We Tried Rocky Mountain Oysters. Here’s What It Was Like
There are two types of people in this world: those who know what Rocky Mountain oysters are and those who don't.
The first group probably reacts with some confusion to the food. Oysters in the Rocky Mountains? Can it be? Ah, to be so innocent.
As for the second group, these people are fully aware that the oysters are a euphemism for another round-ish food that is very popular in the Rocky Mountain region, bull testicles.
If you're part of the latter group and have never tried the dish, you're probably wondering if you should bite the bullet and try them, just for the sake of curiosity. Well, you can thank Far & Wide for having a writer try the Colorado delicacy and give you the lowdown on the experience.
This is what Rocky Mountain oysters taste like.
Why Do People Eat Rocky Mountain Oysters?
Although the practice of eating bull testicles is not very common in the United States anymore, it was once fairly widespread in the West.
You can still find the dish in the Midwest in cattle states like Texas and Oklahoma. Internationally, Spain champions them, as do Argentina and certain places in Mexico. In Canada, they are called prairie oysters.
Consuming bull testicles makes a lot of sense in areas where cattle ranching is a big industry. Bulls have to be castrated in order to control breeding or discourage aggression. And if you're already taking their balls off, why be wasteful with them?
People wonder why anyone would eat Rocky Mountain oysters. But in my book, throwing perfectly good food away is much worse than being unconventional with your food choices.
Where to Get Rocky Mountain Oysters in Colorado
Modern tastes seem to find the idea of consuming reproductive organs unpalatable, so the dish has become rarer and rarer.
Even in Colorado, where mountain oysters are considered a local delicacy, you won't find the dish being sold like hot bread on every corner. Instead, you'll have to go to specific bars and restaurants that offer them.
Being in Boulder, I went to Dark Horse, a bar that claims to be world-famous and a true landmark of the city. If you're in the area, this is definitely the place to go.
Going into the bar is an experience akin to what Alice must have felt like as she went down the rabbit hole. You'll cross a seemingly never-ending maze with twists and turns that take you through both large halls and small hallways. The entire space glows in red and the walls are covered with decorations that vary from deer mounts to Greek statues to full-sized carriages hanging from the ceiling.
Ordering your drink and food is just as chaotic. A single person stands in a booth in the main hallway (which, to my luck, was filled with drunk undergrads celebrating the last day of finals) and leans in as you enthusiastically shout out that you're here to try bull balls. For drinks, you head to the bar next to the booth and try to not get hypnotized by the colorful moving wheels perched on the wall.
Luckily, there are also booths in a quieter part of the restaurant, where you can eat your balls in relative peace.
How Are Rocky Mountain Oysters Prepared?
As with practically any dish, there is no one way to make Rocky Mountain oysters. At Dark Horse, the balls are cut up, flattened, covered in flour and then deep-fried. They're meant to be an appetizer to be shared with the table and served in a basket with about nine pieces.
Sadly, no one wanted to try them with me, so I decided to get them as a full meal with French fries on the side. (The fries would later prove to be a mistake.)
Not every place flattens the testicles, but for the purpose of trying to not think of them as testicles, I found that not having to cut them myself was much better. The flatness also helped to concentrate on the taste rather than on silly ideas of what parts of an animal should or shouldn't be consumed.
OK, but let me get to the good part.
What Do Rocky Mountain Oysters Taste Like?
As I started working on my basket of testicles, I found that each bite brought about a different texture and taste.
The bites that I am guessing were the "corners" of the oysters were firmer in texture than other bites, which were softer. That being said, none of the pieces were as mushy as I feared they would be. In fact, the meat was somewhat gamey, though not really rubbery. As I described it to my friend, the texture is somewhere between chicken and alligator.
In terms of taste, the main word that comes to mind is "bitter," though not necessarily in a bad way. The deep-fried nature of the dish definitely hit the unhealthy-food spot. As with texture, different bites had varying levels of bitterness, with the firmer pieces being more bitter.
In itself, the bitterness wasn't bad, but after eating several Rocky Mountain oysters, I realized that each bite left an aftertaste that accumulated and compounded. Neither beer nor the French fries were able to cleanse my palate enough to get rid of it.
That said, the condiment that came with it helped balance the bitterness and made the oysters tastier.
Which Drinks and Sauces Go Best With Rocky Mountain Oysters?
At Dark Horse, Rocky Mountain oysters are served with horseradish. Yes, I thought this weird too. So much so, that I got a little cup of ketchup so I could try the testicles with different sauces.
It turns out, the restaurant knows what it's doing and I don't. The ketchup did not go at all with the oysters, probably because it was too sweet and the contrast too strong. On the other hand, horseradish was a delicious addition — and that's coming from someone who is not a big horseradish person at all.
With a strong enough flavor that is somewhat spicy, the sauce helped the bitterness of the oysters calm down a bit. Its choppy texture also paired well with the gamey yet soft texture of the meat, providing an added layer that really worked. And to top it all off, its freshness helped cut the grease, which really helps when you're trying to finish nine deep-fried pieces of testicles in one sitting. (I didn't think they would keep well when reheated.)
For drinks, you really can't go wrong with a beer.
The Verdict: Should You Try Rocky Mountain Oysters?
So should you try Rocky Mountain oysters?
The short answer: Yes.
The long answer: The oysters were definitely not the absolute best food I have ever eaten, but they were tastier than I had imagined. Though I wouldn't buy a flight to Colorado just to eat them again, I would definitely eat them again if the opportunity presented itself.
One thing I would change, though, would be to not try to tackle the entire basket on my own. Nine of deep-fried anything is way too much, especially with a dish that can leave a strong aftertaste. In the end, I had no choice but to waste some food because I could not take another bite. This is why the French fries were a mistake, as they only served to fill me up even faster.
Next time, I'd split the basket with the table as it is meant to be done, and happily eat three or four, but probably not more.
Still, if you find yourself in Colorado, why waste the chance to try a unique local dish?