The Oyster Man

Trinidad offers some of the best street food you can find. From breakfast to dinner to midnight snacks, the food you can get from the various stalls and carts outside will rival just about any restaurant’s standard fare. For me, when the late afternoon hours stretch into dusk, the sight of a stall lit with a cloth wick in a fuel-filled bottle can only mean one thing: the oyster man is open for the night. Or at least as long as his day’s catch lasts.

 
Trinidad street food oyster man

 
 
The oyster man harvests his day’s oysters from the gulf waters, or the mangroves. The oyster flesh is small, only about a centimeter in diameter. So it takes about a dozen oysters to fill a little shotglass. If you want a double, you get two dozen little oysters in your glass.

 
Trinidad street food oysters

 
 
As much as I love oysters, the oyster man’s draw is his oyster sauce. This is in no way similar to Asian oyster sauce; it’s actually closer to a ceviche-type of sauce. It has culantro, lime, Scotch bonnet peppers, brown sugar, garlic, and even a touch of catsup. He’ll typically have two versions: slight (or mild) and hot. And the oyster man who makes the best sauce always sells out first.

 
Trinidad oyster sauce

 
 
There’s protocol involved when going to the oyster man. You don’t stand in line, give your order, and then move to the side to make room for the next customer. No, when you reach the front of the line, you stay there until you’ve had your fill. Sure, sometimes he’ll multitask and take care of a few other folks while you’re working on your oyster cocktail. But you’re always his top priority. When you’re ready for your next one, the others will have to wait until after you get your refill. And if your refill happens to use up the last of his catch, then he closes up for the night and anyone behind you will have to find another oyster man.

 
Trinidad street food oyster man

 
 
This is the oyster man in a town called Felicity. He was the one we visited every time we felt like having a few oyster cocktails. Tom and Tim love the regular oyster sauce, but since I’m a spice lightweight, I always opt for the mild sauce. I ask for a touch more culantro, lemon juice, and salt, too. At first I was too shy to modify the oyster man’s sauce, but Tom assured me that the oyster man would be more than happy to oblige, and that he’d get more satisfaction in seeing me enjoy the oysters fully.

 
Oh, did I enjoy them fully. I could eat them all day.

 
Trinidad street food oyster cocktail

 
 
In fact, I think I may have eaten my entire day’s allowance in half an hour.

 
Trinidad street food oyster man

 
 
Shhh. Don’t tell this guy that I was the one who ate all the oysters.

 
 

11 Responses to The Oyster Man
  1. Amy
    July 8, 2010 | 10:14 pm

    Sign me up for the next trip. Oyster man is calling my name!

  2. Jessica @ How Sweet
    July 9, 2010 | 6:45 am

    I love oysters, but I am way more intrigued by the sauce now!

  3. Broken Drama
    July 9, 2010 | 11:23 pm

    It seems like the oyster is just a vehicle for getting the sauce to the mouth!

  4. Liam O'Malley
    July 13, 2010 | 10:59 am

    Love your pictures and words here, very transportative (I don’t care if that’s not a word) for my first day back in the office in awhile. I love oysters.

  5. Melanie
    July 14, 2010 | 9:49 pm

    You know, I’ve never tried oysters. Now I have the hankering to travel and try them in some place like Trinidad, though…

  6. Chris
    October 21, 2011 | 12:00 pm

    Blessed with a childhood in Trinidad, I grew up enjoying street side delicacies. I all too often tell myself I’ve strayed too far from these delights.

  7. Pra
    January 8, 2012 | 12:38 pm

    This is the “real” oyster man here. His name is “Romy” and you can find him at #70 Cacandee Road, Felicity, Chaguanas, Trinidad. 1 doz. Oysters on the half shell is US$2 and are sweet/brine and delicious! Go around sunset, as he “sells out” early.

  8. Cindy
    March 10, 2012 | 8:37 am

    As a native to Trinidad I’ve had the pleasure of growing up around these wonderful & delish gastronomic creations. I have never been able to turn down the fresh acidic savory taste of a “Trini style” oyster cocktail. Being a transplant here in the US it’s extremely rare to find someone that can really make a good sauce, good thing I have my father’s recipe. I have even introduced this spicy explosion to my friends here & believe that they truly love the cultural cuisines.

    • Colleen
      September 14, 2012 | 3:15 pm

      Can you share your father in laws recipe for the oyster sauce…I keep looking online and I cant find anything.. We have a great place here in florida to get oysters, but we NEED the sauce…
      Please share.
      Thanks in advance.

  9. Donald
    September 1, 2012 | 1:11 pm

    I’ve known this oyster man for some years now and i must admit that he has the best oyster sauce compared to the ones I’ve tasted before.

  10. Leems
    November 3, 2012 | 6:54 pm

    Cleaning out my fridge this weekend, I found a package of Mabels ketchup that I brought back from my recent trip back home to Trinidad. Inspiration struck and I decided to make oyster sauce! Google searched like crazy and could not find a recipe, but found this blog – which coincidentally, highlights the only oyster man I will go to in TNT for my fix. He has a sauce to die for! And as Broken Drama commented earlier – the sauce is the appeal more than the oysters.
    Moving on – decided to ‘wing it’ and make the oyster sauce which turned out pretty darn good!
    It’s hard to give measurements for this sauce as the taste is subjective depending on how much heat a person wants.

    Recipe:
    – 5 cloves garlic
    – 10 leaves shadow-benny aka culantro (can be found in most Asian grocery or West Indian stores)
    – scotch bonnet peppers
    – salt to taste
    – 2 limes
    – 1/4 cup or more of ketchup
    – 1/4 cup water

    Blend your garlic, shadow-benny and 1/2 pepper together with 1/4 cup of water – this will make a green seasoning.
    Blend it as smooth as possible – you don’t want a chunky or gritty sauce.
    Gradually add ketchup into your green seasoning and you will see the colour start to change. With 1/4 cup you should get a nice red colour. Squeeze 1/2 of 1 large lime and 1/4 tspn salt into the mixture and stir well.

    At this point, taste, if it’s too sweet, too bland, too ‘limey’ – adjust your ingredients, more lime, more sal …. The remaining half of the scotch bonnet is to be sliced up and will sit in the sauce to gradually increase the heat.
    I find if you let it sit for a while before drinking, the flavours meld together so much nicer.

    I hope this helps if you were looking for a recipe, I know that I definitely will be making this again. :o)

    Cheers,
    Leems

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I write, cook, play music, and make pictures. Not necessarily in that order. I was born and raised in the Philippines, and it shows. That means I eat rice with every meal, love my cousins like my own siblings, and firmly believe that avocados are best eaten with cream and sugar.

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One summer night in 2010, our house burned to the ground and we lost everything we had. This is the story of what happened and how life and hope can always rise from ashes.



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