Salmon may be my favorite fish but the oyster is my favorite seafood. Too bad that there are very few variations on how oysters are served in the Philippines (at least, very few that I’m aware of). Although the ultimate experience is prying open the shells of barely blanched oysters and eating the soft, slippery and slightly slimy briny morsels right off the half shell, I’d really love to try new recipes that include oysters among the ingredients. I’ve already made kilawin (ceviche) with oysters, we’ve had them with cheese a la Rockefeller, I discovered oyster omelets at a Taipei market and made my version at home… Now, oysters adobo.
To make adobo with oysters might sound like a contradiction. Filipino adobo is a stew and its flavors are richness are made possible by long and slow cooking. Oysters shrink to almost nothing with prolonged cooking and they turn rubbery. So, how can they be cooked as adobo?
Before starting with the recipe, let me point out two things. First, I cooked this dish with shucked oysters. Meaning, I did not do the shelling. In Philippine markets, oyster sellers also sell oyster meat soaked in water. Like this.
A smarter alternative to carrying a heavy bag full of oysters in their shells. Twenty pesos per pack (about USD0.50); I bought two. If you’re worried about sanitation, give the oysters a quick rinse before cooking. And, no, I didn’t use the liquid in the bag.
Second, I used rice wine vinegar (milder and subtly sweet than regular vinegars in the market) and light soy sauce. Oysters have a delicate flavor and I didn’t what that to be overpowered by the acidity of the vinegar nor the extreme saltiness of the soy sauce.
- 1 tbsp. of cooking oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- lots of freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 tbsps. of rice wine vinegar
- 2 to 3 tbsps. of light soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
- about 1 and ½ c. of uncooked oyster meat, rinsed and drained
- Heat the cooking oil gently in a pan.
- Add the garlic, onion and black pepper. Cook gently until softened a bit, about a minute.
- Pour in the vinegar and soy sauce. Stir.
- Add the oysters. Stir lightly. The oysters will expel juices and you will see more liquid than the equivalent of the vinegar and soy sauce. When the liquid boils, turn off the heat immediately, scoop out the oysters and transfer them to a plate.
- Reheat the liquid and cook until reduced to about two to three tablespoonfuls. In other words, concentrate the flavors, especially the oyster juices.
- When the liquid is reduced, turn off the heat and add the oysters to the pan. If there is liquid (there should be) on the plate where you had placed the half-cooked oysters earlier, add that to the pan too. Stir to coat the oysters with the sauce. Transfer to a plate or shallow bowl at once so that the oysters do not continue cooking in the residual heat of the pan.
- Serve the oysters at once or at room temperature.