Egg Foo Yung

by Emily Kemme

One of my favorite lazy day activities is exploring dusty antique stores. Strolling through a shop, relishing its semidark mystery, letting my eyes wander until they alight on an item of possible interest, it’s a bit like being a Peeping Tom. Antiquing gives me the chance to see how other people lived in past days, the dishes and implements that were popular, what sort of chairs they sat on, what they read, and if I’m lucky enough to find a notebook or postcard, what they thought.

Since another of my favorite activities is cooking, it makes sense that I’m curious about what people years ago ate for dinner. So when Dr. K unearthed a slim, recipe-card sized cookbook dated 1957 from San Francisco, he bought it. I think $4 dollars for a peek into the past is pretty reasonable.

In its pages I discovered a recipe for Egg Foo Yung, something I’d heard of as a joke as a kid. Egg Foo Yung!!!! When I discovered that Egg Foo Yung is the Chinese version of an omelette, I had to whip it up right away. The ingredients in 1957 weren’t what you might call innovative today, so I’ve reworked and modernized Berenice Harley’s version. And, the literal translation from Chinese is lotus egg. What a colorful, flowery way to describe this meal!

Old cookbooks are a goldmine of treasure. Here's an Egg Foo Yung recipe.

You never know what you might happen upon at an antique shop. Old recipes are quirky, simply because of the ingredients and methods. They’re still useful. I rework and modernize to unearth their secrets.

8 eggs

1/2 lb roast chicken breast (I used two from the deli and eliminated any salt from the recipe after that), skin removed, deboned and slivered into 1 inch pieces

Note: This recipe is very flexible. You may substitute chopped, cooked shrimp, ham, pork chops, or tofu.

2 stalks celery, diced into 1/4″ pieces

2 green onions, sliced into 1/4″ pieces

1 package microgreens, rinsed and dried

Note: These mini vegetables, picked at 14 days old or less, are one of the newest superfoods. What makes them “super” is their special character. They’ve got four to six times as many nutrients as older veggies, they’re versatile, and they make your creation look professional. 

3 T sesame oil

2 tsp agave (find in the baking aisle of most grocery stores)

5 T soy sauce, divided

pepper

1/4 cup oyster sauce

1/4 cup sherry

The endlessly versatile egg. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it's your pleasure.

The endlessly versatile egg. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it’s your pleasure.

Add 1 T oil to large, nonstick skillet and heat to medium-high. Add celery and green onions. Stir fry for 5 minutes or until barely tender.

Add meat and stir fry for one minute. Combine 2 T soy sauce and agave in a small bowl. Add to skillet and cook for one minute.

Beat eggs in medium bowl. Add vegetable mixture and pepper to taste. Stir gently to coat vegetable mixture with eggs.

Filling options for egg foo yung.

Think of Egg Foo Yung as a Chinese omelette. The options for fillings are as open as your imagination.

Add remaining 2 T oil to skillet and heat over medium. Pour in the egg mixture and cook, lifting sides of omelette gently to allow eggs to run underneath, for 2 minutes, until bottom is golden brown. Using two rubber spatulas, fold egg patty in half. Gently press down to release a bit of the uncooked egg, lifting to incorporate into the bottom. Remove egg to large plate.

Add remaining 3 T soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sherry to skillet and heat until bubbly, stirring constantly. Turn off heat. Cut egg foo yung into sections and top with sauce in skillet. Sprinkle liberally with microgreens. Serves 3-4.

Whether you call it Egg Foo Yung, or Lotus Egg, this Chinese egg dish is satisfying and quick to whip up.

Whether you call it Egg Foo Yung, or Lotus Egg, this Chinese egg dish is satisfying and quick to whip up.

With thanks to San Francisco Cable Car Cookery, Berenice Harley (1957), for showing me that Egg Foo Yung isn’t a joke at all.

Blanc de Lynch Bages

Stephanie Davis, Certified Sommelier from Winacea, waxed poetic about an extraordinarily memorable egg dish her husband prepared for dinner years ago. The egg and truffle dish was designed around a very special bottle, Chateau de Beaucastel’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.

She advises that the trick with egg dishes is matching the “bridge ingredients” because eggs are a blank canvas. This Egg Foo Yung incorporates savory, umami ingredients and fresh micro greens on top. She says it is important to find a white wine that has depth, body, usually from a little oak aging, a little earthiness, and balanced acidity.

Pair Egg Foo Yong with a Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, or even a higher-end Bordeaux Blanc like Blanc de Lynch Bages.

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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished,  https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.

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2 comments

Maureen Stephan February 14, 2015 - 10:54 pm

I was very interested to read your post about Egg Foo Young – Berenice Harley was my grandfather’s cousin, but we always called her Aunt Berenice! I was lucky enough to find a copy of her cookbook on eBay!

Maureen Stephan
shawnee, ks

Reply
Emily Kemme February 15, 2015 - 1:57 pm

Hello Maureen! Isn’t your Aunt’s cookbook a gem? I love the little window it makes into history. I’m planning on cooking/reworking several other recipes from her book. Thanks for reaching out. I’m glad you were able to locate one of the books on Ebay!

Emily

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