Dried oyster patties and one whole meat-wrapped oyster.
At an exquisitely prepared birthday banquet last week, one of the hot appetizers (as against cold) was small fish patties with minced dried oysters. The flavor of the dried oysters reminded me that this Chinese ingredient seem to be overlooked in recent years, restricted to congee, winter melon soups and CNY fa cai stew only.
Chinese dried oysters add a distinctive flavor, which may be too fishy for some people, and savory sweetness to any dish. The big plump greenish-brown oysters skewered on a bamboo stick are the best. The lighter the color, the fresher the dried oysters are, to my experience. These oysters cost quite a bit, about RM180/kg (US$50/kg ) and I had to get them in Hong Kong. One oyster dish I'll never forget was my dad's experiment with wrapping stewed dried oysters, Chinese mushrooms and I don't remember what else in pieces of transparent membrane with a network of fat called pig omentum. I don't remember eating it because I thought it was absolutely gross. That was before I love food. Now I would eat it. I just googled and found out that omentum is a fatty membrane that wraps around your intestines and stomach. So if you have a big belly, you'll have a large piece of omentum. Like the pig.
Instead of fish paste, I used minced pork, minced prawns, a couple of water chestnuts and dried oysters for these patties. I thought they were pretty tasty and the dried oysters give a wonderful flavor. I also experimented by wrapping the meat paste around a steamed dried oyster that was seasoned with wine and salt. While the minced dried oysters patties were tasty, the meat-paste wrapped whole dried oyster was definitely more decadent and satisfying especially if you like dried oysters.
Golden Dried Oysters Patties
100 g pork or chicken*
100 g fish paste or prawns
2 big dried oysters, soaked
5 water chestnuts, peeled & minced finely
1/2 t salt & some white pepper
panko or breadcrumbs to coat
*the pork can be fully lean or with some fat. Hint: Fat always makes food taste better. You can also use ready-minced pork but you'll have to reduce the salt.
1. Mince the pork until very fine. Same with the prawns and the dried oysters. Using the flat blade of your cleaver, smash the meat and the prawns bit by bit separately into a paste.
2 Mix the meat, prawns, dried oysters, water chestnuts, salt & pepper and stir vigorously in circles until the paste becomes sticky and stiff.
3. Divide the meat mixture into small portions of about one tablespoon each. Drop into the breadcrumbs, press it down and shape into small rounds. Chill for 20 minutes for easier handling.
4. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a small pan and shallow-fry the patties, turning over once.
5. Serve hot with wedges of lemon and mustard sauce.