We really loved the street food in Taiwan. On the island of Cijin that is part of the harbor city of Kaohsiung, we had very tasty oyster cakes. You could also call them fritters, because the oysters are deep fried in a batter along with cabbage, carrot, and scallions.
Sometimes also shrimp is included. The technique of making them is to build up the cake in a large ladle. I did not ask for a recipe (and the women making these did not speak English anyway), but as I watched how they were made I was pretty sure I could replicate them at home. It was a success, although it is clear that these women have been doing this for a while, and my oyster cakes do not look as nice as theirs. Not yet, anyway.
But the taste was great. I made them using fresh rather than canned oysters, and used the oyster water for the batter for some additional oyster flavor. It takes some practice to shape these, especially getting them out of the ladle without falling apart, but it is worth it.
Some recipes I found online mention the used of rice flour, potato flour, or tapioca flour. From my own experiments I concluded that regular all-purpose flour gives the best texture and the most similar to what I remember from Taiwan.
Makes 4 oyster cakes
12 oysters, fresh or from a can
75 grams (1 cup) shredded cabbage
40 grams (1/4 cup) shredded carrot
13 grams (1/4 cup) sliced scallions/green onions
300 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
oil for deep frying
For the sauce
120 ml (1/2 cup) ketchup or sieved tomatoes
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar (I used black vinegar)
1/2 tsp chilli powder, or to taste
If using fresh oysters, arrange them in a steaming basket over simmering water.
Cover and steam for 5 minutes.
It should now be possible to open the oysters quite easily. Open them above a bowl to catch most of the water from inside the oysters.
Take the oysters out of their shells, leaving the tough muscle behind. (This is the ‘scallop’ of the oyster, which is by now overcooked.)
There will be quite some sand and grit in the oyster water.
Strain the water through a fine sieve.
Strain it again, but now through kitchen paper.
Rinse the oysters under running water to remove any sand from them. The oysters and oyster water should now be free of any sand or grit.
If using oysters from a can, just drain and rinse them.
Cut the cabbage into wedges and remove the central trunk, then shred the cabbage.
Mix the cabbage with the carrot and green onions.
If using fresh oysters, add water to the oyster water to end up with 375 ml (1 1/2 cups). Sift the flour. Add the water, stirring well with a whisk to avoid lumps. If the batter is too thick, add more water. It should end up thicker than pancake batter. Add salt to the batter to taste. (You will need less salt if you used the oyster water.)
Mix half the batter with the vegetables.
Make the sauce by combining the ingredients in a bowl and stirring well. If using sieved tomatoes they should be thick. If not, reduce them over medium heat first to get the thickness of ketchup.
Put oil in a wok or use a deep fryer. Heat the oil to 160C/320F. (If you use a higher temperature, the cakes will disintegrate.) Lubricate a large ladle by dipping it into the oil.
Build the cake in the spoon. First add a bit of the vegetable mixture.
Then add 3 oysters.
Cover with some more of the vegetable mixture.
Now comes the tricky bit. Lower the ladle into the oil and allow it to cook for a bit. If the top has set, use another spoon to release the cake from the ladle.
Allow it to deep fry until it floats.
If vegetables or oysters are sticking out or the cake has holes…
…add some of the reserved batter (from the half without vegetables) and return it to the hot oil. Deep fry until the cake is golden on the outside and cooked through on the inside.
Serve with the sauce.
These pecan maple squares with flaky crust are really good.