A Treatise On The Creation Of The Perfect Egg Fu Yung
E.F.Y. Is entirely by sight, feel and action . . . Just as you probably "know" exactly how much of some ingredient to put into a concoction depending on size, or a multitude of other factors.
I have often told those who like my E.F.Y. That I could write down precisely the exact measure of every ingredient and let someone combine and cook them to the best of their ability, and it would turn out as a significantly different dish each time, unless they were able to replicate certain essential manipulations.
Most chinese restaurants do not even take the time (or make the effort) to prepare egg fu yung the way that is considered "best" by quality chinese chefs
The best is made by floating the patties on peanut oil, about 4 - 5 inches deep, in a wok, heated to the proper temperature. That temperature is determined by heating the oil until a raw bean sprout immediately rises to the surface of the oil and begins to sizzle and spin around (this is the lower temperature limit). Additionally, the oil must not be smoking (this is the upper temperature limit). This should be tested several times as the oil temperature rises by tossing in 1 or 2 sprouts and observing how fast they rise - slowly or immediately? Be sure to scoop out the fried sprouts between tests. When the sprout finally jumps up to the surface of the oil, make an effort to keep the wok at that temperature and no lower This is why gas burners are the best source of heat -- infinite, immediate variability.
Peanut oil gives the absolute best flavor, but I have found that canola oil works O.K. It should be a large wok, able to hold a half gallon or up to three-quarters of a gallon of hot oil with plenty of room to add about three cups of E.F.Y. Mixture.
Quality E.F.Y. is so light, tender and fluffy that it compares more to a soufflé than an omelette. And the only way to assure this type of outcome is to mix the ingredients quickly, by hand, with a chinese ladle, in a large pan that you are holding in the other hand, barely mixing the eggs and coating the vegetables. This should never take longer than about 20 to 25 seconds of mixing before ladling the mixture onto the hot oil.
*There is a reason for this speed of mixing the egg. When an egg's yolk and white are scrambled together, the resulting mixture begins to become thin and runny rather fast, and if this happens when you are putting the mixture onto the top of the hot oil, it does not hold together and all of it just spreads out across the oil, and you end up with a mess of this thin, oil-soaked brown crunchy junk that is not worth eating.
An old chinese chef once told me that you mix the egg so fast that you "trick the egg into thinking that it is still whole and not mixed-up yet." I loved that picturesque explanation!
That chinese ladle is important. It is about 4 to 5 inches wide, with a deep and spherical scoop. They are made of an excellent shiny and smooth stainless steel. I have always bought mine in chinatown, chicago, but I guess they are available other places. I only know that what they pass off for chinese woks and ladles at most stores are really not good for making E.F.Y. Because the mixture tends to stick to them instead of sliding off easily into the hot oil.
Now for the method of placing the mixture onto the wok and hot oil . . . Using the same large ladle with which you are mixing the eggs, etc., you go from being very, very fast to very, very slow What I mean is this: you have just been breaking the eggs over the veggies and very quickly wrapping all of the veggies in a nice (hopefully still thick) mixture of egg, and then suddenly you have to slow down to a crawl when a half to three-quarters of a ladle full of the mixture is ever so gradually turned from the side of the ladle onto the side of the wok at exactly the level of the hot oil. This is done so that the mixture congeals in the hot oil forming a little "pontoon" under the patty to support it and help it float. It is important that the ladle be in such a position as to not allow oil into it, and yet close enough to the oil that the egg mixture sits only very slightly on the angled edge of the wok (less than half an inch of hot wok) and all the rest of the patty floating on oil. Think of the edge of the wok as your other hand holding the forming patty in place while it becomes self-supporting.
After the first patty is floating on its own, proceed with the second ladle of mixture for the second patty, using the same slow method. The amount of ingredients that I will give you shortly will provide enough for three or four patties. After all of the mixture is now floating in the wok as patties, use a chinese spatula (flipper) to splash hot oil up onto the patties in order to sear and close the tops so that when it is time to flip them over, they will not spread all over as I described before. Allow them to float and cook for several minutes, occasionally using more splashed oil for searing several times before flipping over. Remember that the egg underneath is becoming fluffy (for lack of any other better words) and this acts as an insulator, and therefore, slows the cooking of the contents inside the patty. Thus, after flipping it over, each patty should be submerged using the flipper to press it down temporarily until it again sears the side that was previously the top of the patty against the very hot bottom of the wok. This should prevent the leaking out of any thin mixture that still remains uncooked inside the patty. These patties should now be floating with what was their bottom "pontoons" showing on top as little round globes, golden (not too brown) in color, and be slightly spongy when pressed with the flipper. I have found that if the patties are properly firm before flipping (which they should be), and ready to flip, that it helps to use a large fork in one hand (do not pierce), and the flipper in the other in order to guide the patty over and avoid splashing a wave of oil over the side of the wok. I have had some oil fires if this happens. The patties will continue to float and cook for a few more minutes or until nothing leaks from the patty when it is pressed top to bottom. After they are properly cooked, one or two at a time they are removed by holding them with a fork (again, do not pierce) on one side and the flipper on the other side, allowing them to drain until no more oil runs off. They are then placed on several layers of paper towels and after all patties are out of the wok, softly pat with more paper towels on the top. They should be firm but fluffy, as I said, like a soufflé, so do not smash them
You are now ready to mix more and start the process all over again
While I was learning how to accomplish all of these exacting procedures which I have just explained, I must have ruined and/or destroyed hundreds of E.F.Y.'S before I determined these special methods that I have described to you in such rigorous detail This is all in order to prevent you from wasting so many patties before it works for you. When the chinese chefs showed me, they all did it so fast that I was unable to notice the tiny little nuances of movement that came from years of practice. This is what I have tried to describe.
Now the ingredients: the simpler the better . . .
I fry cheap pork steaks or pork chops slowly for so long that they become slightly caramelized on both sides. The fat is entirely rendered and crispy brown by the time I take them out to drain. This gives them almost a crispy bacon flavor and little pieces of them are all that are needed to give a delicious flavor to an E.F.Y. Patty. They are chopped into small pieces the size of a green pea.
The grease can be drained from the frying pan and the remaining drippings of fried blood and caramelized pork make a very flavorful gravy when added to chicken broth, 1 beef bouillon cube, about 4 - 5 chicken bouillon cubes, other flavors and spices like "star anise" and a dash or two of white (not black) pepper.
Star Anise: use entire whole "stars", and they must be removed after cooking / simmering /stir-frying. Use about two or three stars to flavor about two (2 ) quarts of gravy / sauce after an hour or so of simmering, they and other things are sieved out. Only one or two would add sufficient flavor to a regular-sized stir-fry dish . . . You want only a hint of the flavor.
Additionally, the bones and trimmings from the fried pork can be simmered in chicken broth for an hour or so to acquire even more of the flavor for the gravy / sauce.
The bean sprouts should be very Fresh and crunchy, not wet or limp.
The scallions / green onions are best if they are the smaller diameter ones, again, very fresh, cleaned and cut into pieces about one-quarter of an inch long; white and green stems all cut the same.
[optionally: add also small bits of water chestnuts, peas, (cooked) carrots, shrimp]
Now the amounts:
Take a large handful of bean sprouts, about the size of a softball, -- i.e. Larger than a baseball, (if they are very long, crush slightly ), and put into the handled-pan described above, then add about a half a small handful of green onions (maybe 1/4 cup) And about the same amount of those small crunchy pieces of pork (more or less to taste after you get used to it.)
Toss these veggies a couple of times in the pan.
Crack 3 - 4 eggs in quick succession into the pan of veggies and mix very quickly as stated above.
It is better to use the absolute freshest eggs possible, because they tend to stay thicker longer after mixing. Also, use about three jumbo eggs, or 3 - 4 extra-large eggs. Do not use smaller than large eggs, and if you use large, then it takes at least 4
My pride is in the flavor of the gravy I make, and the fluffiness of the patties of egg fu yung. I would have to go into another whole description for the making of the gravy which is actually more of a specially flavored spice-sauce than a simple gravy.
I thicken the gravy some of the time with corn starch, but, better yet, if you can find it in a chinese food store, a bag of tapioca starch goes a long way and creates a terrific glossy smooth gravy!
It is great for thickening gravy as well as providing that shiny gloss you see on some of the more expensive and special chinese food dishes.
Pairs Well With
A Treatise On The Creation Of The Perfect Egg Fu Yung (E.F.Y.) . . .
(It may also be referred to as Egg Foo Yung, Foo-Yung, Foo Yong, Fu-Yung, Fu Yung, or Furong)
This was composed by my brother, Mike, who went into the kitchens of several chinese restaraunts to learn first hand this approach.
Please Don't "speed-read" this. Read it slowly and then re-read it in order to take in all of the meanings and let the details of the procedures make sense.