Because the waters around Japan become warm in summer, oysters are typically only eaten in months that include an “r” (September through april). With the end of oyster season rapidly approaching, I found a half pound bag of shucked oysters at my local supermarket on sale for about $7 and couldn’t resist.
While pre-shucked oysters are convenient, bivalves tend to lose their freshness much faster than other seafood, which is why I’d never eat a pre-shucked oyster raw. Still, oysters can be just as tasty when lightly cooked and can make an incredibly flavorful broth, which is why I decided to make this Kaki Meshi (牡蠣飯).
With crunchy bamboo shoots, savory abura-age and creamy morsels of oyster hidden amongst mouth-wateringly savory grains of rice, this Japanese classic is a one-bowl meal that tastes even better than it looks. Abura-age (pronounced ah-boo-rah-ah-geh), which literally means “fried in oil” is a tofu product that’s been thinly sliced and deep fried. It has a meat-like texture that absorbs flavors like a sponge, making it a bit like oyster flavored ham, when mixed in with the rice.
Although some people like to cook the oysters together with the rice, I prefer cooking them separately and mixing them together at the end. To get oyster flavor into the rice, I quickly blanch the oysters in boiling water to make a stock. Then I cook them with soy sauce sake and sugar. The rice gets cooked with the stock and extra liquid from the seasoned oysters, ensuring the rice is full-flavored, while preventing the oysters from becoming overcooked.