Omelets are a pretty ubiquitous dish. You can stuff almost anything in them: smoked salmon, spices and herbs, ham and Swiss cheese or apples and Brie. But you might not think of oysters, potato starch, bok choy and sweet chili as a compelling combination. At least, not unless you're Taiwanese.
Potato and/or tapioca starch is first whipped in with the egg, which gives it a gelatinous texture. Large oysters and bok choy are thrown in and evenly distributed, and then the omelet is pan-fried. The dish is served with a sweet chili sauce similar to the sweet and sour sauce typically found at American-Chinese joints and drizzled over egg rolls, here minus the tartness.
There are many varieties of this dish, which is common in parts of Fujian and Singapore. In Los Angeles, however, oyster omelets are primarily whipped up by Taiwanese places. Here are six great examples.
6. Yi Mei Deli
The gooey texture typical of oyster omelets isn't quite there, but that can be a good thing, depending on personal preferences. While the texture is a bit off-target, the taste is spot-on — and if you're Taiwanese, the dish will have your taste buds reeling with nostalgia. The selling point is really the sauce, which hits an ideal balance between sweet and savory and coats the omelet nicely without being completely overwhelming. 943 W. Duarte Road, Monrovia; (626) 275-8785.
5. Lee's Garden
The dishes at Lee's Garden may not win points for aesthetics but, given the context, no one seems to mind. The family-owned restaurant has been operating in the San Gabriel Valley for two decades, an impressive feat considering the high turnover rate for eateries in the area. The accompanying condiment is a dark, blood-red color and more savory than other versions. 828 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra; 626-588-2284.
Old Country Café is another San Gabriel Valley veteran. While the texture can be off-putting for first-timers, its oyster omelet is perhaps the neatest of the bunch, served in a nearly perfect circle. It's quite large, so anticipate it being an entire meal — or order the dish to share. 5805 Rosemead Blvd., Temple City; 626-291-5557.
Good Shine's proprietor is from Shanghai but manages to whip up Taiwanese specialties as good as anybody in town. Plus, this is one of the few establishments that's open until 3 a.m., making it a premier destination for people looking to satisfy late-night hunger pangs. These hours are particularly suited to this dish, as oyster omelets are a night-market staple in Taiwan. 235 S. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park; 626-572-9666.
Simbala's version veers toward the sweet side and is heavy on the sauce, so don't be alarmed if your meal arrives in a pool of red. Grab a chunk of the omelet and locate the oysters underneath — thick and juicy, scattered somewhere among the layers of bok choy. 651 W. Duarte Road, Ste. F, Arcadia; 626-446-0886.
1. Hugo Food
Hugo Food has perfected the balancing of starch, egg and sauce. Sadly, this place isn't a traditional restaurant but a catering company — but it has made appearances at the 626 Night Market and is available for private events. The omelet has nicely crisp edges, a great sauce-to-dish ratio, and embedded within are fresh oysters imported from Japan. Maybe consider hosting a party, if only so you can get it catered. facebook.com/HugoFood; 626-862-6758.
Follow Squid Ink at @LAWeeklyFood and check out our Facebook page. Clarissa blogs mostly Asian food at clarissawei.com. Follow her on Twitter or on Facebook.