Monday, January 18, 2010

Oyster love - how to order oysters

Oysters for sale signLet’s imagine you have decided to try oysters – maybe after reading my story. You open the menu.... and realise that just asking for oysters will not be enough. You have to be more specific. Frenchmen are not difficult about food – yeah sure - but they are very precise.

Let me guide you through the three basic parts of determining what oysters to order. First of all you need to know that oysters are classified by size from 0-5, where 0 is the biggest and 5 the smallest. The most demanded size is 3 - not too big, not too small – and also my personal preference. If you hesitate, take the smaller size.
Next step is to understand the other classification, which basically takes into account the part of meat compared to the weight of the whole oyster. On the menu you will see:

• huîtres fines : flat oysters with a quota between 6,5 and 10,5;
• huîtres spéciales : quota above 10,5 ;
• huîtres fines de claire: the oysters have been in clear water for at least one month with 40 oysters per m2;
• huîtres spéciales de claire : the oysters have been in clear water for 4-5 months with 5-10 oysters per m2

Third step is to choose the origin of your oysters. Different breeding places give different taste. Do you want an oyster from Bretagne, from Arcachon, from Marenne-Oléron….? I would say you have to try different origins to see what pleases you the most, but basically the flat oyster comes from Bretagne and the southeast of France and they have a saltier taste with more iodine, while the Japanese oyster is the most common elsewhere. From the Arcachon bay in Aquitaine the most reputed ones come from the Arguin sandbank, the breeding place that is the closest to the open sea.

Japanese oyster

The best time for eating oysters is late autumn until early spring. In summer the oysters get milky due to their reproduction and the taste is not so good. If they suggest oysters called Quatre Saisons, because you can eat them all year, you should know that they are genetically modified and cannot reproduce. Personally I prefer to follow the seasons and eat normal oysters!

Sorry, this got a bit long…. I’ll make a new post to talk about the next step, what to do when you finally have that platter of oysters in front of you...

Open Japanese oyster photo from Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. I know the Arcachon region quite well. Love their oysters too. I live in San Francisco. How and where can I order oysters from France to be shipped directly to my home?


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