One of the consequences of my cooking 1970s Asian American food from James Beard’s classic cookbook, American Cookery, is that I developed a fondness for egg foo yung. I never thought I’d type those words.
Without doubt, egg foo yung has been changed many ways in America. Despite its Cantonese name, it is a dish from Shanghai. During my research, I found many recipes and realized that egg foo yung didn’t have to be the unattractive Chinese-American restaurant version that’s covered in gloppy brown sauce.
On the contrary, egg foo yung is an easy, versatile food that you can adapt pretty much however you want. For example, vary the protein (shrimp, pork, or chicken) or go vegetarian with shiitake mushroom. Serve it hot or warm with or without a thickened sauce. I like a simple dunk in soy sauce with fresh chiles; chile garlic sauce and Sriracha would be excellent too. Ketchup, particularly the spicy umami ketchup, is fun for a sweet tang!
Play with egg foo yung but keep this consistent: fry it in a decent amount of oil to create great crisp frilled edges. You want the skillet to bubble away like this:
What to do with leftover egg foo yung? I’ve eaten it cold straight from fridge and turned it into a classic St. Paul sandwich, which is a Chinese American specialty in the Midwest. I’ve even made egg foo yung banh mi, which is not the same as banh mi op la (sunny side up eggs, drizzled with Maggi seasoning sauce and eaten with baguette).
Egg Foo Yung
Adding flour to the stir-fried mixture prevents the vegetables from getting weepy. It also lends body to the eggs.
Makes about 8 pancakes, to serve 4
About 4 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
3/4 cup chopped raw shrimp, rehydrated shiitake mushroom, char siu pork, or leftover roast chicken
1/4 cup chopped water chestnut
1/4 cup finely chopped celery or bamboo shoot
2 cups bean sprouts
1 1/2 tablespoons light (regular) soy sauce, plus more for dipping
1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (use more for a firmer texture)
1/8 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
5 large eggs
1 or 2 thinly sliced Thai or Serrano chiles, chile garlic sauce, or Sriracha chile sauce
1. Heat 1 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet. Add the scallion and cook for about 15 seconds, or until aromatic. Add the shrimp, water chestnut, and celery. Cook for about 45 seconds, until aromatic.
Add the bean sprouts and cook for about 2 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the soy sauce and cook for about 1 minute, until the bean sprouts have wilted. Sprinkle on the flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until the mixture coheres. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
2. In a bowl, beat the eggs. Add the cooked mixture and combine well.
3. Pour enough oil to film the bottom of a medium or large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat. Ladle about 1/4 cup of the egg mixture to form 4-inch-wide pancakes. Gently fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Between batches, replenish the oil and adjust the heat to prevent burning. Serve hot or warm with soy sauce and chiles or chile sauce.