Writing a book is a fulltime job. This I discovered last fall once I started to earnestly concentrate on completing my cookbook. What with my commitments in restaurant consulting and teaching, I have no time at all to prepare lunch. To utilize my time efficiently I buy commercial cold cuts, sliced cheeses and wheat bread to make sandwiches. But I yearn for the occasional comfort Chinese lunch that invariably sooths my anxiety about writing the book. So I need a new lunch plan.
I’m not much of an instant ramen fan. All those chemicals in the soup stock frighten me. (Although I must confess I love Spam as a junk food indulgence and god only knows what’s in it.) So anything instant from a package is out of the question. Then I remembered my childhood lunch favorite: fried eggs on rice. Coming home from school in Singapore to a simple lunch of a bowl of fluffy steamed rice topped with a fried egg, splattered with soy sauce and served with a side of simple stir-fried greens, was the best cure for that midday hunger.
Chinese fried egg is cooked slightly differently than American fried egg. Instead of being pan-fried it is actually deep-fried. The egg is dropped directly from the shell into a pool of very hot oil. The oil immediately sizzles around the egg white and creates a crispy edge full of brown wiry strands. This crunchy edge is what makes this fried egg so magical and, if cooked properly, the yolk remains creamy and soft when you bite into it.
The only adornment that is needed is a dash of soy sauce, a shake of ground white pepper, plus a sprinkle of chopped scallion and red chili. For those who prefer more complex flavors you can use oyster sauce, garlic chili sauce or even Worcestershire sauce. To create an even more complicated dish, some cooks make a sauce from ground pork and fermented black beans or fresh tomato and scallion. In other words you can make just about any sauce to go on top of this egg. You can also serve it sitting on top of fried rice or a bowl of noodles, or floating in a soup. This is indeed a very versatile fried egg.
Now that I’ve rediscovered one of my childhood favorites, I’ve been getting into the habit of making a large quantity of rice at dinner and saving the leftover in the refrigerator. Then at lunch time when I’m not indulging myself on Spam I heat up the leftover rice in the microwave oven, fry up two eggs, cut up some scallion and chili, and make a wholesome quick meal while reminiscing about my primary school days.
Fried Eggs with Soy Sauce (荷包蛋)
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- soy sauce to taste
- ground white peppe to taste
- 1 scallion chopped
- 1 red chili chopped (optional)
Chop the scallion and red chili and set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok on medium heat until it is just reaching the smoking point or about 300 degrees F. Make sure that the oil is hot before cooking the egg. That way it will not stick to bottom of the wok.
Cook the eggs one at a time. It will only take about a minute to cook each egg. If you prefer the yolk to be fully cooked just cook it for another minute. Cracks open an egg and drop it into the middle of the wok. Use a wok spatula to pour hot oil over the top of the egg continuously until the it reaches the desired doneness. Remove the egg from the oil and drain thoroughly.
Serve the fried egg immediately over a bowl of rice and topped with the soy sauce, ground white pepper, scallion and chili.