Pacific oysters are salt-water bivalve mollusks native to the Pacific coast of Asia, specifically Japan and the Korean peninsula. They are highly prized for their taste and are cultivated worldwide for their delectable briny and mildly sweet flavor with a firm texture.
Scientific name: Crassostrea gigas. They are also commonly referred to as Japanese oysters, Miyagi oysters or Pacific rock oysters.
Oysters, including the Pacific oyster, are a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.
|Pacific Oysters. Courtesy: David
Pacific oysters typically have a rough, irregularly shaped shell, which can vary in color from white, cream, to grayish, with some purple or green markings. Pacific oysters can reach up to 10 inches in length.
The shell is elongated, thick, rough, and sometimes sharp. The inside of the shell is white to off/white with purple streaks. The shell has a "cupped" shape to it, giving rise to its alternate name "Pacific cupped oyster."
They live in intertidal zones and estuarine environments with moderate salinity levels, mostly in the Pacific Northwest. They exhibit sessile (stay in one place) growth and are attached to firm bottom substrates, rocks, or other oyster shell debris. They have a lifespan of about 20 years.
Oysters have fast growth rates and reach reproduction levels when 1-2 years old, although this can vary depending on environmental conditions such as water temperature and food availability. They reproduce by spawning like most other mollusk, typically, during the warmer months when water temperatures rise.
Due to their high commercial value, Pacific oysters are one of the most extensively cultivated in controlled environments such as racks, trays, or bags in coastal waters or estuaries.
Pacific Oysters are incredible sources of high-quality protein, minerals, and vitamins; containing many more times of these nutrients than most other seafood sources.
They are also a low-calorie, low-fat seafood choice. 100 grams (3.5 oz) of its meat contains just 81 calories and <1 gram of fat.
Oysters are an excellent source of high-quality protein, containing 9.45 grams per 100 grams (17% of the RDI). Complete protein with all the essential amino acids is crucial for cell repair, muscle development, and overall growth in the body.
Oyster is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These healthy fats are crucial for heart health, brain function, and reducing inflammation in the body.
Omega-3s are known for their potential to lower the risk of heart disease, support cognitive function, and promote joint health. The American Heart Association recommends seafood due to its diverse range of nutrients, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that play vital roles in metabolic functions.
Pacific oysters are rich in vitamins A, D, E, and B-complex vitamins like B-12, folate, niacin, pyridoxine, thiamin, and riboflavin.
100 g fresh oyster provides 16 μg or 667% of daily-required levels of vitamin B-12. Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in supporting red blood cell formation, neurological function, DNA synthesis, and overall cell metabolism within the body.
Pacific oysters are excellent sources of minerals than any other seafood sources. 100 g or 3.5 oz servings contain 64% of the recommended daily intake of iron, 23% of phosphorus, 140% of selenium, and 178% of copper.
Pacific oysters are one of the richest sources of dietary zinc (151% of DI). Zinc is essential for immune function, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and proper growth and development.
They contain very little but permissible levels (0.012 Parts Per Million (PPM)) of methyl-mercury, making it a safer choice, especially for pregnant women and young children. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that pregnant women consume at least 8 to 12 ounces (about 340 grams) of seafood with low mercury content per week.
Pacific oysters come in various sizes, from small to large. Choose the size that best fits your preferences and recipe. Smaller oysters tend to be sweeter, while larger ones may have a more robust flavor.
Buy oysters from reputable suppliers or trusted fish markets to ensure quality and freshness. Oysters from certified or regulated sources are more likely to be safe to consume.
Look for oysters that are tightly closed or have a slightly open shell that closes when tapped. Avoid oysters with shells that are gaping wide open or broken.
The shells should be clean and free from cracks or chips. They should also feel heavy for their size, indicating they are full of meat and liquid.
Choose oysters with a fresh, briny smell of the sea. Avoid oysters that emit a strong, unpleasant odor, as it could indicate spoilage.
If buying from a fish market, ensure the oysters are properly stored on ice to maintain their freshness.
Once purchased, keep the oysters refrigerated and consume them within a day or two for the best taste and quality.
Pacific oysters are highly prized for their taste and have a briny and mildly sweet flavor with a firm texture. They are incredibly versatile and can be prepared in various delicious ways; commonly eaten raw on the half shell but can also be grilled, fried, or used in various seafood dishes.
Here are some serving ideas:
|Pacific oysters; shucked and served with lemon. Photo: gautsch
Eating raw oysters can be a unique culinary experience. Ensure you purchase fresh, high-quality oysters from a reputable source. Before shucking, scrub the oysters under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris from the shell's surface. You can accompany them with lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, mignonette sauce (a combination of vinegar, shallots, and pepper), or hot sauce according to your preference. Then, tilt the shell to allow the oyster to slide into your mouth. Some people chew the oyster, while others prefer to swallow it whole to experience the full flavor and texture.
Oysters Rockefeller is a New Orleans classic dish that involves baking oysters on the half shell topped with a mixture of spinach, herbs, breadcrumbs, and cheese.
Serve grilled oysters topped with garlic butter or herb butter.
In Japan, oysters are grilled (Yaki kaki-焼きカキ)in their shells over charcoal or open flame. Some variations include toppings such as butter, soy sauce, or miso paste.
Pacific oysters are breaded and deep-fried to make Kaki fry. They are served with tonkatsu sauce (a type of sweet and tangy sauce) and often accompanied by shredded cabbage.
Oyster Nabe (Kaki Nabe-牡蠣鍋): Oysters are added to hot pots or stews along with vegetables, tofu, and other ingredients. This dish is popular during the colder months.
Oysters Kilpatrick: This recipe combines oysters, bacon, and Worcestershire sauce for a smoky, flavorful dish.
Oftentimes, eating raw Pacific oysters leads to vibrio bacteria (Vibrio vulnificus) infection that can cause gastrointestinal illness. Thorough cooking destroys these bacteria and makes them safe to consume.
Shellfish including Pacific oysters are a common food allergy that may affect around 1% of the population. Most of these allergic manifestations are mild to moderate in severity, ranging from hives (urticaria), tingling of the throat and mouth, swelling (angioedema), and gastrointestinal (vomiting, diarrhea).
Oysters hold methyl-mercury levels of 0.012 Parts Per Million (PPM). According to the U.S. FDA guidelines for expectant and breastfeeding mothers, it is categorized as the "best choice", allowing it to consume 2-3 servings per week. (Medical disclaimer).
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Further reading (Links opens in new window):
NOAA-Fisheries -Crassostrea gigas.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration- Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish.