SEATTLE — Western Washington is the perfect place to live if you love oysters. When you go to your local seafood restaurant, the sheer number of oyster options can be overwhelming.
Food writer and lifelong Northwesterner Cynthia Nims has some tips on various kinds of oysters and how to choose which kind to eat next time you go out.
"There's so many bays and there's endless waterways where these oysters grow," Nim said, referencing the nickname the PNW has acquired as a so-called, "Oyster Nirvana."
Oysters can taste different depending on where they're from, which means Washington is full of oyster-tasting bars ready to open
"The thing about oysters, which is interesting, is they're filter feeders. That's just their biology. They process like, 30, 40, 50 gallons of water a day," Nim said. "So all those phytoplankton and zooplankton that they're pulling in actually does eventually sort of contribute to their flavor, and the type of water they're in can have an impact."
Types of oysters found in the PNW:
- Hama Hama
- Willapa Bay
- Discovery Bay
While Nim thinks oysters are best enjoyed in their natural state: raw and without garnish, she acknowledged that many people aren't ready for the flavor. Oysters can be prepared in a variety of ways, from raw slurping to grilling to frying.
"Cocktail sauce is a great sort of introductory garnish or accent for a raw oyster if it's maybe your first time and you're just getting used to it. I find that it does sort of mask a lot of the unique characteristics and flavors. But then if you start there and if it's like the beginning of someone's new appreciation for raw oysters, I think that's a great starting point."
Nim recommends trying as many types as possible to understand likes and dislikes, ask questions, and learn about the different regions oysters are grown in.
"I think that's half the fun is just trying as many types as you like," Nim said.
Here are Nim's tips for choosing the best oyster:
- "One thing you want to look for is that they are obviously well-cared for on the site," Nim said about shopping at seafood markets or grocery stores. This means the Oysters are in a tank, on ice, and don't have cracks in their shells.
- Oysters should have a closed shell. Open shells mean they've died and should not be eaten
- Once you buy oysters, give them air as soon as possible. They need to breathe.