Egg Foo Young 芙蓉蛋 is an authentic Cantonese egg cuisine. Since it looks like a Western-style omelet, those unfamiliar with it will mistakenly cook it the way of making an omelet. They are originated from two sides of the world and created in an entirely different way.
This article will highlight all the important aspects of making Egg Foo Young and provide an authentic Egg Foo Young recipe on how to prepare it at home.
The Legend of Egg Foo Young
Legend has it that Egg Foo Young was invented by the scholar 朱善祥 in the Ching Dynasty in the 18th century. One day, when he worked in the province of Yunnan, he was attracted by a local egg delicacy. The scholar loved to eat it so much and described the look of the egg dishes as resembling the beautiful lotus flower (芙蓉). So, when he was back in Zhenjiang, he improvised the dish and eventually popularized it in Guangdong. He called it ‘lotus egg’ (Foo Young means lotus in Chinese), and the name got stuck with it until today.
Nowadays, Egg Foo Yong is considered a traditional Chinese cuisine with hundreds of variations. The unique one is the American Chinese puffed omelet with thick brown gravy. This Cantonese hybrid dish is found in most Chinese restaurants in America.
There are many different translations of the word 芙蓉蛋. The common translations are egg foo young, Egg fu yung, egg foo yung, fu yong egg, and fu rong egg.
What is the difference between Egg Foo Young and the Western-style omelet?
Before making Egg Foo Young for breakfast, understand the differences between this Chinese egg version and the Western-style omelet.
1. Egg Foo Young has different ingredients in the egg mixture.
The filling is the most apparent difference between Egg Foo Young and the Western-style omelet. Look at the following ingredients; you will understand why it tastes so different from the omelet.
The main protein can be barbecue pork (Cha Siu) or ham. You can even use leftover roasted meat to prepare chicken Egg Foo Young. You can substitute the meat with shrimp to make shrimp Egg Foo Young. Fresh bean sprouts are usually used to replace (or used together with) bamboo shoots for crunchy textures.
You will find ingredients like shitake mushrooms and scallion, too.
You will not find ingredients like tomatoes, red pepper, or portobello mushrooms (the Chinese use shitake mushrooms). But onions and chives are traditionally included in the Egg Foo Young recipe.
2. Use only vegetable oil to prepare Egg Foo Young.
The Chinese use vegetable oil (peanut oil, corn oil, palm oil) for cooking Egg Foo Young. Butter and olive oil are rarely used. I think the choice of oil may not be as crucial as the other ingredients. This is due to the cultural differences between the West and the Chinese.
3. Pan-fried the egg surface until golden brown
Omelet is always cooked until the egg liquid is set or slightly brown on the surface.
On the contrary, the surface of the Egg Foo Young is pan-fried until golden brown, which is considered overcooked by the standard of any other omelet. The egg becomes aromatic when it turns golden brown, and the inner part of the egg pancake is still soft and tender.
4. Use more oil to prepare Egg Foo Young.
More oil is needed to make Egg Foo Young than an omelet. The reason? The eggs should be partially deep-fried in oil, which will cause the egg to puff up and make the texture very light.
The puff-up state is among the most significant differences between Egg Foo Yong and an omelet. The purest of omelets may think this is disastrous as you overcook it, and the healthy cooking proponent will frown and disapprove. However, we all know that deep frying food like fish and chips will absorb more oil than Egg Foo Young with its delightfully fluffy, crispy sides and beautifully browned surface.
5. There is more than one way to prepare the egg mixture.
There are a few methods to prepare the egg mixture:
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and pour the required amount into the wok/pan. This method works best if all the chosen ingredients are vegetables and pre-cooked items such as ham.
- Cook half of the egg mixture until it starts to thicken. Return it to the bowl with the remaining uncooked mixture. Mix them well and pour them back into the wok to cook until golden brown. You can see how the Chinese chef uses this method in this video. This technique is fascinating. The chef in the video did not explain the reason for doing this. I have tried it and do not see any significant difference in the result.
- Stir-fry the meat and shrimp before adding to the beaten eggs. This technique is helpful since the meat and shrimp require a much longer cooking time.
- Pour the whisked eggs (without the filling) into the wok. When the egg mixture is about to set, transfer the rest of the ingredients and lay it on top of the egg. This method works best with crunchy ingredients, which may sink and rupture the egg layer.
I prefer the first method, which is straightforward.
6. Pan-frying the Egg Foo Young until it puffs up
Fill up the wok with the amount of oil that is more than required. Heat the oil. Pour the excess oil back into the storage container. You will get a layer of glossy hot oil on the wok surface, like painting a coat of shellac on your furniture, which prevents the egg from sticking to it.
Pour the egg liquid into the wok over medium-high heat with hot oil. Add a generous ladle of oil to the side of the wok. The edge of the egg pancake will start to bubble immediately and puff up to form a beautiful halo of crispy tendrils.
Keep your spatula off the pancake. Let the egg mixture cook undisturbed over medium heat until the bottom turns golden brown.
The making of Egg Foo Young is unquestionably different from the omelet, which is usually folded into a crescent. Flip over and do the same for the other side. Next, place it on a chopping board. Remove the excess oil with a kitchen towel before serving.
7. Serve the Egg Foo Young with (or without) the brown gravy.
We do not serve Egg Foo Young with savory brown gravy in China and South-East Asia. However, some prefer drizzling light soy sauce and sesame oil before serving.
On the other hand, the American Chinese version comes with Egg Foo Young gravy. The gray is made with soy sauce and chicken broth and thickened with cornstarch slurry. I prefer the original version since it is tasty enough without gravy. Drizzle brown sauce on the egg before serving if inclined to the American palate.
Get the brown gravy recipe below to switch it to the humble egg for a grander presentation.
The Easy Egg Foo Young Recipe
A- For the pancake
- 6 eggs, medium size
- 100 g barbeque pork
- 2 tablespoons onion, chopped
- 2 stalk scallion, cut into 1m lengthwise
- 1 Shitake mushrooms, cut into thin slices
- 1 piece bamboo shoot, about 30g
- 1/4 cup bean sprout, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, , about 4g
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon corn starch
- Sufficient oil to pan-fry the eggs
B- For the sauce
- Crack 6 eggs into a large bowl.
- Clean barbeque pork into thin slices.
- Blanch the bamboo shoot in hot water for half a minute. Remove and cut it into thin slices.
- Add the barbeque pork, chopped onions, slices of mushrooms, bamboo shoot, bean sprouts, salt, light soy sauce, sesame oil and cornstarch into the whisked eggs. Mix well.
- Heat up some vegetable oil in the wok. When it starts to become smoky. Remove the excess oil from the wok. The wok is now coated with a ten layer of hot oil.
- While the wok is still hot, pour the egg mixture into the center. The edge of the egg will immediately bubble and puff up.
- Once the edge is puffed up, reduce the heat to medium or low and like it undisturbed until the bottom is set. You can swirl the egg around in the wok.
- Cook bottom side of the egg pancake until golden brown. Tuen the egg over and cook the other side. When it tun aromatic and golden brown, remove and place it on a chopping board.
- Cut the egg into wedges (much like pizza). Dish out and serve.
- If you prefer to serve it with the sauce, just put all the ingredients in B in a pot, bring it to a boil.
Note: If you prefer a low carbohydrate version, please omit the sauce, and reduce the amount of barbecue pork. The nutrition information is inclusive of the sacue.
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Serving Size:2 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 658Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 603mgSodium: 2543mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 4gSugar: 21gProtein: 32g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 5/23/2019
The alternative- Cantonese style omelet
My mother used a different set of ingredients for the egg omelet. As a Cantonese, her recipe is more straightforward. There are no mung bean sprouts or bamboo shoots in it. Instead, the egg liquid is mixed with meat of your choice (usually minced pork), sweet pickles 菜蒲, scallions (also called spring onions or green onions), and seasoned with salt and white pepper.
Try my family recipe for a change if you think the classic Rgg Foo Young ingredients sound ‘weird.’ The disapproval is entirely understandable for people who live in the Southern part of China who do not use such ingredients.
1. Marinate 75g of minced meat with a quarter teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of light soy sauce, and some oil. Stir-fry the minced meat until it is cooked. (Note: you can substitute the Char Siu to make a chicken egg foo young).
2. Combine the minced meat with four eggs, a dash of white pepper, two tablespoons of chopped scallions, and two tablespoons of sweet pickles in a small bowl.
3. Add some oil to the wok. Divide the egg liquid into four portions. Add one portion to the wok and pan-fried the omelet, making the egg foo young. Repeat the same process to make a total of four small omelets. Serve with steamed rice.
Frequently asked questions:
1. Should I use the oyster sauce to make Egg Foo Young?
The short answer is no. The recipe on this page is the classic recipe. However, you can add oyster sauce as long as it is a delicious recipe. Chinese chefs also add water chestnuts and ground pork to the egg. The definition of Egg Foo Young has become closer to any form of Chinese-style omelet nowadays, and different versions have drifted far from the original one.
2. Is shrimp suitable for making omelets?
Absolutely. Saute the raw shrimp briefly and then mix them with the egg liquid to make a delicious shrimp and egg scramble in Asian cuisine. You can read more about this recipe here.
3. What to serve with Egg Foo Young?
White rice or fried rice is the best item to serve with egg foo young. I also suggest serving it with some mixed vegetables or salads, as the egg can be oily.
Other recipes related to egg foo young
If you like this egg foo young recipe, you may also want to try some similar recipes on this blog:
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