Egg Foo Yung and St. Paul Sandwich
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
Those who know me well know I grew up around St. Louis Missouri and lived there for over twenty-five years, before making my home with my husband a more nomadic one while he pursued a military career.
Most of the more classic foods for Chinese I learned about while in St. Louis from the local chop suey houses. And one of the things that was particular to St. Louis was the St. Paul sandwich. There are many stories about *why* it is called that and it has nothing to do with Minnesota. It probably had more to do with a church. But my guess is as good as anyone’s.
And that sandwich is essentially an egg foo yung sandwich, served on crappy white bread with lettuce, tomato and pickles (and wrapped in foil and tossed unceremoniously into a brown paper bag at a take-out place). Don’t get fancy with the bread. Leave the high faluting desires at the door, because this is how it is made. Like the barbecue served at roadside pits and stands (the *original* food trucks) where rib tips and pork steaks were always placed on top of crappy white bread. And now, even as we speak, we find out that down in Tennesse you will get your Nashville Hot chicken on…(you guessed it)….crappy white bread. And I call it crappy because, well. It IS crappy. At some point in my past we called it quarter bread, because the store brand was priced at 25 cents per loaf. And that’s fine. I like nothing more than juicy summer tomatoes dripping from between pieces of crappy white bread with a smear of mayo. Those are my roots. And who doesn’t love BLT’s on toasted “CWB” (crappy white bread)?
It does not. And never will. Taste like a freshly made French baguette. Nor does it want to.
But getting past the bread, because you know, some people out there are going to take offense (and they know who they are) but-but-but it doesn’t belong on French bread or anything else. This is street food.
If you want to elevate this dish up one step and take it into the take-out and sit at the table with the packets of suspect soy sauce (which aren’t actually soy sauce at all- have you read those ingredients ever? It’s just freaking colored water for crap’s sake!), and hot mustard that tastes more like wall paste with yellow coloring. Well then, we have egg foo yung. And don’t let me scare you- this is nothing to be scoffed at (as those little ignorant packets of foolish soy sauce are). This is good food.
Lee Lam operated the House of Lam down on Route 3 in Cahokia Illinois before he burned the place down. It was well known that he smoked cigars in his kitchen (It was the 70’s. It happened). And little did I know then that I might be talking about this guy for the rest of my life but whatever.
He did have the best fried rice I ever ate.
When you walked into his hole in the wall, you stepped up to a cut out box that went to his kitchen and placed your order. I spent a lot of time there hanging my elbow on the tiny counter of it, chatting with him while he cooked things up in his wok. (I could see him back there with his stogie in his mouth too, and used to crack jokes that maybe ash got in the food and that was his secret ingredient).
He loved to talk about the way he cooked food over in China. He seemed particularly obsessed with talking about how he didn’t buy chickens there, that he raised his own, and and and…maybe it was TMI. But it amused him to no end that we as Americans walked into a market and saw our food as what was inside the wrapper and not the place it came from. Okay, yeah, he did preach a bit on his soap box. My mom always cut up her own chickens, and made sure I knew how to cut them up too, even if I am (and probably still am) as guilty as the next party having a butcher cut it up for me. I also listened to no end while my mom talked about chickens, raising them, and the process that went into getting the bird from the coop to the table.
Is it something about having cleaned chickens that compels people to rant?
And those who listened to it to no end to follow suit by ranting on their food blog years later? For here I am in full realization that I should *shaddup* and get to the recipe. 😉
Okay, okay, okay…(in my best Joe Pesci voice)…on with the show. (and the recipe!)
The egg foo yung is an omelet of sorts topped with brown sauce and served with rice. This kind of brown sauce you will be using no matter if you change up the ingredients from shrimp to chicken to pork or whatever..or not. It’s standard brown sauce.
And either way you choose to make this, I do hope you enjoy. I actually like it more and more as the years go by, tempering my addiction of Hunan and Szechuan spicy foods. I could eat Kung Pao chicken three times a day (I’ll post my version of Kung Pao for you very soon for you! I promise!)
Egg Foo Yung and St. Paul Sandwich
Ingredients for Omelet:
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 1/4 cup finely diced celery
- 8 ounces fresh bean sprouts
- 1 teaspoon peanut oil
- 6 ounces chopped cooked chicken, chopped cooked pork, or small raw shrimp
Ingredients for Brown Sauce:
- 12 ounces double-strength chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
Ingredients for St. Paul sandwich:
- Cooked egg foo yung omelets
- iceberg lettuce
- sliced tomatoes
- sliced dill pickles
- sliced onion
- soft white bread (“CWB”)
- Whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper, cornstarch, sesame oil and soy sauce in a bowl and set aside.
- In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry the scallions, celery, bean sprouts until soft, adding in meat or raw shrimp just long enough at the end to warm it up (or cooking the shrimp until curled and opaque).
- Divide the vegetables out into small bowls and divide the whisked egg among them.
- Place ingredients for sauce in a small saucepan, and heat, stirring, until it comes to a boil, then boil one minute or until sauce thickens; set aside and keep warm.
- Heat a griddle sprayed lightly with nonstick spray (or a small amount of oil) as you would cook a little pancake, and cook omelet ingredients one bowl at a time, shoring up egg that runs away with your spatula and turning it over to finish cooking when the underside browns lightly and sets. Continue with the others.
- Serve the egg foo yung with brown sauce and rice on the side if you wish.
- Sandwiches are made on white bread with lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion and some mayo (or a drizzle of brown sauce if you prefer).
Note: Patties freeze well between waxed paper and also reheat well.
From the kitchen of palatablepastime.com
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