There’s something uniquely appealing about this omelet—so much so, that it’s quite the phenomenal street food in Taiwan. It’s a singular kind of dish that’s uniquely appreciated there (if they were to have a “uniquely popular” map on the topic, I’d put money down that this dish would be the one to beat in Taiwan). But I don’t think I could call this version, which I made at a sleepy Connecticut shore town with family, a “Taiwanese oyster omelet.” That’s because I missed a couple key ingredients that make it so distinctly beloved on Taiwan.
These would be the starchy slurry that’s poured onto the pan along with beaten eggs, and the sweet, tomato-based sauce that’s poured over the whole omelet once it’s on the plate. (I was in a sleepy beach town with few things in my pantry.) But you know what? I think oysters and eggs need to tango a lot more often than we let them, especially when those flavors are freshened with a touch of herbal celery leaves—which I fortunately did have access to last weekend.
An oyster omelet might be recalled in certain American food lore as the “hangtown fry,” a mixture of eggs, oysters and bacon. I have no idea why it’s not as adored in the States these days as Taiwanese oyster omelets are in Taiwan. But let’s question it no more; and just cook oyster omelets more often in any way, shape or form.
That requires some oysters. Yes. I agree these can be difficult to come by and also difficult to pry open if—when you do find them—they are still inside their hard shells. Challenge overcome, it’s all too easy to just eat oysters fresh and raw on the half-shell; maybe with a squeeze of lemon or not even that. I’m a raw oyster aficionado and opt for this more often than not, which runs quite counter to Taiwanese oyster appreciation, where the bivalves are always cooked.
But I think it’s my taste for raw, unspoiled oysters that makes me appreciate a pared-down, simple version of this Taiwanese oyster omelet all the more. That salty brine really makes its presence into every bite of the omelet, thanks to running all over the pan just before adding the eggs. I’ll admit that without the gelatinous starch to help bind the oysters with the eggs, it’s a little more difficult to flip the whole omelet over intact. But not impossible, and certainly worth the effort (and if it falls apart, an oyster scramble tastes just as good).
In short, I don’t believe it’s always necessary to appreciate a traditional dish in all the specific, traditional nuances that it’s known for. People cling to traditional dishes too much. You made beef burgundy, but you didn’t add mushrooms?! This happens too much. The wonderful thing about boeuf borgongnon is that it utilizes some of the Burgundy region’s best products: beef, and wine. Screw all the rest. And especially screw them if you’re not in Burgundy right then.
So when not in Taiwan, or when without bacon with which to enjoy a proper hangtown fry, here’s one good omelet with oysters. Maybe the next one will have a local
Oyster Omelet with Celery Leaves
(makes 1 serving)
- 2 eggs
- 3 large oysters, shucked
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil