Egg Faux Yung

Have you ever seen the movie Big Night?  An early effort from the incomparable Stanley Tucci, the film is notable for its fixation on food and cooking as well as a rare thespian turn from Mr J-Lo himself, Marc Anthony. Set in 1950s suburban America, the plot chronicles two Italian immigrant brothers who are determined to serve up genuine Italian food when all the that the madding crowds seem to want is McMeatballs with a side of cheezy entertainment. Customers keep requesting spaghetti, pizza or lasagna and are repulsed by the authentic risotto (which wasn’t yet familiar in North America).

In those days, “exotic” restaurants that purportedly served ethnic cuisines but really supplied little more than gussied up TV dinners were typical. One of these, the China Inn in Montreal, was a favorite destination when my sisters and I were kids and my mother felt like treating us to something special.  We’d ride across town on the Number 17 bus, enduring 45 minutes of bumpy roads, swinging around extra-wide turns and the distinct aroma that develops when too many humans are packed into too small a space with  half of them reaching overhead to hold onto bus railings–just to partake of their “all-you-can-eat” lunch buffet.

The table at the restaurant was fairly heaving with platters, all the Chinese equivalent of Chef Boy R Dee: greasy, slightly damp egg rolls filled with MSG-dusted cabbage and onion; sweet and sour chicken balls, their sauce the shade of cinnamon hearts and punctuated with nuggets of canned pineapple; chop suey, a gelatinous mix of wilted gray vegetables topped with equally ennervated bean sprouts; spare ribs, those tiny, lardlike cubes of bone and the occasional sliver of meat, slow cooked and bathed in a sickly sweet, molasses and soy sauce concoction; chicken fried rice with its frozen carrot dice and pellet-like peas;  and–on the rare occasion that we were really lucky–egg foo yung.

China Inn’s egg foo yung was probably the closest thing to “real” food they served (which is also likely why it appeared on the menu so rarely). A flat, slightly charred omelet with chopped vegetables mixed into the egg, the dish was always accompanied by a thick, spicy sauce that was my favorite part.  I mean, you could get egg anywhere, but top that egg with a spicy sauce–well, that was authentic Chinese food, right?

Once I grew older and expanded my culinary repertoire somewhat, I was appalled by the shoddy offerings on that buffet table (not to mention the heave-inducing thought of those “spare” ribs.).  It occurred to me that China Inn’s food was about as far from Chinese as Pizza Pockets are from pizza.  I wish I could tell you I never ate at that buffet (or the one at Mandarin) again, but alas, it was many years before I shunned such alimentary travesties for good.

After I began to follow a whole foods, healthy diet, I discovered a huge range of Asian cooking, including Thai, Malaysian, Japanese and, yes, Chinese.  I ventured to create my own rice paper rolls, rice vermicelli, healthier “fried” rice, sushi, varied and sundry stir-fries–but never egg foo yung.

Until now, that is.

My version of the eggy dish (as so many vegan omelets are) is tofu-based.  Unlike your standard tofu omelet, however, this egg faux yung is smaller, spicier, and slightly thicker in the middle (sort of like me compared to Ellen, I suppose). In fact, I preferred these mini omelets on the second day, once they’d rested in the fridge overnight and the insides had dried out a wee bit (you may find them a tad too moist when they’re very fresh).  In any case, the flavor is superb: a combination of ginger, sesame, and green onion that is quintessentially Asian. I also felt compelled to reproduce the thick and gelatenous sauce to spoon over top as well–it just wouldn’t be my buffet favorite without it.

Whether you eat these with a side of chop suey, fried rice, or all on their own, one thing is for sure:  the delight you’ll experience when you take a bite will be one hundred percent authentic.

[Oh, and The EL-LENd Me A Hand campaign is still on! Help bring some healthy, vegan, sugar-free desserts to The Ellen Show (and I suppose they’ll need someone to serve them–I guess I’ll have to go, too). ]

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Last Year at this Time: Anti-Candida Breakfasts: What Do You Eat?

Two Years Ago: Lucky Comestible II (5): Apple Quinoa Cake

© 2010

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  1. Yay! Thank you Ricki for doing this crazy thing: seeing you set out to do whatever you could think of that had a chance of contributing to making your dream come true was extremely inspiring. Now, I hope your wish will be granted – you realy deserve that joy!
    Yay again about the cookbook! Thank you for this too: this is an awesome bonus on top of the amazing inspiration shot you’ve already given to us all.

  2. Kelly Michelle says

    ahhhhhhhhhhh that’s me! emailing you now!!!

  3. Seriously inventive, and it looks so close to the real thing too!

  4. I can’t wait to make this!!! I love tofu omelets and these seem like an improvement on something I already thought as perfection. Love the fresh ginger in there!

  5. I’ve never had egg foo yung, but your vegan version looks great!

  6. Courtney says

    I have never had “real” egg foo yung, but your description and vegan recipe have me intrigued…I have to try it! It sounds (and looks) fabulous, and actually sounds relatively easy to make too–it is a win/win! Just to be clear here, you are talking about 12 oz of firm tofu packed in water, right? Not the “firm” shelf-stable packages (i.e. Mori-Nu)? That is what I would assume from your recipe, but some of the “egg” recipes out there like this call for the aseptic packages, so I just want to make sure…


  7. Courtney,
    I’m talking about the thick tofu that comes cut into blocks and usually has some water–NOT the Mori-Nu style. The brand I use comes wrapped in thick plastic (no tub of water, just a little water inside the plastic). But the tub packed in water is fine; I’d just press it first.

  8. Another great faux egg recipe – if only there were lots of chinese restaurants around that did this sort of food I would dine out there all the time – looks excellent and is on my to do list

  9. Egg foo yong might be the only Chinese food I miss (a little) since becoming vegan. I’ve had fleeting thoughts of veganizing it but never did, so I’m glad you did it for me. Thanks! [And by the way, if I did miss any of the other neighborhood Chinese restaurant delights, I’m certainly over it after reading your description. 🙂 ]

  10. Courtney says

    Thanks Ricki!


  11. Wow, that looks stunning!

  12. I never ever had real egg foo young, but your version looks awesome! I guess I’ll have to try it 🙂

  13. Ooo do these ever look good. I don’t think I’ve ever had egg foo yung before.

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