Seemingly humble, nay, even strange (to Europeans) ingredients like squiggly black cat’s ear mushrooms render a delicious, mildly salty taste and lovely crunchy texture to this staple Vietnamese dish.
This is my adaptation of my Tata Hélène’s recipe for Vietnamese omeletes, aka hairy omelettes as I used to call them, due to the crunchy ribbons of noodles, onions and mushrooms that thread through the eggs. The savoury, salty flavour that hits you from the mixture of fried eggs, onions, garlic, vermicelli noodles, dried cat’s ear mushrooms, pepper and thin soy sauce is like no other – you’ll not get over it, it is overwhelming and addictive. When we used to visit my aunt in Marseille, us kids would love these so much that on the last day of our visit, Hélène would make several big ones (with shredded pork) and stack them up on a plate for us to take away on the journey home. The last time she made them for us as children I ate so many in the car on the way home that I contracted salmonella from the eggs… I’m sure there a several lessons to be learnt from that story. But this summer she made some again for me, after many years of absence, and I can vouch for their enduring deliciousness – I was certainly no young fool in my childhood love for these.
Recipe: (serves 2 with side dish(es) and rice. Double the ingredients to make one big, fat omelette to serve up sliced for 4 or more).
1/4 onion, sliced lengthways quite finely
1 – 2 cloves garlic depending on taste, finely diced
1/2 cup bean vermicelli, soaked and chopped into roughly inch long pieces
1/2 cup pre-soaked, sliced wood ear mushrooms (aka: black fungi/cat’s ear mushrooms/oreilles de chats. You can buy these pre-sliced in longdan supermarkets, or use about 2 whole mushrooms)
1 tbsp thin soy sace
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Fry the onion and garlic on a low heat for 4 minutes in the oil, until they become translucent and begin to soften. Use a non-stick frying pan.
Add the soaked and shredded vermicelli and mushrooms and fry on a medium heat for another 3 minutes. Frying all these separately before adding the eggs ensures that they impart maximum flavour.
Beat 4 eggs together in a bowl (use chopsticks to save on washing up), until yolks and whites are fully combined, and add soy sauce and pepper. Add egg mix to the frying pan and mix quickly for a few seconds to ensure even distribution of vegetables. Let it fry for 2-3 minutes on one side, until the bottom half is firmly cooked and curling off the edges of the pan.
Take frying pan off the heat and put it under the grill for another 2-3 minutes, until the omelette is golden and all the egg is thoroughly cooked.