Current oyster shucking world record holder, Patrick McMurray from Canada, was at the Hilton Shanghai on Sunday, November 23, 2008, attempting to beat his own 2002 Guinness world record of cracking 33 oysters in one minute. McMurray is proprieter of Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill in Toronto which is acclaimed for it's, wait for it... fresh oysters.
At the Hilton shucking event, CW Food Editor Trista and I were on hand to witness the excitement, the oohs and ahhs, and the hundreds of ice-packed oysters, as this two-time oyster-shucking world champion and author of the book, Consider the Oyster – A Shucker’s Field Guide made a valiant, bloody-knuckled go at several dozen Chinese Nan Ao Dao oysters.
Watch the video to see what transpired. Count down with the crowd as McMurray whips down the line of giant stubborn oysters!
Moments after the attempt, I had a word with McMurray, whose knuckles were still bleeding as he held out his bent and battered knife. “My knife totally torqued,” said McMurray. “A shucking knife needs to be able to take 40 pounds of pressure per square inch in order to open an oyster. I haven’t used this knife in high speed competition before,” he said about the hand-crafted knife he designed specifically for the Chinese Nan Ao Dao oysters he had selected for the competition. “I should have used a different type of steel, something tougher,” he said. “Some of the oysters were very brittle. It’s like osteoporosis; these oysters are very difficult to read.”
Some highlights from my conversation with the affable and knowledgable McMurray:
On the Guinness World Record Contest
“Guinness is a good show; it introduces people to the world of the oyster. Normally at the world championships there are around 3000 people in the tent screaming and yelling!”
So, How Are The Chinese Nan Ao Dao Oysters for Eating?
“They are very good. There’s a little salt, a little seaweed. They are mild, but gorgeous texture, big, soft, good for cooking. Panfry them and make a po’boy.”
On the Aquaculture Skills of Chinese Oyster Farmers
“They grow them gorgeously, they come up stupendously clean.”
“China was the first to aquaculture fish and oysters, and we have to go this way because we are eating too much seafood now,” which cannot be sustained by the world’s oceans.
On Ocean and Fish Sustainability
We need to have healthy aquaculture practices, McMurray said. “Reduce antibiotics use and reduce fertilizers,” which leach into the soil and pollute aquaculture farms. “Create proper feed, don’t overfeed the fish.” If you grow oysters it’s easy because they don’t need feed and they don’t need antibiotics to stay healthy, he said. Oysters are very sustainable to raise. In fact they eat algae and filter the water resulting in cleaner water for everyone, “so everyone benefits from oyster farming.”
Overall in order to let our oceans recover sustainable fish populations, “We should not be eating certain wild fish like salmon, tuna, cod and halibut,” he said. “You have to go toward other weird names like herring, sardines and mackerels; these are great flavorful fish.”
Trista and I had a blast watching McMurray shuck oysters and eating our own mighty share of the fresh oysters on hand. My favorites were the fat, fresh and mild Kumamotos from Washington state. Are you enjoying oysters this holiday season? Let me know your top place for eating oysters and what type are your favorites! I'll blog about my favorite spot for oysters in an upcoming article.
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