A group of us from the Chinese Heritage Tour went out for dinner Thursday to a Chinese restaurant in Eastern Oregon.
I think many of us had cravings for some tasty Chinese food – fresh vegetables, braised meats and the like. I sat at the end of the longish table and looked up to see a plate full of three browned patties with what looked like gravy or cheese on top.
I thought: Who ordered salisbury steak?
Word trickled down, though, that those saucer-like browned patties were egg foo young. Now, it’s fine, I suppose, if people enjoy eating it and want to do so.
But aren’t we on a week-long trip to rediscover special places in Chinese American history in the American West?
Wouldn’t, say, a nice steamed fish really hit the spot?
More word filtered down to my end of the table that someone in our group actually ordered the egg foo young.
I thought again: Why? And who?
I was hungry and like everyone else began eating – including the egg omelette.
The funny thing is that I have not eaten egg foo young in, well, decades. I usually order something else when I go to Chinese restaurants.
I finally heard that Maxine Chan – the food anthropologist who prepared the delicious Toisanese meal on Monday to kick off the Heritage Tour – was the person who ordered the dish.
Could it be?
I mean, on Monday, she spent extra amounts of time to make sure her Toisanese meal met her standards as a chef.
At dinner, I didn’t have a chance to ask her if she was the one.
Before we left, there was food still sitting on the dishes – including the egg foo young.
John Pai, who is making a video of the tour, grabbed a white take-out box and put some of the egg foo young in, as well as some rice and vegetables.
He said he wanted to eat it for breakfast.
I had eaten some and, yes, there were eggs inside. But from the looks of it, I still thought we had ordered salisbury steak.
I had forgotten what egg foo young was exactly such that I had to look for a definition on Google.
On Friday morning, I spotted Max and remembered to ask whether she was the one who wanted the dish.
Her reply: Yes.
I think she wanted to have a taste test of sorts.
“Because they’ve added alot of flour to that stuff,” she said. “It makes it gummy. Traditionally, it was eggs and vegetables or meat.”
Later on Friday, I asked John how tasty that egg foo young was for his first meal of the day.
“It was one of the more delicious breakfasts I’ve had,” he replied. “Who wants to start off the day with sweet carbs?”
I haven’t asked him whether he will start eating egg foo young for breakfast once he returns to the Seattle area.
– Brad Wong