Our cookbook of the week is Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food by Hsiao-Ching Chou. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with the author.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: Flaky ribbon pancakes.
“For me, it’s a way to signal that I’m not too precious about my food,” says Hsiao-Ching Chou of her recipe for home-style egg foo yung with curry gravy.
Chou’s parents opened a Chinese restaurant in Columbia, Missouri when she was eight years old. While she didn’t grow up eating egg foo yung, and doesn’t gravitate towards it now, she was aware people expected to see it on the menu at their neighbourhood Chinese restaurant.
“It is definitely a nod to the Americanized Chinese food growing up in the restaurant business,” says Chou, laughing. “This is not something that we served and we didn’t even really know what it was. But people would ask for it and so we had to teach ourselves about what it is.”
In her first book, Chinese Soul Food, Chou dedicated a chapter to what she considers “guilty pleasures”: beef and broccoli, crab rangoon, General Tso’s chicken, restaurant-style egg rolls and vegetarian’s delight. As an interpretation of Chinese soul food, she sees egg foo yung as falling into this category as well.
Cook this: Flaky ribbon pancakes — shou zhua bing — from Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food
Vegetarian Chinese comfort food takes centre stage in Hsiao-Ching Chou's latest cookbook
“(General Tso’s chicken) is a good dish! I don’t know how traditional it is, but it’s the same thing with egg foo yung. It’s not that some version of it doesn’t exist, (but) it’s a guilty pleasure,” says Chou.
“It’s imprinted into my upbringing in a way, even though it wasn’t necessarily something that I grew up eating. So from a culture standpoint, I can acknowledge things that have their place in the culture. I’m trying to be accessible in that way.”
HOME-STYLE EGG FOO YUNG WITH CURRY GRAVY
For the gravy:
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp curry powder
1 cup water, plus 1 to 2 tbsp more as needed
1 tsp black bean garlic sauce
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
For the omelettes:
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts, roughly chopped
2 stalks green onions, finely chopped
1 cup shredded Taiwanese cabbage or regular green cabbage
1/2 cup roughly chopped mushrooms, such as oyster, beech, or cremini
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp white pepper powder
4 large eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil, for frying
Finely chopped green onions, for garnish (optional)
To make the gravy, heat the oil in a small or medium pot over medium heat until the surface shimmers. Sprinkle the flour and curry powder in the oil, and stir with a whisk to combine. Add the 1 cup water, black bean garlic sauce and soy sauce. Whisk to combine. Let the sauce come to a simmer, whisking occasionally to help it thicken. If it becomes too thick, you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons more water and whisk. The gravy should be thick but still pourable. Remove from heat and set aside, covered.
To make the omelettes, in a large bowl, combine the bean sprouts, onions, cabbage, mushrooms, salt and white pepper powder. Use tongs to combine. Add the eggs and mix again to incorporate. Set aside.
For the shallow-fry method: In a small skillet (about 8 inches/20 cm), heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil over medium heat until the surface of the oil starts to shimmer. Scoop about 1 cup of the egg mixture and carefully pour into the centre of the pan and spread it out like a pancake. Turn the heat to medium low. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Carefully flip the egg to cook the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter and repeat with the remaining egg mixture. When you are cooking the last omelet, reheat the gravy over low heat, stirring as needed.
For the deep-fry method: Fill a large Dutch oven at least one-third full with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat to 325°F (163°C). Line a platter with paper towels and set aside. Using a heatproof ladle, slowly tip a ladleful of egg mixture into the oil. Continue doing this with as many omelettes as will comfortably float in the oil without crowding. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bottom is golden. Flip the omelette to repeat on the other side. Transfer the browned omelettes to drain on the platter. When you are cooking the last omelet, reheat the gravy over low heat, stirring as needed.
To serve, arrange the omelettes on serving plates. Spoon the gravy over the eggs. Top with chopped green onions.
Makes: 2 omelettes
Recipe and image excerpted from Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food by permission of Sasquatch Books. © 2021 by Hsiao-Ching Chou.