Wednesday, March 29, 2023


Among the restaurants in Chinatown where I have never been are three which cater rather particularly to white people with plenty of money. It isn't that their offerings are necessarily bad, but that I kind of sneer at such things. Also, I'm a cheapskate. It comes with being Dutch. As well as rather sensible. Why should I spend oompty ump dollars on a "tasting menu", when I already know what the culinary offerings are, and am not dining for exoticism or a mysterioso adventure I can tell my friends back in Wisconsin about? With pictures!

One of the best "Chinese" meals I had featured eels.

That was back in the Philippines.
Several years ago.

Can't do that on a tasting menu for well-heeled kwailo anyhow, the only ones likely to go for it would be Dutchmen and Flemings, and there just aren't very many of them floating around C'town. Not enough to keep a restaurant in business.

The eels at that restaurant in Binondo were incidental, not the main focus of the meal, but they were delicious. Pacific eel is larger than the ones available in countries bordering the North Sea, and can stand a bit more abuse in the pan.

In addition to gasping fish and sharp claw clackity crabs, one can find eel on Stockton Street. Chinese people are also fond of eels, like Netherlanders and Belgians, and understand that good things to eat may dismay many fastidious Anglos.

Such as a Fujianese oyster omelette.

A dozen large fresh oysters, shucked.
Two TBS rice flour.
One TBS cornflour.
Half a cup (eight TBS) water.
Three cloves garlic, minced.
Three eggs, beaten.
One TBS sherry or rice wine.
Generous pinch of ground white pepper.

Rinse the oysters in cold water, making sure to remove all shell fragments, and pat dry. Beat the eggs with the white pepper sprinkled in. Mix cornflour and rice flour, pour in the water slowly while stirring to make a fairly thin batter. Gild the garlic in your skillet, add the rice wine to seethe, and remove to a small plate. Add more oil to the pan, and when it's hot, pour in the thin batter and cook briefly till half set before adding the beaten eggs. When the omelette is semi-firmed but still deliquescent, add the oysters and garlic, and loosen the omelette with a spatula. Cook a few seconds longer, and decant to a plate.

Make a sauce of a quarter cup ketchup, a quarter cup rice vinegar, a hefty dash of soy sauce, and a teaspoon cornstarch mixed with cold water. Whisk it all together in a saucepan over the fire till it has the proper consistency. Note that a colourful sauce is optional, and not strictly speaking necessary. I usually just add some ketjap manis and sambal.

The thin batter on the underside of the omelette is a textural thing.

In Taipei and Penang this is a midnight snack. Because there are no night markets in San Francisco, and the street food scene is primitive beyond belief, it would probably be much better as a breakfast here.

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