Raw oysters are enjoyed on the beach, at oyster bars, in fine dining restaurants and at home. If you have never eaten a raw oyster but are thinking of trying one, here are some tips to help you out.
East coast oysters are salty, briny, and mild. West coast oysters are sweeter with a creamy texture. Choose what you think you will like best. Do not worry about all the different names oysters have yet; you can learn them once you find the types you prefer.
Raw oysters are served on the half shell. This is one half of the oyster’s shell. When your plate of oysters is in front of you, you want to see plenty of seawater on them. The oyster should be opaque. If you see an oyster that is somewhat transparent, it did not get enough to eat while it was growing. No matter what the size of the oyster is, it should fill a good portion of the shell. If it smells bad, don’t eat it.
Eating the Oyster
Luckily, there is no proper way to eat an oyster, but there are certain steps you may want to take to make it appear easy. Raw oysters are served with a small seafood fork. Pick up a shell full of oyster and use the fork to move the oyster around. This ensures the oyster is still not attached to the shell.
Set the wide end of the shell against your lips, tip, and slurp that oyster out of the shell, liquid and all. Chew and swallow. That is all there is to it. During the brief chewing you will need to do, you may notice flavors of almonds, cucumber, or melon. This is normal and varies with where the oyster was grown.
Oysters will also be served with several different things you can top your oyster with, but purist oyster aficionados do not use them. If you like your oyster with a little dressing, cocktail sauce, hot sauce or lemon juice, go for it. You are the one eating it, after all. Just shake a drop or two of the seasoning onto the raw oyster and eat.
At some restaurants, the waiter will hang around to turn the plate of oysters to set a fresh one in front of you when you are ready, but of course, you can do this yourself if you wish. Once you have developed a taste for fresh, raw oysters, you will see why they are so popular.
While your fishmonger and restaurant will strive to get you only the freshest oysters, eating raw oysters is not a good idea for everyone. People who have certain illnesses like cancer, liver disease, diabetes, HIV and other serious conditions should not eat raw seafood of any kind, including oysters.
Those with compromised immune systems should probably eat them cooked as well. It is a good thing oysters are also delicious when cooked. Sometimes, it is unsafe to eat shellfish when dangerous bacteria are found in the waters where oysters are harvested. Government agencies monitor these areas and issue a warning to the public when these things happen. They also let the public know when the shellfish is safe to eat again.
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