A brief history of Egg Foo Yung by Sweet Mandarin

By Helen and Lisa Tse – Owners of The Sweet Mandarin Restaurant, Manchester

Foo Yung has been criticised as an anglicised Chinese dish but actually this omelette dish has roots in a Shanghainese dish called Fu Yung Egg Slices.

Nonetheless, I believe we should embrace Anglo-Chinese culture and when I asked my grandmother what she thought of the Foo Yung dish and she told me the story of how it came about. In the early 1950s it was estimated that there were five thousand Chinese in British ports and many started life out as laundrettes. However, many found their businesses becoming redundant overnight thanks to the birth of the washing machine. This had forced a particular Mr Foo to convert his laundrette into a takeaway but he was the most hopeless cook. He couldn’t tell the difference between green beans and onions and had no idea of measurements. So when a customer asked for an onion omelette, he threw in green beans and onions, in the hope one would be the right ingredient and poured in too much egg than was necessary for an omelette. The customer was obviously thrilled and ordered it again and again.

By the time the laundry man had realised his mistake it was too late and the humble Foo Yung was born and it made its way permanently onto the menu. My grandmother laughs at this dish because it really is symbolic at how forgiving cooking can be. Twenty years after this incident, the Chinese immigrants had increased tenfold and nearly all of them worked in catering and offered Foo Yung on the menu.

When growing up in our small takeaway we would always see the regular customers who were like the extended family. The majority of the customers that visited would always order the same dish every week at the same time and one of those dishes that we have served for generations is the Chicken Foo Yung for our long time customer Jerry. When he came in he would say ‘the usual please’. So Jerry this is the ultimate Chicken Foo Yung for you.

Serves 2

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

1 tablespoons vegetable oil

100g beansprouts

100g green beans, sliced

1 medium onion, finely sliced

200g cooked chicken fillet, thinly sliced

pinch of salt

4 large eggs, beaten

In a hot wok add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Stir fry the vegetables and chicken for 5 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked (i.e. the pink meat turns white) and add a pinch of salt. Then pour into a colander to drain.

Clean the wok, return to the heat and add another tablespoon of oil. Return the vegetables and chicken to the wok. Pour the egg around the mixture of vegetables and chicken and leave it to cook for 5 minutes. Use a flat spatula and turn the foo yung over to cook the other side for a further 5 minutes. The foo yung should be lovely and firm not the consistency of scrambled egg.

Serve with steamed rice or chips (as Jerry does!).

The Sweet Mandarin. 3 generations of Chinese cooking
The Sweet Mandarin. 3 generations of Chinese cooking

Sweet Mandarin is a Chinese Restaurant in Manchester which serves delicious Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails. They make their own sweet chilli sauce, bbq sauce, sweet & sour sauce which you can buy from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Ocado, Booths, Wing Yip and Chi Yip.

Sweet Mandarin Chinese Restaurant and Cookery School can cater for the gluten free, dairy free diners. They are based in the trendy Northern Quarter near the Arndale Centre, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and Primark. The nearest hotels to us are the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Premier Apartments, Blue Rainbow Aparthotels, Light Hotel and Hatters Hostel.

To book a table at Sweet Mandarin email [email protected]

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