Freshly shucked oysters are quick-cured in a solution of tamarind paste and fish sauce. The acidic bath locks in the freshness and natural sweetness of the oysters, while gently firming up their texture. The oysters are then mixed with minced ginger and kaffir lime zest, and served with a drizzle of kaffir lime juice, fresh and crispy fried shallots, and coriander leaves.
All these elements represent a flavor layer with corners staked at different flavor locations, dressing the oysters and supporting their sweetness with additional features such as the astringency of the pungent ginger, the kaffir lime’s aromatic sour bitterness, the sweetness of crispy fried shallots, and the waxy-herbaceous notes of the fresh coriander leaves.
Cured oysters are a traditional Siamese delicacy which, along with other strong-sour or salty pickled ingredients, often replaced chili relishes in balancing the overall taste intensity distribution of the Siamese samrub. In fact, a similar version called “haawy e-rohm daawng khem (หอยอิ่รมดองเค็ม)” appeared in Lady Plean Passakornrawong’s cookbook Maae Khruaa Huaa Bpaa (ท่านผู้หญิงเปลี่ยน ภาสกรวงศ์ตำราแม่ครัวหัวป่าก์).
Despite the venerable provenance of this dish, it is contemporary and sophisticated in taste and appearance – I would recommend serving this dish as a starter or as an appetizer with a well-chilled glass of dry champagne.
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- Prepare the curing brine by mixing equal parts of freshly squeezed thick tamarind paste and fish sauce.
- If using fresh oysters, shuck them with an oyster knife and remove them from their shells; discard the liquids and transfer the oysters to a bowl.
- Marinate the oysters in the brine. Allow to rest for about five minutes, or until the oysters turn whitish in color and firm up.
- Remove the oyster from the brine and transfer them into a mixing bowl.
- Toss the oysters with the minced ginger and kaffir lime zest.
- Transfer the oysters to a serving dish or serve them in the shell.
- Squeeze a few drops of kaffir lime juice over each oyster, for aroma only.
- Garnish with hand-picked coriander leaves, kaffir lime zest, fresh shallots thinly sliced lengthwise, crispy fried shallots, and hair-thin julienned ginger.