Taiwanese Oyster Omelet
I didn’t taste my first Taiwanese oyster omelet—a Taiwanese street food classic—in Taipei. Sadly, I’ve never been there. My first encounter with this extraordinary dish occurred in a frantic underground corridor in the New York subway system. Passing a small stall, I watched a chef toss oysters with eggs, add a sweet ketchup sauce, and flip it onto a paper plate. It seemed so incongruous in that setting that I simply had to try it. It was love at first bite. I was enchanted by the way the softness of the eggs danced up against the deliciously briny slipperiness of oysters. But what made the oyster omelet so special was the way the oysters and eggs were swept away by a mysterious and deliciously sticky substance. It was like a musical composition—each note different—and I found myself taking one bite and then another as I tried to tease out the flavors. I couldn’t stop thinking about that dish, and I found myself dredging up excuses to use that particular subway. But one day, as I sat in that frenzied airless space with busy commuters hurtling past me, it hit me that I’d much prefer eating in the quiet of my own kitchen. But what was the mystery substance? It turns out that the secret ingredient is sweet potato starch, one of the staples of the Taiwanese kitchen. It adds a wonderful textural note to the omelet, and I’ve loved playing around with it in this recipe. I also discovered that this wonderful combination of flavors tastes even better made with small, freshly shucked oysters. If you want to save a little time, instead of making your own, you can pick up some sweet chili sauce from your local Asian market; there are dozens of brands. My recipe is really easy and makes more than you need, but it keeps forever in the refrigerator.
Iced Oysters with Bitter Lemon Vinaigrette
Spike Gjerde, the James Beard Award–winning chef at restaurants like A Rake’s Progress in Washington, D.C., and Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, approaches local sourcing with religious fervor. He forgoes olive oil and lemons, using locally grown and pressed oils and vinegars in their place. His team dries mint, lavender, peaches, and cherries—and even makes garlic powder. He refuses to buy from distributors, even when they buy from local growers, because he wants every penny to go the farm. “A lot of people say, ‘Wow, this is harder than I thought.’ Then they just call [giant distributor] Sysco. But it’s why we’re doing it,” Gjerde says. “Our job is to get more value back to growers.” Keepwell Vinegar, one of Gjerde’s favorite makers, makes a bitter lemon vinegar, which he uses in a vinaigrette served as a clean accompaniment to fresh oysters. Spicebush berries, sometimes called Appalachian allspice, have a lemony, piney flavor. Order them from integrationacres.com, and use the extra to muddle in the bottom of a gin and tonic in place of lime.
All the Oysters You Need to Know According to an Expert
Kevin Joseph, a self-described mermellier, gives some oyster ground rules.
Grilled Oysters with Bacon Vinaigrette
If you already have your grill on for your main course, these oysters are an impressive and supersimple starter. Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson cooks the oysters ever so slightly on the grill for a kiss of smoke. “It firms up the flesh just enough so it feels like you’re eating shellfish,” she says. Slideshow: More Oyster Recipes