Chinatown's full of unidentifiable dishes (for visitors, anyhow). For years, we've seen a particularly weird-looking one, a runny oyster pancake that we would have asked about if we'd spoken Chinese. After seeing a similar sentiment expressed on Chowhound some days ago, and asking a few foodie friends about the mystery food, to no avail, we decided to send our Chinese-speaking photographer, Melissa Hom, to three Taiwanese restaurants in Manhattan and Queens to scout out the dish, and a few others besides.
Oyster Pancake With Egg & Vegetable (unflipped, with sauce)
Oyster Pancake With Egg & Vegetable (flipped, without sauce)
Pronunciation: Oh-ah jian
They sear fresh baby oysters with greens, drop them onto the pancake, and pour eggs and then a starchy slurry over it all. If it isn't flipped and cooked on the side that's dressed, it looks slimy, especially when pooled with the traditional ketchup-soy-and-oyster sauce, as it is at Good Good Taste. The flipped, crisp version below is from Taiwanese Specialties, in Queens.
Pronunciation: "bei gun hong zhou zho." (bei = north, gun = pork, hong = red, zhou = rice yeast, zho = meat)
The pork dish is seasoned with red rice yeast, the same stuff that rice wine is made from. It's deep-fried, tossed in a thin glaze, and topped with scallions. It's delicious.
Pronunciation: Soo beng
One of the best things we tried: a dense, sesame-encrusted "pancake," or rather, flatbread with flaky layers.
Taiwanese Specialties, aka Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet, 59-14A Main St., Flushing; 718-886-8788
Gu Sheung (Home Country) Taiwanese, 135-40 39th Ave., Flushing; 718-939-5468.
Good Good Taste 13A Market St., nr. E. Broadway; 212-385-9220
All photographs by Melissa Hom.