søren Kirketerp, from the amazing Danish non-alc spirits company, ISH SPIRITS, had this prize recommendation to share with our readers…
“I love oysters, and we have a famous guy here in Denmark – The Oyster King – who organises safaris at the west coast of Denmark, where people harvest the oysters themselves and are seated at tables in the water. Then, under guidance, they make 8-12 servings with different garnishes recommended and provided by The King. It’s a fantastic experience.”
Click here to see The Oyster King’s website.
And, who knows? Maybe, by the time you get to Denmak, ISH SPIRITS will have helped The Oyster King put together a whole new non-alc drinking menu, fit for seafood royalty.