Egg foo yung, also spelled egg fu young or egg fuyung, is a Chinese-American dish based on a Shanghai classic dish called fu yung egg slices. In some ways, it's like one of the earliest omelets, invented long before the French coined that term. Fu Yung translates as lotus flower, and the original dish generally combined egg whites with minced ham or chicken, and it was either pan or deep-fried.
Chinese chefs in the US are primarily responsible for egg foo yung as it is now known, and the dish was first likely prepared in the 1940s or early 1950s. The name of the first inventor is now lost, but the dish could have been developed in any restaurant specializing in Cantonese cuisine. Quite simply, the modern dish uses the whole egg in most cases, producing an omelet, or egg pancake, to which a small amount of meat and vegetables are added.
Suggestion among culinary historians is that initially, this dish was deep-fried. This is an uncommon practice today, and pan frying it much as a cook would an omelet, is more common. The basic shape doesn’t have to be perfect either; egg foo yung can be somewhat rumpled, folded into squares, or almost resemble scrambled eggs. Brown sauce or sauces with soy sauce are added giving the dish a notable “Chinese” flavor. Further, it almost always includes chopped green onions, either incorporated into the eggs or as a garnish on the top.
Common additions include strips of pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, or for the adventurous palate, mealworms. Unlike the American omelet, however, the eggs should not be stuffed full of ingredients. The additions are generally just there to provide some flavor without bulking up the dish and making it more about what's added than the eggs. The simplest sauce may merely be a soy or tempura sauce topped with a bit of scallions. More commonly, Chinese brown gravies, like those that accompany dishes such as broccoli beef, are used.
Some versions of the dish would be almost impossible to recognize. The St. Paul sandwich, for instance, is a deep-fried egg foo yung sandwich, served on white bread with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mayonnaise. This variant of the classic dish can be found in St. Louis, Missouri, where the invention of the sandwich is credited to creative Chinese-American chefs. In the rest of the US, diners are more likely to find egg fu yung in Chinese restaurants, but the recipe is so simple, it’s certainly worth trying at home too, especially since it is quick to prepare.