Traditional Oyster Omelet, Traditional Comfort Food／ 傳統古早味蚵仔煎
Traditional Oyster Omelet, Traditional Comfort Food
◎English translation: Hou Ya-ting
◎Photos by quava
After he graduated senior high, Proprietor Lee opened a catering business. However, 20 years ago, a friend of his who was a catering chef at that time, invited him to move to the fishing village of Kezihliao, where they opened their own eateries. He moved his family to Zihguan District and then opened Chef Lee's Oyster Omelet. He has become known in the region for its square shaped omelets. The catering chef friend opened a shrimp roll eatery next door.
Kezihliao (Kezih meaning oyster and liao meaning settlement in Mandarin), was once known for its booming oyster aquaculture industry. However in 1937, when the navy set up its port in Zuoying, the oyster culturing industry in Kezihliao became prohibited. It was deemed to be a risk to the military vessels that were sailing in the same waters.
Mr. Lee puts 10 oysters into every omelet. However, due to this year's extreme weather, the price of fresh oysters has skyrocketed. The price went from 90 NTD per catty to 160 NTD. However, Mr. Lee did not increase his prices, as he maintains the philosophy that he will be more competitive. He feels by never putting up his prices, his sales will increase. Mr. Lee explains, the size of the oysters varies throughout the year and oysters tend to be plumper and meatier in the summer. During the winter however, because of the Northeast monsoons, oysters receive fewer nutrients and are therefore smaller.
Mr. Lee has clients that live as far away as South Africa, but whenever they return home for a visit, they come to enjoy his delicious local cuisine. He is proud that his clients regard his oyster omelet dishes as something they look forward to when they come home. Regular customers even sometimes bring in their own food, like fish and have him cook it for them.
Mr. Lee serves his customers from the kitchen and cooks up his oyster omelets at the same time. He swirls the flour mixture, scatters the oysters, pour the oil and then the eggs into the wok. He then adds a scoop of flour mixture, and places beside a handful of vegetables. He then places the fried vegetables on the cooked oysters and shapes the omelet into a square. It is flipped over to make the edges crunchy and then ready to serve. The outer layer is crispy, but the center remains moist and soft. The oysters are fresh and the fried vegetables give the omelet a mild sweetness. A delicious sweet and sour sauce adds flavor. It's not surprising that it has become so popular with local residents.