For Li Wen Wu, the executive chef of one-MICHELIN-starred Putien restaurant in Singapore, the onset of autumn is not marked by dipping temperatures, or the browning of leaves on trees, but by the appearance of oysters on the dinner table.
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“When oyster season rolls around back home, every household will have oysters in noodles or soups and every family has their own recipe or signature oyster dish,” shares the native of Putian, a coastal suburb in China's Fujian province after which the restaurant is named. Oyster season typically stretches over the colder months from fall till spring and the versatile mollusk lends itself to numerous preparations such as pan-frying, braising or in a noodle or soup dish. The family favourite in the Li household is oysters stir-fried with garlic greens, which is a "really delicious combination", the chef attests.
But a more ubiquitous oyster dish found across restaurants, eateries and households alike in Fujian province is the oyster omelette. Simple and rustic, the dish is best enjoyed when the oysters are at their plumpest and when their salinity and juiciness is brought out by the crispy fried eggs. Li says: “This is a dish that every Fujian native will feel nostalgic about. It is golden and crispy on the outside with tender, plump whole oysters inside. You get all these different textures without compromising on the rich taste of the oysters.”
His take on the classic Fujian oyster omelette omits the use of egg yolk, which results in a drier but shatteringly crisp dish of fried oysters. While any fresh, shucked oysters will do for this recipe, smaller thumb-sized Chinese oysters will work best as they are less prone to breakage and are coated more evenly when dipped in the egg white batter. “The oysters are quite delicate, so you have to be careful not to break them when stirring or frying,” advises the chef.
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Fujian Crispy Oysters
390g oysters, freshly shucked
100g corn starch
100g sweet potato starch
100g plain flour
60g lard oil
For the seasoning:
120g green garlic, chopped
15g ginger, minced
15g white onion, minced
3g chilli, minced
15g Shaoxing wine (hua diao jiu)
6g fish sauce
1.5g chicken seasoning powder
0.5 white pepper
1 egg white
1. In a bowl, mix in the green garlic, ginger, white onion, red chilli, Shaoxing wine, fish sauce, MSG, chicken seasoning powder, white pepper and egg white to prepare the seasoning. Add the fresh oysters into the batter and mix carefully so they are evenly coated.
2. Mix the corn starch, sweet potato starch and plain flour together and stir through with lard oil. Add the batter in with the oysters and mix evenly.
3. Heat up some oil a pan or wok and then pour the oyster mixture into the pan.
4. When the oysters are about half-cooked, use a pair of chopsticks to break up the batter into smaller pieces. At the same time, turn up the heat and fry the pieces evenly.
5. When the oysters are golden brown and crispy, remove them from the wok and drain the excess oil onto paper towels and serve.