Hangtown Egg Foo Young from Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown

This month, I’m selecting Mister Jiu's in Chinatown by Chef Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho from Ten Speed Press.

The recipe is Hangtown Egg Foo Young, Jew's tribute to both Hangtown Fry, the iconic Gold Rush oyster and bacon scramble, and the equally legendary Chinese American staple. Both are from the same North California place and era of hard times and division. Jew says you "can argue that egg foo young isn't authentic Chinese cuisine, but that doesn't make it inherently less soulful food.  These two dishes have more in common than they do difference."  

Mister Jiu's in Chinatown in my mind, is a huge milestone in the Asian American cookbook oeuvre, celebrating Jew's cooking and story with awe, reverence and respect, qualities seldom used when talking about Chinese-American food and dishes, let alone through the lens of its creators to mainstream America.


Hangtown Egg Foo Young | Pete Lee © 2021

Early in conceptualizing the menu for Mister Jiu’s, I thought about Hangtown Fry and egg foo young, two dishes born from the same place and era of hard times and division. Fùh yùhng (芙蓉) is actually classic Cantonese technique (the eggs are meant to bloom like “hibiscus” in the wok), but Cantonese cuisine leans toward light sauces. Adding brown sauce, or “Chinese gravy,” was an innovation of early Chinese cooks in America. You could argue, egg foo young isn’t authentic Chinese cuisine, but I don’t think that makes it inherently less soulful food. Egg foo young led more people to dive deeper into Chinatown. Its popularity kept Chinatowns bumping. You can still taste the originals—egg foo young at Far East Cafe by the Grant Avenue gate, and Hangtown Fry at Tadich Grill just down the hill. In my mashup, I use creamy oysters such as kumamotos or Miyagis, and salty Virginia ham, and keep the eggs soft. These two dishes have more in common than they do differences. They should have been friends a long time ago.

Active Time — 30 minutes
Plan Ahead — You’ll need to time to make Matsutake Broth, Lap Yuk, and Potato Crisps
Makes 1 or 2 servings
Special Equipment —
Oyster knife

⅓ cup / 80ml Matsutake Broth (recipe follows)
1 tsp water
1 tsp cornstarch
6 small raw oysters (such as Miyagis)
3 eggs
1 tsp oyster sauce
½ tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp rendered lard or pork fat
2-inch piece Lap Yuk (recipe follows), cut into ¼-inch-thick, 1-inch-long matchsticks
½ cup / 30g bean sprouts
1½ Tbsp minced Chinese chives
1 Tbsp Potato Crisps (recipe follows)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth to a simmer. In a small bowl, stir together the water and cornstarch until the cornstarch is suspended, then whisk into the broth and simmer until thickened into a gravy, 15 to 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Shuck the oysters, placing the oysters in a small bowl and the liquor in a separate medium bowl. Add the eggs, oyster sauce, and salt to the liquor and whisk until very well combined and no streaks of egg white remain.

In 10-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat, warm the lard until melted, then swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Add the lap yuk and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Add the oysters and cook 1 minute, then add the bean sprouts and cook 30 seconds more. Make sure the oysters, lap yuk, and bean sprouts are evenly distributed in the pan.

Pour the egg mixture over everything and sprinkle with the chives. As the eggs on the edge set, use a heatproof rubber spatula to gently lift those parts, then tilt the pan so that the unset eggs can run underneath. Cook until the eggs are almost set but just a little wet on top, about 3 minutes total.

Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with the potato crisps. Using the spatula, nudge and fold the top third of the fry over the center, then continue rolling toward the bottom. Slide the eggs onto a plate. Stir the mushroom gravy, then spoon over the fry and serve immediately.

Matsutake Broth

Makes 1 ½ cups / 360ml

1 slice thick-cut bacon
⅛ medium yellow onion
1 qt / 950ml Chicken Stock
5 pieces dried matsutake mushrooms
1 small dried shiitake mushroom
One 3 x 1-inch piece kombu
1 Tbsp fish sauce

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sear the bacon until dark golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and sear until very browned on one side, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low; add the seared bacon, chicken stock, both dried mushrooms, and kombu; and simmer until reduced to 1½ cups / 360ml, about 1 hour.

Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Stir the fish sauce into the broth. Let cool, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Lap Yuk

Active Time — 20 minutes 
Plan Ahead — You’ll need about 1 week for marinating and curing 
Makes about 6 strips (enough for a few dishes) 
Special Equipment —
Kitchen twine, skewer 

In a Chinese family, you know winter’s coming when there’s bacon dangling from coat hangers in every dark corner of the house. It makes me smile whenever I catch, through the restaurant’s dining-room windows, one of our neighbors hanging theirs on the fire escape. Lap yuk (臘肉) is one of the easiest cured meats to make. Just marinate and hang until the flavor has intensified and the color has turned a dark mahogany cream. Lap yuk should feel dry and preserved but still pliable. Ask your local Chinese butcher for a boneless cut of pork belly called ńgh fā yuhk (五花肉), which has two layers of meat sandwiched between three layers of fat and is topped with pork skin. For the baijiu, we use Ming River Sichuan Baijiu, but any floral, younger baijiu (generally 二曲酒 grade) works well for this. If you buy lap yuk, you’ll have the choice of smoked, which is delicious when stir-fried with leeks but probably too strong for the recipes in this book. 

Steam lap yuk for about 5 minutes before using to soften it, then use however you would any bacon or lap cheong. Slice it thinly, then sauté with crunchy vegetables, like gai lan, broccoli, or cauliflower, or add to rice in a clay pot. The rendered fat is great for cooking.

½ cup plus 1 Tbsp / 135ml light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu) 
¼ cup / 50g granulated sugar 
¼ cup plus 3 Tbsp / 105ml Chinese rose wine 
¼ cup / 60ml baijiu 
3 Tbsp dark soy sauce (老抽, lóuh chāu) 
1 lb / 450g skin-on pork belly, cut lengthwise into 1-inch-thick slices 

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the light soy sauce and sugar, not letting it reach a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Pour the mixture, the rose wine, baijiu, and dark soy sauce into a large zip-top bag. Add the pork belly, seal the bag, and massage to coat the slices with the marinade. Refrigerate the pork belly in the bag overnight, making sure that the slices are lying flat in a single layer. The next day, remove the pork belly from the marinade and pat dry with towels.

Tie a 12-inch piece of kitchen twine onto the end of a skewer. Push the skewer through the fatty part of a pork slice about 1 inch from an end and pull the twine through. Tie a knot to keep the slice hanging on the twine. String all the slices together this way. 

Hang the pork to cure on a rack (plastic clothes hangers will do), making sure the slices are not touching, in a cool (about 65°F), dry spot out of direct sunlight. The pork will shrivel slightly and is ready when the surface feels completely dry but the inside is still soft, 4 to 6 days. Once cured, cut from the twine to use. The lap yuk keeps pretty much indefinitely in a cool, dry place; but to prevent it from drying out over longer periods, store in a zip-top bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Potato Crisps

1 qt / 950ml neutral oil
1 medium russet potato
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Kosher salt

Fill a wok or large saucepan with the neutral oil and secure a deep-fry thermometer on the side. Set over medium-high heat and warm the oil to 350°F, being careful to maintain this temperature as you fry.

Meanwhile, peel and then grate the potato on the large holes of a box grater. (You can simply dice the potato if your blender can handle it, but grating releases starchy juices that better bind the crisps.) In a blender, combine the potato and garlic and blend on high speed, scraping down the sides of the blender jar often, into a smooth paste. Transfer to a piping bag, squeeze bottle, or zip-top plastic bag (snip off a corner of the bag to create a small hole when you’re ready to go).

Line a plate with a double layer of paper towels.

Squeeze some of the potato purée into the hot oil in a zigzag motion about 4 inches long. Fry, stirring occasionally, until dark golden brown and crisp, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the finished crisp to the prepared plate. It will break up into pea-size irregular pieces. Immediately season with salt and set aside to cool. Repeat with the remaining purée. Once cool, transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Reprinted with permission from Mister Jiu's in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food by Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho, copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.” Photography copyright: Pete Lee © 2021.


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