It seems that the humble oyster has become something of a coveted gourmet product these days. There have always been those of us who love them but it’s only over the last few years that we have seen them appearing regularly for sale at our local supermarket fish counters here in Portugal and even on the menus of local restaurants.
One of the reasons, of course, is that we now have quite a few oyster farms here, especially in the Algarve, and this is no doubt the result of an increase in demand.
The popularity of oysters was truly driven home for me at the Vila Joya International Gourmet Festival held earlier this month – on all but a couple of nights they figured on the menu.
Having attended most of the dinners of this festival over the last eight years, I’ve seen them appear more and more regularly, proving that even the world’s top chefs are now taking the oyster a lot more seriously.
It’s interesting to note the culinary uses of this mollusc, from Chinese oyster sauce to, not so long ago, the traditional stuffing (dried oysters) used in Thanksgiving turkey in the USA.
But for us puritans, it’s all about the natural flavour and texture of a raw oyster, with nothing more than a squeeze of lemon perhaps.
At this year’s Vila Joya festival, however, I had them dressed in all sorts of different sauces, deep fried in breadcrumbs with wasabi and, on one night, injected with the essence of fresh apple.
So versatile are they – not to mention being a very healthy superfood in every sense – that their popularity can only continue to grow.
By PATRICK STUART