I have an unhappy history with foo young.
In my younger, wilder days when I thought I knew more than I did, I tried to make foo young. How difficult could it be I thought? I could cook Chinese pretty well and an omelet is not the trickiest thing in the world to cook.
Alas, how wrong I was.
I pulled out a recipe – the one with the most appetizing picture from one of my books (this was a time when recipes could only be found in books) and followed it exactly, but every time instead of a nice, firm omelet, I was left with scrambled eggs. For over a decade I never attempted foo young again. I pushed the memory of my shameful failure deep into the recesses of my mind and never spoke of it again. If anyone asked me if I knew how to make a foo young, I’d feign ignorance and quickly change the subject to the difficulty in getting perfect threads for an egg drop soup, or the challenge of finding a good triple Szechwan rice.
Now, older and wiser, and edified by Youtube videos I decided it was time to re-visit my shameful past. Also, I figured what I had been doing wrong: instead of using smaller prawns, or slicing them thinly, I was grandiosely using whole king prawns whose weight could not be supported by the batter.
This time it turned out to be so successful that I made eight sandwiches: four for me and four for The Girlfriend. I didn’t eat anything else that day. She probably did.
Like chop suey, foo young is not traditionally Chinese, but it’s not exactly American-Chinese either. There are versions across South Asia and my recipe is slightly influenced by another kind of omelet I like very much – the Korean pajeon. To put an omelet between two slices of bread is the most natural thing to do (in the case of the greasy omelet served by Indian Railways the only thing to do), so it’s no surprise that the Americans already do a St. Paul Sandwich. Some versions, like this one where the the foo young is deep-fried, sound positively unhealthy.
If you want a meat-free version, just increase the amount of vegetables. My only piece of advice: don’t serve the sandwich right away, because of the filling the foo young gets much hotter than an omelet so wait for 2-3 minutes before serving.
4 slices bread
10 gm spring onions whites, chopped
10 gm/ 2 tbsp spring onion greens, cut into ½-cm lengths
15 gm bean sprouts
15 gm lettuce, shredded + 3-4 whole leaves
½ a button mushrooms, quartered and thinly sliced
25 gm shelled and de-veined prawns
25 gm squid, cut into thin rings
15 gm bacon, chopped
¼ tsp/ 5 gm garlic, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp oyster sauce
½ tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp green chilli
¾ tsp corn flour
salt and pepper
For the sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp tomato ketchup
½ tsp ginger juice
½ tsp chilli sauce
¼ tsp soy sauce
6 tbsp water or stock
½ tsp corn flour dissolved in 1 tbsp water
Fry the bacon in a wok or pan for about 2-3 minutes, till crisp, but not browned. Remove and keep aside.
To the same pan add the squid rings and cook for just under a minute, tossing regularly. Remove and keep aside.
Keep small prawns whole, cut larger prawns down the centre and split in half, cut further into 2-3 pieces.
Mix all the ingredients, except the egg, together. Combine well, so that the sauces and corn flour evenly coat the meats and vegetables.
Break the egg into the mixture. With a spoon or spatula fold the egg into the mixture. Do not beat.
Divide the mixture into two parts equally.
Heat about a tsp of oil in a wok, or pan, on high heat.
Gently pour one part of the mixture into the wok. Press down gently so the foo young is flat and has a roundish shape.
Lower heat after one minute and continue to cook for another 3 minutes undisturbed.
Turn the heat back up and flip the foo young. Cook again for about a minute on high heat and then lower heat. Cook for another minute. Turn off heat. Remove the foo young and keep aside.
Prepare the second portion of the mixture in the same way.
While the foo young is cooking prepare the toast.
Place two salad leaves on one slice of toast. Place the foo young on the leaves. Spread the sauce over the foo young. Cover with the second piece of toast.
For the sauce
Prepare the sauce before making the foo young.
Mix all the ingredients except corn flour mixture together. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously.
When it starts to bubble add the corn flour mixture. Lower heat and continue stirring till the sauce thickens.
Remove and keep aside in a warm place.
Makes 2 sandwiches
PREPARATION TIME: 15 minutes