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A cherished family recipe for the Pacific oyster

An oyster tray at Seattle restaurant Westward.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
An oyster tray at Seattle restaurant Westward.

Pacific oysters are a mainstay in the Northwest.

A little known fact: They’re native to Japan and have been cultured there for hundreds of years.

The man credited for importing the Pacific oyster in the 1930s was Masahide Yamashita, a Japanese immigrant who came to Seattle in 1902.

Read more: How a Japanese immigrant saved the oyster from the brink of collapse

Between 1930 and 1938 Yamashita imported oyster seeds from Japan. He later started his own shellfish farm with his son Jerry Yamashita. The family also sold oysters along Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham. 

Jerry Yamashita remembers one item in particular was their bestseller: the fried oyster sandwich, his mother Masako Yamashita's creation. Even the governor at the time made a stop at their place for lunch. 

Below are a couple recipes from the Yamashitas, including that famous sandwhich, courtesy of Jerry Yamashita's son, Patrick Yamashita.

But first, a primer on how to shuck an oyster:

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Deep fried oysters (see recipe below)

Plain white bread

Sliced dill pickles





Tomato slices

Avocado slices


Spread mayonnaise on one slice of white bread. Place sliced dill pickles on top. Put two large, or three smaller, fried oysters on the pickles and then cover with second slice of bread to make the sandwich. See optional ingredients to enhance the flavor. 

However, Jerry Yamashita said that it is best simply with fried oysters and pickle.

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[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "Deep Fried Oysters", "style": "wide"}]]Freshly shucked oysters, rinsed and drained


Egg wash (comprised of 1 beaten egg and 1-1/2 cups milk)

Japanese bread crumbs (called “panko,” found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)

Oil for deep frying

Pour enough oil in a fry pan or deep fryer to cover oysters. Heat to medium high (approx. 360 degrees). Place flour, egg wash, and panko in separate bowls. Cover oysters one by one with flour, then dip in egg wash, and then roll in panko and press gently to coat. Shake off excess panko. Place breaded oysters on a cookie sheet while oil heats. Fry oysters until golden brown, turning if needed (approximately 4 to 5 minutes depending on size). Remove oysters and place on newspapers to allow oil to drain. Sprinkle generously with sea salt if serving alone and not in sandwich.

Year started with KUOW: 1994