It's the book. It has been one of my greatest joys to write it, but at the end the loose ends snapped and I was pulled underwater a few times, like a poor water-skiier behind a mad driver. I emerged and pulled through to the finish line, and I am now back in the land of the living. And ready to clean my office. And ready to make something new.
So the first thing I made post-book was something really old and fudsy, and sentimental: Egg foo yong. This was, believe it or not, the very first thing I made for my husband Aaron, even before our first official going-out date.
I think about it now--how weird was that? We had our first big date set for Saturday night and so I called him up the Thursday before and said, "Hey, are you hungry? I'm think I'm going to make some egg foo yong." Oh, just a mid-week quick dinner in my college apartment, my two roommates in sweats, myself in my writing gear, which remains the same today---baggy knee socks and slippers, a loose skirt and a chunky cardigan--concentrating really hard on frying up egg patties and napping them in sticky brown gravy.
I didn't know it at the time, but our lighting was way too bright and searing for him, and he wasn't that keen on fried foods. Suddenly insecure about my wok antics, as we sat down to the table it all felt hopelessly retro-'80's Chinese-American. As if I had invited him to a Chinese restaurant back in our small hometown.
The egg foo yong, though, I remember was soggy and leaden and the gravy glumpy. Now I know: If egg foo yong is going to be good, it has to be fried hard in really hot oil, so that the edges crisp up and blow bubbles, almost like a rice cake. I made this version from the few asparagus spears we had in the garden, ginger, ham, shiitake mushrooms, and nice yellow farm eggs, but it was just crying out for the bean sprouts I didn't have on hand. Nonetheless, with the pile of stir-fried garlicky broccoli raab--a green that stands in for asian greens very well--it was a quick and earthy meal to celebrate the conclusion of a year's work.
I pulled the recipe for the essential brown accompanying egg foo yong gravy from John T. Edge's new Truck Food Cookbook--a killer resource for recipes to make when you're starving, or needing, or wanting something. There are so many good recipes in it from all of the best food trucks around the country, and this one did not disappoint. It was more flavorful and thankfully thinner this time around.
Now, almost 16 years later, Aaron loved the egg foo yong. He said, "why did you wait so long to make this again?"
I guess it took me years to get over the embarrassment. I remember being thankful that he tossed back his egg foo yong, his long legs crossed in a polite triangle, and made a little conversation before quickly jetting off. And I was even more glad when he picked me up a few days later wearing a lightweight fitted wool suit and cowboy boots, and held the door open to the 1971 Buick Centurion hardtop as if it the egg foo yong night had never happened.
Egg Foo Yong
The Truck Food Cookbook, John T. Edge, 2012, Workman Publishing
Recipe from Yue Kee, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Serves 2 to 3
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/4 cup diced ham
3 1/2 ounces sliced shiitake mushroom caps
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced thinly on the bias
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
5 eggs, well beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
For the brown gravy, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, mirin, 1 teaspoon of pepper and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking until smooth. Reserve.
Heat the wok over high heat and add a thin film of canola oil, the ham, shiitakes, ginger, garlic and asparagus. Fry hard, tossing, until the vegetables are dark at the edges and tender inside. Add the scallions, toss, and transfer to a plate.
Combine the beaten eggs with the vegetable mixture. Heat the wok over high heat and add a good amount of canola oil, enough to pool in the center of the wok. Add one-sixth of the egg mixture and cook, pushing the egg into the center once, until deep golden brown on the bottom. With a wide spatula, reach beneath and flip, and cook until just tender. Repeat with the rest of the egg, making 6 pancakes.
Transfer the egg foo yong to a platter and serve with the hot gravy, white rice and stir-fried greens.