Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Night Market Food: The Oyster Omelet

In the Idol Drama, “Corner with Love,” Alan “Show” Luo is a starving
artist.  He has moved to Shang Hai to
pursue a career as an artist. Apparently, he was tricked by a unscrupulous agent, into moving to Shang Hai and giving him all his money.  He now has to work for a restaurant called “Happiness 131,” just to make ends meet. 

But while he’s there he makes the restaurant a huge success by cooking a
popular night food market snack, the Oyster Omelets.  He is trying to raise the money for a ticket back to Taiwan, where he has left his grandmother, the best Oyster Omelet cook in all of Taipei.  Along the way he meets the beautiful heiress, played by Barbie Xu (Da S), whose parents suddenly find themselves bankrupt and disappear into hiding, leaving poor Barbie to fend for herself.  She decides to move to Taiwan and well… do I really need to go into any more detail?  It’s a typical idol Drama story.  The rich one falls for the kid from the other side of the tracks and it’s all flowers and rainbows and love and betrayal and the usual nonsense.

But when I was starting to learn Chinese I watched this show.  I know…I’m not their target market, but it was simple Chinese and I could almost follow it.  It was cute, okay?  There, I said it and I’m not ashamed…well maybe a little; it does kind of destroy my macho, man about town image, but that’s only in my mind anyway so…enough rambling.

As I watched I got more and more interested.  Not in the drama itself, but in Oyster Omelets.  You know I talk to people and they call themselves, “foodies,” and I can only assume that they consider themselves
culinary connoisseurs, I have no such pretensions, I just like to eat; some things more than others, and I love oysters.

My favorite way to eat an oyster is to suck it off the half shell, with lime juice and hot sauce.  But I like them smoked, steamed, and even fried, as well.  The local teppanyaki place makes a great Oyster Teppanyaki.  It’s fried with onion and garlic and served with bean sprouts and cabbage and a nice caffeine free wheat tea. 

The most "famous" Taoyuan Oyster Omelet
After three years in Taiwan, I finally made it to the Taoyuan Night Market and tried the most “famous” Oyster Omelets in all of Taoyuan City.  In Taiwan, the words famous and popular are used almost interchangeably.  If a place is well known it’s said to be famous. If the place is popular with customers it’s also said to be famous.  The place we went to is well known and popular…it’s famous!  The name of it is,
“Something in Chinese that I can’t read…yet!”
(The word yet is spoken with the greatest of optimism.) 

The Oyster Omelets is made with a number of ingredients:  Eggs, of course and oysters, and rice flour and some kind of green, leafy vegetable. 
The vegetable is interesting.  I’ve asked the name of it a number of times. That conversation usually goes something like this:

Me:  “This vegetable is delicious, what is it?”
Waitress:  “Vegetable.”
Me:  “Yes, I see that, but what is the name of the vegetable?”
Waitress:  (with some hesitation.) “Vegetable.”
Me:  “That’s the name of it?”
Waitress:  (smiling happily and nodding)  “Vegetable.”

Okay, so I finally figured out that whatever it’s called doesn’t translate well into English.  I would be perfectly happy with the Chinese name, but it probably wouldn’t be enlightening as to it’s nature or composition, anyway, but no matter, there is a type of vegetation in there that’s tasty and apparently safe to eat. 

On top of the omelets they put two types of sauce, one is a red sauce made of catsup and sweet chili sauce and the other is a brown sauce that I
couldn’t discern.  I’m guessing it’s oyster sauce and something else but if someone knows please let me know.  I should write to the people at Taiwan Duck
I will bet that they’ve cooked it and know it well.

I also tried it without the sauce, at the suggestion of a friend who happens to be an American.  I found it to be  too eggy, and dry.   In my opinion, the
sauce makes it.  If you make it to a
night market, this is one treat you need to try.

Other posts you may like:

Eating My Way Through Taiwan:  My Locust Impersonation
Eating My Way Through Taiwan:  The Stink of Adventure

Photos:  Elizabeth Banducci
Vegetable:  Wen's Delight

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