"If you show a fish to an American, they’ll remember the size and colour of the fish. Someone from Japan is likely to pay more attention to what’s around the fish, like the bubbles, the rocks and the seaweed."
Devendra Banhart (2016)
This simple little dish is inspired by the cuisine of Japan where seaweed is very much appreciated in many forms.
The oysters being crispy fried are a more appealing option for those who are less than keen on raw oysters but the accompanying, quite punchy, flavours may even turn this into a favourite (oyster) dish for them. Despite what you might initially think, the flavour of the oysters in this dish very much does not get lost amongst the other ingredients, and the sesame seeds have an uncanny harmony with the oysters. Another recipe of a very similar theme is "Tempura Oysters".
Because so much of this recipe can be made ahead of time I think it makes for a very convenient and quite impressive little starter that simply must be eaten with chopsticks!
You can expect the reaction of a 'connoisseur' of oysters to be one of horror that an oyster should be given any form of heat treatment. I love oysters but would certainly not call myself a 'connoisseur', and I must admit it was some time before I could bring myself to cook an oyster. There are two things to be said about this. First there are oysters and there are oysters. The ones known as 'natives' have particularly delicate and very charismatic flavours inherited from the environment in which they have grown. This intricacy is highly-revered and they fetch a far higher price than 'Pacific' or 'rock' (not a technically accurate name) oysters, which are not specific to a particular habitat and are more prolific in their growth and reproduction. For me, these are the oysters where cooking can be justified. Second, the cooking should be sympathetic: a simple cornflour or tempura coating is just the sort of thing.
Many will be familiar with the fine shreds of white (mooli or daikon) radish adorning a plate of sashimi (often with a small serving of seaweed). Therein lies the inspiration for the inclusion of the grated radish in this recipe - regular salad radishes in this case for the simplicity with which they can be obtained, but if a mooli/daikon is to hand then certainly use that instead.
The soy and wasabi dressing is a fairly standard formula that can be found in many modern-day recipes. The only consideration here, much as oysters enjoy a dose of vinegar (as witnessed in the classic Sauce Mignonette), is not to have too much vinegar as the seaweed enjoys it less than the oysters.
A very common and most pleasing way of serving oysters in the shell is on a bed of crushed ice. Another option is to use small mounds of rock salt to stabilise the shells. There are even specially-designed serving plates to achieve the aim. Any of these methods would be perfectly fine here, but I thought why not serve the seaweed-filled oysters on a bed of seaweed?
Crispy Oysters with Seaweed and a Soy and Wasabi Dressing
Ingredients (For 6 oysters)
75g sugar kelp (or other edible seaweed), tough stalks removed, very well washed
Additional seaweed to serve the oysters on, optional
2 tsp sesame seeds
2-3 radishes, grated (optional)
2 tbsp cornflour
Sunflower or vegetable oil for shallow frying
Seaweed to serve on, or crushed ice etc. (see recipe intro)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soy and wasabi dressing:
½ tsp wasabi paste
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp dark soy sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
1 tsp caster sugar
Steam the seaweed for 1 min then refresh in cold running water and drain well. Wrap the seaweed in a single layer in a clean, dry tea towel and press the excess moisture out. Roll into a cigar shape and slice into thin shreds. Keep aside.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until aromatic and only slightly coloured. Keep aside.
To make the soy and wasabi dressing simply whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl and leave to infuse.
Shuck the oysters into a colander set over a bowl and discard their juice. Wipe the oyster meats clean with kitchen paper and leave the cleaned meats on another piece of kitchen paper to drain any remaining moisture. To serve in the shell, scrape out the curved half, wash just in running water and dry well.
Heat a 3mm depth of oil in frying pan. Season the oysters with salt and pepper to taste then dredge them in the cornflour. Tap off the excess flour and fry over a medium-high heat for no longer than 1 min per side until lightly golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Divide the seaweed between the shells and sprinkle over the grated radish if using. Place an oyster on top of the seaweed in each shell, drizzle with 2-3 tsp of the dressing and scatter the sesame seeds on top. Serve while the oysters are still warm.
"Tempura Oysters", Bute Street Seafoodie