I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oyster Omelet: 蚵仔煎

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Always ask for extra oysters 

Making of a big omelet...or just high cholesterol

Taiwanese food unfortunately gets muddle with Chinese food and to those that have not travelled in Taiwan extensively, it can seem like there is no difference. However that is like saying that Chinese food is all the same from Shanghai to Fuzhou. Taiwanese is has its own distinct style and dishes that are distinctly Taiwanese. The Oyster Omelet is probably the most recognized and distinct Taiwanese food there is.
The Oyster Omelet from a casual observer is a simple dish; it is an Omelet that is made with oysters, what is so hard about that? But like all the foods I talk about, it is obviously more complex than that and something that, and it able to hit so many senses and textures all in one plate. I do not know if it is just Tainan pride but again, all my relatives and people in Tainan will say with scary affirmation, that Tainan is the place to go to get the best oyster omelets. The oysters come from the South and the ones in places like Taipei, get their oysters shipped up there. I know better than to question it, it is like questioning the best barbeque in the South, and you keep your Yankee mouth shut and just agree that wherever you are.
In Tainan there is a street that is just all food stalls and they are some of Tainan and Taiwan’s greatest hits from gua bao, to wa gue and of course the oyster omelet. The omelets are made to order and I was able to take pictures of the whole process but I can guarantee that I can try to replicate it in my kitchen, but there is no way in hell I can make it taste the same. 

Step 1 Oysters
Step 2 Eggs

Step 3 Sprouts

Step 4 Taiwanese Bok Choy and slurry stuff
The omelet making process has a bit of free style action going on. Oysters, Taiwanese bok choy, sprouts get some flat griddle action and then three eggs get throw on top of it. It is not really mixed in; it is just thrown on to make a somewhat circular disk. The difference is that now, like so many other Asian or Taiwanese dishes, a slurry of starch in thrown in. the result is that it creates a pancake like structure and literally glues all the separate components together. It cooks, gets a quick flip, thrown on a plate which by the way, the whole cooking process takes maybe 2-3 minutes tops and dosed in a reddish sauce. The sauce is another great distinction between each place. The sauce like in a simple Bolognese can make or break the dish. It is a combination of sweet, salty and hint of chilies to it and everyone has a different recipe, variations and result color. I do know the majority of them have at least aged soy and ketchup (Asian kind of course) in them. 


The result is an omelet like no other that can be compared to anything found in the West. Jacque Pepin, most likely looks at this with utter confusion. However, the taste is nothing that you would expect. The sweet salty sauce is a great contradiction to the briny oysters and the crunchy bok choy. The egg imparts richness to the dish and the addition of the starch batter gives it lightness as well as a gooey interior but still has bits of crispy bits. The sauce though, is something that is magical. The country is filled with starchy, gooey, jiggly, jelly foods and this sauce makes it all taste awesome.

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