Donegal to Dubai - how one Irish farmer’s oysters ended up in the desert
Donegal native Edward Gallagher was on his way to Singapore in 2009 to shuck oysters when a stop over in Dubai offered him the opportunity of a lifetime.
He met Girar Vouyoukas, a Greek ex-pat whose family-run import and distribution business in Dubai.
“Ed was my first Irish customer,” Girar says as he unpacks a box of oysters, which are wrapped in seaweed from the Donegal coast to keep their taste and freshness.
“When he came here he said he didn’t want to sell me oysters, he just wanted me to taste them.” That taste test was enough for Girar who still buys oysters from the Donegal farm.
Girar’s import and distribution business in Dubai serves a high end world of restaurants, yachts and VIPs.
In the seafood room of Girar’s business, Fresh Express, a swordfish lies out waiting to be cut up, yellowfin tuna are unwrapped, seabass from the Italian coast sit in ice, while lobsters and crabs from Ireland wait in tanks.
The fish rooms have strict temperature controls – not only do the fish and crustaceans have a limited shelf life, dead or alive, and managing to keep fish fresh in a dessert country where outside temperatures can hit 50 degrees takes work.
“It’s a maximum one week we can keep the lobsters or crabs,” Girar says “usually they are caught on a Wednesday, flown on Friday and arrive to us in Dubai on Saturday.”