Chinese Delegation Visit – Major Oyster Deal Signed

On Friday the 9th of June, Irish Premium Oysters, located at Traigheanna Bay, Co. Donegal hosted a significant Chinese delegation headed up by Mr Li Qinwu the Secretary General of the Guandong Enterprise Association for foreign Investment and Ms Kairan Xie of the Guandong Council for the promotion of small and medium enterprise.

The delegation flew into Donegal airport and from the outset they were highly impressed by the scenery and the welcome they received from Mr Edward Gallagher of Irish Premium Oysters, his family and staff. The visit was coordinated by Ms Yan Zhao, China Sales Director for Jade Ireland Seafood.

Accompanying the delegation was Ms Susan Sun of Shenzhen North-South Import-Export Ltd.  Ms Sun has been introduced to Edward’s Award-Winning Oysters by Ms Yan Zhao of Jade Ireland Seafood, who market a range of Seafood Products in China under the Ocean Jade Brand and represent Irish Premium Oysters in China. According to Ms Sun the quality of the Irish Premium Oysters were exceptional and the purpose of her visit was to sign contract with Edward for 192 tonnes of his Oysters for the Chinese market.

Commenting on the deal, Mr Edward Gallagher said that the success of his product was down to the unspoilt unique location in west Donegal and being able to convey the naturalness of west Donegal through the company website, in promotional material and stunning local photography, it was only natural that buyers would want to come here to see it for themselves.

Comparing the uniqueness of the west Donegal Oysters to famous wine producing vineyards in Europe, he said some products simply cannot be recreated anywhere else. Pristine brackish water, tidal currents and peaty fresh water, produce an Oyster which is unique to Traigheanna Bay.    This major deal with the Chinese company will lead to the limited supply of the much sought after Oyster being marketed as the finest oyster in the World

Commenting on the Deal Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher, Leas Cheann Comhairle of Dáil Eireann welcomed the Chinese Delegation to Donegal, and stated that this was a good news story for west Donegal and a vote of confidence for  Irish Premium Oysters, the Gallagher family and all their staff. The newly secured market deal with the Chinese Delegation is a very significant development for the company and will provide great security moving forward for the company and their employees. Irish Premium Oysters offer to the market top quality oysters, taken and farmed in the most pristine waters in Western Europe which guarantees an absolute first class product to all their customers and now to the Chinese market which they have newly secured as a result of this deal. I wish to compliment all those involved in this deal and wish the new venture every success and to acknowledge that investments such as this make a significant contribution to coastal communities’ right throughout the west of Ireland and Donegal in particular.


Shucking it right

THERE are two things in life you should probably never do fast and under immense pressure — getting married, and shucking oysters in record time. If they’re not done properly, both can wind up in pretty tragic situations.

Thankfully, the latter doesn’t require lawyers and a whole lot of money if things go awry. Just ask Zeeshan Ehsan, the young and enthusiastic bar supervisor at Southern Rock Seafood in Bangsar.

He’s the very first Malaysian Shucking Champion, a title he earned at The Great Malaysian Shuck Off. The competition, organised by the Southern Rock Seafood Group, sees both professionals and amateurs trying to pry open as many oysters in the shortest time and is the much anticipated highlight of the annual KL Oyster Festival.

Malaysia’s first oyster shuckingchampionship demonstrates our growing love for oysters.


Zeeshan shucked and presented 12 oysters perfectly in just one minute and three seconds,” remarks a beaming Mostaq Ahmed Rabby, the manager of Southern Rock Seafood. “During the four-hour event he must have shucked at least 600 oysters.

Shucking at the restaurant as Mostaq points out, is a daily ritual where 55 out of the 60-strong staff are armed with the knowledge and skills to shuck oysters. “Out of that figure, 35 of them are professional shuckers,” he shares, emphasising what serious business shucking is.

Around the world, professional shuckers are opening their own oyster bars and are also in high demand at black-tie events, private parties and festivals. The revival, as food and culture critics explain, is sparked by the “farm to fork” movement in recent years. As Rowan Jacobsen, author of A Geography Of Oysters: The Connoisseur’s Guide To Oyster Eating In North America reveals, oysters are valued for their uniqueness in a market of seemingly mass produced food. “It’s part of the new interest in foods that are authentic. Oysters are the opposite of supermarket food,” says Jacobsen.

Zeeshan Ehsan will be representing Malaysia in the World Oyster Shucking Championship in Ireland this September.

Malaysia is no different. “There’s definitely an increase in appreciation for oysters here,” says Josh Green, the director of Southern Rock Seafood which started its fresh seafood distributing business in Malaysia 17 years ago.

Malaysians loved them when we first brought them in. You know, they eat everything!” he adds with a laugh. But as Green explains, oysters were not something commonly found in the country nor is the oyster-eating culture part of our heritage.

In the past, you’d need to go to a five-star hotel to try oysters and they were mostly frozen oysters. Now at oyster bars, you can have freshly shucked oysters of different variations,” he shares, noting that Southern Rock Seafood sells about 15 variations of fresh oysters from seven different countries.

As he points out, no two oysters are the same — they vary in sweetness, saltiness, creaminess and umami intensity, depending on climate, where they are farmed and what kind of water they are farmed in.

Other than the diverse flavours, a lot more people are keen to try fresh oysters because unlike before, oysters are shucked right in front of them,” he says referring to the times when patrons were served oysters which were already shucked, frozen and washed. “Eating an oyster shucked right in front of you is the definition of fresh.

The participants of the Great Malaysian Shuck Off racing for time and the perfect shuck. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SOUTHERN ROCK SEAFOOD)


Patrons are very fascinated by the way we shuck oysters,” says Zeeshan, who admits to the impressive ability of shucking an oyster blindfolded. “Sometimes they want to try, but we can’t allow that because that’s very dangerous,” he confides, recalling a time when a colleague had slashed his arm when his knife slipped.

At first glance, he doesn’t look like someone who was just crowned Malaysia’s very first Shucking Champion. He wears a shy smile but when talking about oysters and shucking, his eyes light up and his shyness dissipates. “I didn’t feel nervous. maybe because shucking is second nature to me now. I’ve been shucking up to eight dozen oysters a day for almost two years. I think I was quite calm during the competition,” says Zeeshan who is from Sarghoda, Pakistan.

That’s hard to imagine considering the cheering crowds, the pressure of finishing fast and not to mention the competition —12 top finalists from the capital city’s most renowned restaurants and hotels. On top of that, the shuckers had to impress judges Jimmy and Marion Gallagher of Gallagher’s, one of Ireland’s most notable oyster farming families.

While admitting that shucking came naturally to him after a couple of tries, Zeeshan admits it still took a lot of practice to perfect the art of shucking. “I broke the knife about five times,” he chuckles recalling his first few attempts. “But slowly when you understand the right technique and know how to use the knife, you’ll get the hang of it,” he says noting that stamina and strength are what shuckers need to possess in addition to their ninja skills of shucking. “But of course, you must really enjoy doing it. I know I do. There’s a satisfaction when you know you’ve got the knife in the right spot before you pry it open.”

He attributes his shucking abilities to Green (who is also known affectionately known as the Oyster Man) who taught him the tricks of the trade. Mostaq nods in agreement but Green chips in with a cheeky grin: “He can now probably shuck oysters a lot faster than I can, considering my age!”

The secret to a good shuck is to detach the muscle without cutting it.


We are proud of sporting heroes like Datuk Nicole David and Datuk Lee Chong Wei. Now our people can have a crack at the top slot at another important sport — oyster shucking!” Green says with a laugh.

He is giddy with excitement when he talks about the World Oyster Shucking Championship in Ireland. “The dream is to produce a world champion from Malaysia!” he says as he clasps his hands enthusiastically. “At least we are represented there,” he says of the iconic Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival which has been running for over 60 years.

The rules of the Great KL Shuck Off are challenging. Internationally, it will be even more demanding. “You can get penalised for quite a number of things — when an oyster is not presented upright, if there is shell or grit in the flesh, if the flesh is cut or if blood is found in the oyster, for example,” explains Mostaq.

In Ireland they will be using oysters native to Galway, which are flat, as opposed to the Pacific oysters used in the Malaysian round of competition. To air freight these oysters for practice, Green points out, is an expensive affair, but one that’s worth the price.

It’s going to be tough, considering it will be our first time competing on the world stage, but it’s going to be worth it for the boys to represent the country,” he says of Zeeshan, and the runner up of the competition, Mohd Fizly Norazlan, a fellow shucker at Southern Rock Seafood.

In just four months, both Zeeshan and Mohd Fizly will be boarding the plane, heading to Oyster Country on the Emerald Isle. The Malaysian champion grows pensive, thinking of his impending travel: “I joined this place as a waiter. Who would have thought I’d be going to visit Ireland someday and compete in an oyster shucking championship there?”

It’s going to be tough, considering it will be our first time competing on the world stage, but it’s going to be worth it for the boys to represent the country, says Josh Green

Contestants vie for title of best oyster shucker in first such championship in Malaysia

Participants of the first Malaysian Shucking Championship in action. They were evaluated based on speed, presentation and shucking technique.— Photos: SAM THAM/The Star

Participants of the first Malaysian Shucking Championship in action. They were evaluated based on speed, presentation and shucking technique.— Photos: SAM THAM/The Star

THE World Oyster Shucking Championship is a 60-year-old tradition in Ireland’s Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival, and this year, Malaysia is stepping up to the plate.

Southern Rock Seafood restaurant has hosted the Kuala Lumpur Oyster Festival since 2015, and things are heating up as the first Malaysian Shucking Championship kicked off.

The competition brought oyster shuckers within the Klang Valley to compete, with 12 contestants vying for a spot in the qualifying rounds for the semi-finals and finals during the festival at the restaurant in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur on May 14.

Each participant shucked a dozen Irish premium oysters and was evaluated based on speed, presentation and shucking technique, with Guinness sponsoring the Malaysian champion to compete at the world stage at the Galway festival.

Southern Rock Seafood Sdn Bhd big chief Loges Kessarivan said they sell at least two tonnes of oysters in Klang Valley alone, but was inspired to bring the competition to Malaysia after a visit to the festival in Galway.

Oysters were not that popular 10 years ago, but like what’s happened to coffee and wine, oysters are being cultivated, so more people are beginning to appreciate it.

Loges, an oyster masterclass instructor, said they plan to hold the competition yearly, teaching students from culinary institutes in Malaysia how to shuck oysters.

Marion and Jimmy (both seated) assessing a contestant’s shucked oysters, while Loges looks on.

Marion and Jimmy (both seated) assessing a contestant’s shucked oysters, while Loges looks on.

We are planning to go to the different states from Penang to Johor Baru, maybe even Sabah and Sarawak, to bring in more parti­cipants in years to come, making it even bigger in three years’ time.

A family of oyster farming experts for the past 28 years, the Gallaghers earned the prestigious title of World’s Best Oyster, and flew in from Ireland to lend their expertise to the competition.

Jimmy Gallagher and his daughter Marion acted as judges.

When I first started, I did not know an oyster was from an egg,” joked Jimmy.

We started with a target of distributing five tonnes a year, but now it has grown to 200 tonnes a year, and we are the first from Ireland to export to Asia,” he added.

Marion explained the intricacies of oyster shucking, first by using an oyster knife to break the seal and prying open the oyster, and then finely slicing the muscle and flipping it over.

Southern Rock Seafood served up a boatload of freshly shucked oysters during the event.

Southern Rock Seafood served up a boatload of freshly shucked oysters during the event

It usually takes at least two-and-a-half to five years to grow an oyster, and it is the meat content that differentiates the top of the range – so we flip over the oyster because it is better presented that way,” she explained, while showing off the plump oyster flesh.

“Shuckers are tested on their shucking skills and how clean they have cut the oyster muscle from the shell, getting points for those without debris and additional points for presentation.

Aside from all the shucking and slurping of oysters, visitors also had a feast to choose from a number of mouth-watering snacks with drinks to wash them down.

To set the mood was the Fariq Auri Trio, a Malaysian Celtic fusion band who piped up Irish melodies; a poem composed about the Gallaghers by poet Cat Brogan; and music from percussionist Lewis Pragasam and his band.

Children were not left out of the carnival festivities as there was a face-painting station and a clown twisting balloon shapes.

Contestant Mohd Fizly, 23, from Southern Rock Seafood, has already won three oyster shucking competitions in Malaysia.

Contestant Mohd Fizly, 23, from Southern Rock Seafood, has already won three oyster shucking competitions in Malaysia.


Origin Green

Sliogeisc na Rossan

Sliogeisc na Rossan T/A Irish Premium Oysters is committed to our sustainability programme to increase resource efficiency, minimize our impact on the environment and to make us more ecologically aware.

Being a verified member of Origin Green will enhance our reputation internationally as a producer of high quality oysters and it allows us to highlight to our customers our commitment to sustainable farming and production.

Edward Gallagher, Owner