Here’s how to make the Chinese takeout classic.

By Corey Williams
December 26, 2019

Egg foo young is a delicious dish with a rich history. Here’s what you need to know about the Chinese takeout staple

What Is Egg Foo Young? 

Egg foo young is a Chinese omelet. The Cantonese name literally means “Hibiscus egg.” Made with beaten eggs and (usually) minced ham, egg foo young is somewhere between a fritter and a pancake. 

Though ham is the most common meat found in egg foo young recipes, shrimp and chicken are becoming increasingly common. Other common ingredients are bean sprouts, sliced cabbage, spring onions, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. 

Egg Foo Young History

Though it’s often presented as a purely Chinese dish, egg foo yung is actually a Chinese-American creation. In fact, its origins can be traced back to the Gold Rush in the 19th-century. 

When gold was discovered in California in 1849, United States citizens flocked to the Western state in droves. But American miners weren’t the only ones drawn to the promise of wealth: Thousands of Chinese people immigrated to the U.S. for the same purpose. 

However, they weren’t met with open arms. Many Americans didn’t appreciate the competition, and protests led to heavy taxes on immigrant miners. 

Since Chinese people were easier to single out than European immigrants, many quit the gold game entirely. Instead, they opted for careers in service and kitchen work. 

Chinese cooks adapted their recipes to be inexpensive, easy-to-prepare, and more palatable to Americans. 

Thus, egg foo young was born. Thought to be a descendent of a Shangai dish made with egg whites and ham, the dish was a common feature on Chinese-American menus.  

These restaurants—though popular among working class people and Chinese immigrants—didn’t become highly regarded by the majority of the U.S. population until World War II, when China became a U.S. ally. 

“Chinese” dishes like egg foo young were suddenly all the rage. Their popularity persists to this day. 

What Is a St. Paul Sandwich? 

How do you make a foreign-sounding dish appealing to picky Americans? Make it into a sandwich, of course. 

The St. Paul sandwich consists of an egg foo young patty served with pickles, onions, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato between two pieces of white bread. 

The fusion dish likely originated at a Minnesota Chinese-American restaurant in the 1940s, when Chinese cuisine was at peak popularity in the U.S.

How to Make Egg Foo Young

Egg Foo Yung image

Photo: Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Julia Levy; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Classic egg foo young is super easy to make. There are a few different ways to prepare the dish, but this foolproof method is great for beginners: 

  1. Whisk two eggs with soy sauce in a bowl. 
  2. Heat cooking oil in a skillet, then pour the mixture and wait for the bottom to set. 
  3. As the mixture is setting, slowly add in your other ingredients. 
  4. Flip with a spatula once the bottom is crisp and brown. 

Ready to try your hand at the easy and delicious Chinese-American dish? Try our best-ever egg foo young recipe. Our take on the crispy classic is served with an umami-packed mushroom sauce that you’ll want to make again and again. 

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