Ingredient of the Year 2012

Oysters have long been a part of local cuisine, so what puts them into the coronation spot this year? Ocean Wise status of farmed B.C. oysters saw chefs increasingly feature the local beauties on their menu, winning out over their eastern counterparts. “We shuck an average of 300 to 600 oysters a day and use mostly B.C. oysters, from a variety of farms,” says Blue Water Cafe’s chef Frank Pabst. “East Coast oysters are not as meaty, and a little saltier.” Famed for being cleaner and more succulent, Pacific oysters peak at various times throughout the year, but farm favourites include Sawmill Bay, Pacific Kiss, Read Island, and Fanny Bay. Maenam’s chef Angus An is a fan of Sawmill Bay, and uses their Pacific Line oysters for his crispy fried oyster dish. “They’re the ideal size, consistent,” says An. “The perfect balance between metallic and oiliness, and their firmness works well for deep-frying.” At Rodney’s Oyster House, the medium-sized Fanny Bay oysters vie for top spot next to the plump, delicate, and sweet Union Bay oysters. But for Pabst the Kusshi oyster-a Japanese variety that has grown here since World War II-is the best of the bunch. “It’s our biggest seller by far,” he says. “The perfect size, they’re not too strong or briny, and nice and plump.” And the best way to serve them up? They’re at their finest when they’re at their simplest: raw, with a sprinkle of horseradish and a squeeze of lemon.