Ostras Picantes

Ostras Picantes

Nothing brings out Guinea-Bissau’s charms more than eating ostras
picantes – saltwater oysters from mangrove-fringed islands bathed
in a loose lime sauce spiked with hot pepper – as the sun sets.

The spice may have gone out of Portugal’s political relationship with its former colony Guinea- Bissau, but the recipes are still going strong. Ostras picantes is the marriage of Portugal’s culinary traditions and the sizzle of a small seafaring nation. Oysters are easy to get in Guinea-Bissau and unlike other parts of the world, here they’ve never lost their working-class roots. The season generally runs from December to July, after which oysters are best avoided due to the heavy rains.

You’ll need
8–15 small- to medium-sized
oysters per person

Handful of diced hot chilli
Pinch of salt
¼ of a bouillon cube
10 large, fresh, squeezed

Cooking Method
1 Remove the grill pan from barbecue and throw the oysters, in their shells, on to the naked burning coals.
2 For the sauce, in a grinder or mortar, pound the diced chilli peppers together with the salt and bouillon cube until it forms a fine damp powder.
3 Add the juice of the fresh limes and mix well.
4 Remove the oysters from the coals when they crack open, releasing hot steam.
5 Serve the oysters in a large communal bowl, with a small bowl of sauce served separately.
6 Each diner receives a blunt knife and colourful tea towel to prise open the oysters. Dip and enjoy.

Tasting notes
Often used as an aperitif ahead of a night out dancing, the oysters are grilled in their shells in a loose pyramid pile that’s flung directly on to burning charcoal. They’re ready when they pop open, giving off super heated steam. Diners grab a small colourful cloth and a short blunt knife, prising out the briny beasts and dunking them into the thin spicy sauce – made from fresh local lime, salt, bouillon cube and lots of cut chilli pepper, all bound together using a mortar. The resulting taste combines the crisp flavour of lime with memories of hot summer days on the beach, wrapped up with hints of roasted timber and fire.

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