The Chinese food that many of us are most familiar with, delicious as it is, isn’t exactly authentic Chinese. If you were going out to eat in China, you’d be hard pressed to find General Tsao’s chicken, chop suey, or sweet & sour pork.
I got a good lesson in this some years ago when I lived in New York City. I lived right in the heart of Little Italy in Manhattan. However, as those familiar with “The City” can tell you, Little Italy has been pretty much swallowed up by the ever-expanding Chinatown. So for a number of years, I lived in the midst of many, many Chinese restaurants. Some of them aimed to cater to Western customers, and some were primarily targeting the Chinese immigrant population.
There were times I would feel like trying something I hadn’t had before, and occasionally the server would look at me, and just shake her head: letting me know that I didn’t want to order that item. I quickly learned that was advice I shouldn’t ignore. There are many authentic Chinese dishes that are astoundingly good. However, there are some that tend to not sit well with typical American palate. Often those include dishes that are very “fishy” tasting. And that is coming from someone who loves seafood. In fact, I write a blog about it. Have you ever heard of it? You should check it out.
Authentic Chinese cuisine is wonderful, and I encourage everyone to expose yourself to it. That being said, I’m also a huge fan of Americanized Chinese food. These are dishes created by immigrant cooks, working with the ingredients they had access to here in the States, who were using the cooking styles and flavor profiles they grew up with, but still wanted to create items that would appeal to Western diners. What came out of that was an entire genre of cuisine, some of it original creations, some of it revisions of traditional dishes, that has completely penetrated the dining culture of just about every corner of America, and beyond.
If you think about that, it’s pretty amazing. So I say, bring on the egg rolls, beef & broccoli, and what is possibly my personal favorite, Egg Foo Young.
The “Chinese omelet” filled with vegetables and usually some sort of meat, and topped with a glistening brown sauce, is comfort food heaven for me. As I no longer live in New York, where you can order take-out Chinese at 4:00 am, I figured I had to learn how to make it myself. After all, what if I get one of those late night cravings, and Magic Dragon is closed? Sometimes Papa needs his Foo Young fix.
A trip to the farmers market provided me with fresh eggs and many of the vegetables I needed; and I’ve been catching a bunch of Dungeness crab lately. That sounded like a perfect pairing to me …. turns out, I was right.
Of course, this dish also requires a few specialty items from the international aisle and the produce department of your grocery store (those of you who tried the Pot Sticker recipe I posted a couple months ago, you may already have some of these ingredients in your cupboard) but the results are well worth stocking up your pantry a little.
Crab Egg Foo Young
- 1¼ cup chicken broth **
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 1 Tbs aji mirin (sweet rice cooking wine)
- 1 Tbs shoaxing wine (or sherry)
- 1 Tbs oyster sauce
- 2 Tbs cornstarch
- ¼ water
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- ¼ tsp chili oil …. optional
Combine the broth, garlic, soy sauce, aji mirin, wine, and oyster sauce in a small sauce pan. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
Mix the cornstarch with the water until smooth. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the sauce, and continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Stir in the sesame and chili oils and keep sauce warm until you are ready to serve.
Egg Foo Young
- ¾ cup savoy cabbage, shredded
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1 Tbs fresh ginger, grated
- ½ cup bean sprouts
- ½ carrot, shredded
- 1½ Tbs cilantro, chopped
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 1 pound (give/or take) of crab meat
- ¼ cup peanut or canola oil
- Cooked rice. I served mine on a rice blend, but plain steamed white rice is fine.
Gently fold in the crab meat, being careful not to break it up too much. Big lumps of crab are what makes the difference between people asking you what kind of egg foo young this is, and saying “Wow! Look at all the crab in this.”
Heat the oil in a non-stick saute pan or wok over a medium-high flame. Once the oil is up to temperature, ladle in some of the egg mixture to make a 4 – 5 inch “pancake” that is about ¼ inch thick. Fold any egg that runs outside your borders back into the pancake.
Remove from pan and briefly drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil.
**About the broth: Chicken broth is perfectly fine for this sauce. Many Chinese restaurants use pork sauce for their egg foo young, whether or not there is pork in the dish.
Unfortunately, not many home cooks have easy access to pork broth. If you do happen to have some drippings from a pork roast or something similar, by all means include in the broth.
What I did was include crab essence from the Dungeness. That’s the liquid that is inside the shell when you clean the crab. Just make sure the crab is upside down when you pull the body away from the shell. That way the shell acts like a cup, keeping the essence from spilling away. If you are turned off by the yellow solids, just pour the juice through a fine strainer or cheese cloth.