Growing up in Chinatown I ate all kinds of eggs fried, hard-boiled, soft boiled, water eggs, steamed egg custard, and omelet even the thousand year old egg 🥚 😲…
When I was a kid we never had egg foo young as most people know it a deep-fried dark omelet filled with vegetables and some protein in almost a flying saucer shape then topped with some ubiquitous brown sauce.
Egg foo young
We ate a soft omelet with maybe 2 3 ingredients max. Topped with just a drizzle of oyster sauce and soy sauce.
Egg foo young was created during the building of the railroads back but it also might be derived from a Shanghai dished called fu yung egg slices which a dish made with egg whites and ham.
Certain dishes make Asian people cringe when they bring their American none foodie friends to their favorite Chinese restaurant. I normally order for everyone which will squash that immediately.
If I don’t It goes something like this… the waiter comes to the table and asks your, friend, first what you like? I would like a bowl of wonton soup, some spare ribs, some chop Suey, chicken, and broccoli do you have any sweet and sour pork? Yea ok oh and some fried rice please. Oh a small chicken chow mein. And an eggroll too.
Back in the day most of the restaurants were Cantonese while is good and I hate to say it but almost every single restaurant has the same menu with a few variations or specialties like seafood or soup etc. there were a few home-style restaurants with the specials written in Chinese in yellow and pink paper strips hang in on the wall. And most came with the house soup.
Old Chinese menu
Just look at the noodle section lo mein… beef chicken shrimp and special chow fun… beef chicken shrimp and special.
You can bring any menu to the restaurant and it will be almost the same thing.
But in the late ’60s other types of Chinese restaurants started popping up the flavors were more bold and spicy than Cantonese the food.
Cantonese food, by comparison, is bland but that is because a lot of it catered towards American clientele and their palates. People were not as adventures as today with their food. Eating Chinese food was exotic enough.
Even Ralph Kramden from the honeymoons would talk about eating chop suey at the Hong Kong Gardens about how he kept asking the waiter for bread so he could push the food onto the fork.
Even you guys talk about Wo hops like it was the best restaurant in Chinatown it was great because you were drunk and your date was beautiful too.
Walking down the stairs of Wo hop was like a time tunnel to Chinese food of the 1950s.
Wo hop basement not to be confused with the upstairs wo hops.
Did you ever notice that the place was always packed but the only Asian people there were the workers in the basement one?
Again because it caters so well to the American taste buds. The upstairs wo hop caters to different clientele and it is a different menu.
The menu has not changed since back when burgers were a nickel.
Then the new type of Chinese food emerged around the late 60’s it was Szechuan and with that comes scallion pancakes instead of egg rolls hot and sour soup instead of wonton. So many new dishes like Kung pow chicken, Hunan beef orange beef, and fried dumplings! I remember eating my first fried dumplings with special dipping sauce wow!
There were a couple of Chinese restaurants that dared to be bold and push the limit and it was Mr. chows was a high-end restaurant that started in London. Then the next one was in Beverly Hills and NYC it opened in 1978. Mr chows was one of my favorite restaurants.
It even had a staircase from the bar to the restaurant area in a way when you walk down the stairs it was you making a grand appearance and everyone saw who was coming down to dine. Needless to say it was always packed with celebrities, models,, music industry people, and power brokers. The food was authentic Beijing cuisine the duck, orange beef, and hand-pulled noodle were exceptional…
So no I never ordered chop suey and I don’t think I ever will based on principle lol.
By the way chop suey has a long story about it’s origins most say it’s a American dish some say is it was invented by Chinese railroad works, another say it was invented in San Francisco when some crazy miners came in to a Chinese restaurant just before it was closing and demanded food, they had no fresh food left so they tossed some leftover together and called it chop suey. Chinese food, some scholars traces the dish to tsap seui (杂碎, “miscellaneous leftovers”), common in Taishan (Toisan), a county in Guangdong province, the home of many early Chinese immigrants to the United States.
This brings us back to a simple omelet with asparagus, peppers, bean sprouts, and scallions served over rice. Simple easy good food.
All you need to do is sauté whatever leftover veggies and meat you have in the refrigerator.
Sautee them in ginger and garlic and oil In what ever pan you have be it a wok of non stick pan.
Scramble some eggs throw the sauté in the eggs mix in the same hot none stick pan cook and pull sides of the egg and tilt the pan so wet eggs go to the edge to cook. Shake the pan back and forth until the top gets glossy but not wet. If you flip egg do it only for 30 seconds.
You want the eggs soft and yellow not scorched and brown.
Serve over rice with a very light drizzle of oyster sauce or soy sauce.
P.s. yes, I ate at Wo hops too… I was also drunk my date was pretty and the food was good.
But I never ate there when I was sober.
Not because that place was bad just so many other options during the normal restaurant hours.
I save wo hops for that 3 am ”where can we go to eat now?”