Egg Foo Yong (Plus: How not to grow bean sprouts in your head)

That’s me

Galley Pirate Caroline here, and I’m finally pulling my head out of the sand after sailing the first few legs of the 2018 World ARC. I have departed SV Solitude, said farewell to all the beautiful creatures of the Galápagos and am ready to start reminiscing about some of the wonderful meals we had under way. 

For starters, did I tell you we had 21 cans plus 4 boxes of tofu on board? That’s right. And tofu is an ingredient that I’m not real experienced in preparing. But I do know it’s a great staple that many sailors have for long distance cruising. So not to disappoint my almost-vegan Admiral Torie, I promised I’d whip up a few tofu-based dishes.

First let me mention that Egg Foo Yong typically requires bean sprouts. Being able to find fresh bean sprouts while cruising can be a crapshoot. So I got the brainy idea to grow my own. I’d read about that somewhere and thought it was a really cool idea…home grown vegetables on a sailboat. What could be more novel? So as we departed St Lucia to make the 5 day trip to Columbia I started my agricultural project in the forward head.

Growing Bean Sprouts in Your Head*

* Not mentally in your head, but physically: in your sailboat head.

Growing Bean Sprouts in Your Head*
DAY 1: Starting out Fill with Water Put the lid on DAYS 2-3: Rinse and Repeat DAY 4: Sprouting and Growing DAY 5: Hmmm... DAY 6: Waterloo

DAY 1: Starting out

I read this trick from the website The Art of Doing Stuff and it seemed to be something I could do on a boat...needing 3 plastic containers, one lid, a half cup of mung beans and water. In the bottom of one of the three containers, drill holes NO BIGGER than the beans. (I had to do this before I boarded the boat.) Place the container with holes inside one of the other containers. Fill the bottom with mung beans.

Fill with Water

Pour water into the container, just covering the mung beans. Don't overfill. Having the "colander-like" container makes it easy to lift out and rinse the beans that's required every 12 hours.

Put the lid on

Now place the remaining container on top of the beans, fill with water to weigh it down and put the lid on it to keep it from spilling. If you can get over the thought of growing food next to the toilet, the beauty about doing this in the head (my own private head!) is that you can put the covered dish in the sink and not worry about it flying around under way.

DAYS 2-3: Rinse and Repeat

Every 12 hours gently rinse the beans, replace with fresh water and return the other container and lid on top. Try to keep the beans from moving around under the water rinse. By the third day you should see your mung beans beginning to sprout.

DAY 4: Sprouting and Growing

Each day you will notice a little more growth. Continue to rinse and refill every 12 hours.

DAY 5: Hmmm...

The bean sprouts continue to grow longer. But something seems wrong. They're looking a little brown and beginning to...smell. I knew this wouldn't fly. If only I had really read the rest of that blog post. Do I stop watering them? Water them more? Should they have sun now? Is the smell normal?

DAY 6: Waterloo

Santa Marta, Columbia. This is where the sprouts met their fate. I was hoping by now they would look like a handful of crisp sprouts you pull out of the Whole Foods produce bin. And something kept coming back to me that I read on the website: Because of the risk of salmonella and E. coli There is a danger to eating raw sprouts. We were a hundred miles offshore; I just couldn't risk making us all sick from either the smell or the bacteria. So after a week of prepping this project, I threw the whole thing into the C-Dock trash can at Marina Santa Marta. Without blinking an eye.

This basic Egg Foo Yong (or “Young”) recipe can be made with most any protein. Substitute the tofu for shrimp or pork for a more traditional dish. Or leave it our altogether.

Egg Foo Young with Tofu

Jump to Recipe

For the sauce and garnish

2 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish

For the omelettes:

6 eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 carrot, shredded
1 cup diced tofu
3/4 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
1/3 cup bean sprouts, rinsed
1 cup sliced scallions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

We’ll start out by making the sauce. Mince the ginger and press the garlic. In a small bowl or cup, stir the cornstarch into 3 tablespoons of vegetable broth and set aside. Combine the stock, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and oyster sauce in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. You can use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, or make the stock from bouillon. Add the garlic and ginger and let simmer for 5 minutes. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Bring the sauce back to a simmer and cook until it thickens.

To make the egg omelettes, first prep the ingredients: shred the carrot, chop the scallions, dice the tofu and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and cornstarch together until well blended. Fold in the shredded carrot, scallions, tofu and the rest of the ingredients, except the oil.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, pour 1/3 cup of the egg mixture into the pan. Fry in batches, flipping once, until they are puffed and brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes for each side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Keep cooking in batches until all of the mixture is used up, add oil if needed.

Serve the Egg Foo Yong alone or with rice. Pour a generous amount of sauce on top and sprinkle with scallions. Serve hot.

Not having Egg Foo Yong for almost 30 years, it brought back childhood memories of small town Chinese Restaurants. For some reason it’s just not a popular dish in modern Chinese restaurants any more. We enjoyed our Egg Foo Yong at anchor just south of Portobelo, Panama, while taking in the Panamanian sunset.


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