How Filipinos in the Philippines prepare, cook and eat their oysters

If you clicked from this article, I told you there that Filipinos do not experience a bit of difficulty when opening oysters. It’s because those oysters are cooked so they are more easy to open. Before I get on to the action let’s talk a little bit about oysters in the Philippines.

If there is a place in the world where oysters are seen everywhere it would be the Philippines. Heck I would even bet that the Philippines is the largest grower of oysters in the world if not for real statistics where China places first. But then again, no one can compete with China these days. But since Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands, everywhere you go it is possible that you’ll end up in a shack where oysters are just hanging out waiting to slide down anybody’s throat.

Now here’s my bit of filling your brain with some useless knowledge. I think I owe you that for visiting this site.

How most of small sized oyster growers culture their oysters is so easy you will never believe what I’m about to tell you. This is based on my actual experience when I went home last time in the Philippines.

We went to this oyster shack which is located in the mouth of the river. The shack doesn’t even have a name and I don’t know what to call a place where the river meets the sea -maybe a delta, maybe an estuary. The shack is actually on the sea itself already. It is supported by huge bamboo poles and you can even see fishes swimming below the bamboo floors. Oysters are served in a huge, white basin and it comes with another huge wooden bowl full of water which is where you wash your hand after opening an oyster. Before we started eating the host, I mean before we started eating, the host advised strongly and with full conviction to just throw the shells overboard, to the sea, so it can facilitate growth of oysters under the shack or the shell could even become an oyster again. I looked down the murky water. Alrighty then.

I don’t want to go to the science itself but the most common style of oyster farming in the Philippines is the “broadcast” style or “Sabog” in Filipino. Which is basically what happened to us in that trip to the Talabahan (oyster restaurant). Throw the oyster shells anywhere and let them fertilize theirselves. Let’s just round them up, gather and kill them if their numbers are growing again. That’s how you do it admiral. Although before we left the place I saw some guy pulling some sort of bamboo box from the waters under the shack which I suspect is another form of oyster farming which is the “Lattice” method. You would be kidding if you want me to explain that too.

That may also be the reason why Filipinos cook their oysters. Because everyone sees that the oyster is cultured in chocolate waters along with cans that turn to clams. Eating raw oyster is bad for your health according to almost everyone in the Philippines. My great mother (she is actually, she has a statue in our house where we sacrifice virgins) would always tell us – cook your oysters, do not eat them raw or you’ll get cancer or something. That goes with any food too. Most Filipinos in general will not even welcome the word “medium rare” in their vocabulary. Everything is cooked to kingdom come. If you ask me, I’d love my oysters raw but cooked is still good nonetheless – half cooked though.

The most common way to cook oysters in the Philippines is by steaming it. I steam my oysters not more than 10 minutes in an already boiling pot. But if I were in the Philippines, I would just walk a few meters from our house and our always trusty neighbor who is crazy about oysters will perpetually have them ready from morning to night. Since she’s crazy about it and she loves feeding people oysters, she decided to make a business out of it. Once you see her huge 3 foot steamer-of-a-square-can (which was originally a can of cooking oil) already upright on a triumvirate of rocks filled with hot coals in the center which is her make do stove, expect to feast on oysters. At around 8 in the morning! A pot would only be 40 pesos, around 2 dozens of oysters which is about 1 US dollar. Death by oysters.

Filipinos have their own way of eating their oysters too. Oysters should be eaten with this.

That’s a condiment that is always present in every Filipino home everywhere in the world I would like to believe. It’s vinegar infused with chilies, ginger, garlic and onions mixed with soy sauce. Every mix depends on each one’s taste. So I cannot give you an exact measurement on how to prepare it because there is no exact measurement. You have to know your own mix. Some mix vinegar with ketchup, some would like vinegar only without any infusion but with rock salt, some would be very particular with their mix I don’t even want to share it because it’s so ridiculous.

Filipinos also have this etiquette on consuming these bivalves. Oysters should also be eaten only and only with bare hands. Eating food with your fingers is I reckon the best thing to express your love for food. No cold metal or whatsoever should separate your hand or mouth from your oyster.

That’s a lot of useless information isn’t it? If you find it useful then let me know. I need that comment box to be not-useless. If you have more information about how Filipinos in the Philippines prepare, cook and eat their oysters, please, take the liberty of telling us more.

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Author: Ziggy

Ziggy grew up in the "dirty kitchen" of his grandmother. Literally. He would spend his pre-school days watching her cook crazy Filipino food. His love for food set him up in a journey through the kitchens of the Philippines to chef-swearing laden restaurants of Melbourne where he has worked mainly as a dishwasher, stockist, searcher of missing ingredients, deep frier of everything, arranger of antipasti on a supposed to be chopping board, kitchen cart surfer, emergency pastry chef, take-the-pans-we're-on-a-ciggy-break, chefs' cook of take home food, salad scientist and quite a number of mundane everyday things in the kitchen. Are you still reading this? He has quit that 1pm to 3am job now that he has learned to write. thus this site came to existence.

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5 Comments

  1. I agree. Oysters are best eaten using one’s hands. Though, I haven’t tried mixing ketchup and vinegar. (Maybe I can try it later. :-D) I hail from Iloilo and oysters really come cheap around here. One serving would usually cost somewhere 20 to 25 pesos only. This price is usually for roadside eateries and some talaba shacks along the roads. At the restaurants, usually the standard price is 40 pesos. The most expensive I’ve come across so far was 70 pesos per serving (served in a small basin) but it was worth it. They were huge. It was succulent and tasty. And yes, I’m a member of the cult who believes that talaba’s are best eaten when dipped in kalamansi, crushed chilies and soy sauce….

  2. Yes my neighbor (i’m so ashamed I forgot her name) has giant oysters. I love it.

    Kalamansi, crushed chilies and soy sauce is WIN. hahaha!

  3. I havent tried eating oysters yet but Im into researching food rich in zinc and found out that oyster is the best when it comes to zinc. I found your article very helpful! Thank you!

  4. My family is from the northern part of the Philippines & i remember that my dad used to simply wash the oysters really well with tap water, then blanch them (while in the shell) for about 5 to 10 mins…shuck, add vinegar with minced garlic & onions – NO SALT as the oyster’s liquer is quite salty… slurp down directly from the half shell… nice! this is a nice blog…thank you!

  5. What about having oysters as garnishing in your favorite food; like topping for pizza, in your noodles, or with your vegies. If oyster sauce makes a good ingredient in cooking, preserved oysters will likely harmonize with any dish. Try it..

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