Tuesday, November 10, 2009
It has been said that the best thing about Singapore is its food, and I wish I could disagree, but I can't. A few years ago, three friends from the US visited me in Singapore. I don't think, at the time, that they had much experience with Singapore food. I picked them up at about midnight at the airport, and after dropping off their luggage, we headed to a temporary hawker center at a car park off Somerset Road. The property was about to be developed but in the meantime, they set up stalls serving well-known Singapore dishes. It was like a "Best of" of hawker stalls. If you know Singapore food, you know what a brilliant idea that was.
There was no hesitation — I ordered three dishes for us to share — sambal stingray, sambal belacan kangkong and oyster omelet. That is spicy and rich meal but my friends could not stop declaring the deliciousness of each dish in-between bites. And I think this was borne out not just from their praises, but how crowded it was despite it being 2 a.m. in the morning. Here is a picture of that night in 2004:
As lucky we are to be in the Bay Area where there is no shortage of Asian food, I have yet to see oyster omelet on the menu. Thus, S and I have been cooking it our own kitchen. Luckily, all those times spending in-line to order and buy the oyster omelet paid-off. As the dish is prepared only when ordered, we always have a front-row view of the cooking. An intense-looking cook, pouring the ingredients on the sizzling griddle, and the final dish served hot with the equally important sambal (chili sauce). I love biting into a briny oyster in a mouthful of lightly crisp fried egg with the added heat from the sambal. It makes me wonder why there is no tussle over oyster omelet between Singapore and Malaysia. Here is a list of dishes claimed by Malaysia as "Malaysian dishes". Much ado about nothing, me thinks. Why can't we all be friends and just enjoy the food?
Re-creating the dish at home gave me some room to makes changes to the recipe. Oyster omelet, in its original hawker style, is incredibly oily. While I love it as it, I didn't like the greasy aftertaste. So I reduced the oil. It is best to cook it on a flat griddle or, as we did, on a wide, flat frying pan. This will allow the flour mixture to spread out and crisp, which is important because I don't like it too gooey. Using rice flour also helps with the crisping. We prefer a 'less flour and more eggs' ratio, but feel free to add more of the flour if that is your fancy. The oysters should not be overcooked — the juices will ooze and you will be left with shrunken oysters! I like to char it just a little. Garnish with spring onions or cilantro. The resulting dish really looks more like scrambled eggs than an omelet. Hey, I didn't name the dish! A video of how oyster omelet is made just like at the hawker stalls follows the recipe below.
Oyster Omelet Recipe
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons tapioca flour/starch
2 tablespoons rice flour
¾ cup water
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoon fish sauce
8 fresh oysters
2 sprigs of cilantro (or spring onion)
1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in the griddle or a flat frying pan to high heat. Mix the flours with water. Pour flour mixture into the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds to let some crust form on the underside.
2. Break four eggs over the flour mixture. Spread the eggs without breaking the flour 'pancake' underneath. Using the edge of a spatula, divide the mixture into 3 or four pieces, and turnover each piece separately. Cook until the egg is slightly crispy - about 30 seconds.
3. Make space in the center of cooking surface by pushing aside the omelet. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil, then the garlic. Add the oysters. Cook for about 20 seconds. Pour the fish sauce. Then break-up the omelet and mix with the oysters. Serve immediately with cilantro/spring onion and sambal (chili sauce)*.
*when I don't have time to make my own sambal, I use Glory's Nonya Sambal Chilli. It's not not too sweet and tastes close enough my mum's sambal.