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Dining In 2 minutes 02 September 2016

Ask The Experts: How To Buy and Store Oysters

Oysters may be an easy crowd-favourite, but keeping them fresh for home consumption could be tricky. Here are a chef's tips on how to serve them right.

Ask the Expert ingredients technique

Always had a burning question but not sure who to ask? In our regular Ask the Experts section, we do all the noseying so you don't have to. In this edition, we get chef Jonathan Kinsella of DB Bistro and Oyster Bar at Marina Bay Sands to share on the best way to buy, store and serve oysters.

Jonathan Kinsella.jpg
There's no better person to direct questions about oysters than Jonathan Kinsella, executive chef of DB Bistro and Oyster Bar. The Michelin-listed restaurant he oversees brings in fresh oysters daily six times a week - that's a whopping 2000 pieces of oysters every week. Here, he addresses a reader's question and gives tips on what to serve them with from his chef's perspective.

Dear Jonathan,
I’m planning an intimate housewarming party for a few friends and we usually hang out at an oyster bar after work on Fridays. I was thinking of replicating the experience of eating raw oysters with bubbly at home, but as it’s my first time, I really don’t want to get anyone sick. Where can I buy some good ones and how do I store them?
Oysters are highly perishable so it’s very important that you purchase wisely from a reputable supplier that specialises in oysters. I advise buying oysters directly from a seafood supplier or a fish market – depending on where you are – rather than a supermarket to avoid the middleman.

Some quality oyster suppliers in Singapore are Artisan. They supply amazing East Cast Oysters from Foleys Fish out of Boston, which are my favorite. If you prefer European oysters, Classic Fine Foods and Culina both carry wonderful Irish and French Oysters. Always check their harvest date and their origin before purchasing.

How do I choose oysters?
When buying an oyster, it is key that you have the purveyor open one in front of you before buying them. [At the restaurant], I open and try one oyster as soon as they are delivered in order to check the quality. A fresh oyster should be full of clear ocean water and have a neutral mineral odor. If it has a funky, strong, or unpleasant odour, do not even think about consuming it raw.

(Related: Local produce you didn’t know could be grown in Singapore)
Kumamoto oysters on a bed of ice
Kumamoto oysters on a bed of ice
What about buying oysters kept in tanks?
Never buy oysters kept in tanks! The beauty of an oyster is the brine or what is referred to as the 'liquor'. When people put them in a tank they are washing all of the brine and flavour out of the oyster, and replacing it with tank water which is unsanitary, dangerous, and quite frankly, disgusting. It makes the oysters live longer but significantly diminishes their quality.

Okay, so how do I store them?
After purchasing them I encourage you to keep them as cold as possible and consume them within 24 hours in order to be safe. The best way to store oysters is in perforated pans at zero degrees with a bit of crushed ice over them. There should be proper elevation and drainage under the perforation so that the oysters do not “swim” in any stagnant water. Lastly, an oyster does not improve over time. They are meant to be enjoyed as fresh as possible. Eat them quickly and eat them often!

(Related: Essential online shops for farm-to-table produce in Singapore)
oysters served at DB Bistro and Oyster Bar.jpg

Any tips on how I can serve them?
Everybody enjoys their oysters in different ways. I think the best way to enjoy an oyster is to gently open it without disturbing it, slice the muscle underneath to release it from the shell, and serve it over crushed ice.

I love them “naked”, which is with nothing on them or with just a touch of lemon juice. For plump meaty oysters, a little Tabasco doesn’t hurt though. For larger parties, some other traditional condiments also could include freshly grated horseradish, cocktail sauce, fresh wasabi, or mignonette, which is basically vinegar with black pepper and minced shallots.

It is always a nice touch to serve salted crackers alongside them as well for an authentic oyster bar feel.

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