Last week I received the latest issue of Saveur, in which I read a piece referencing two items that have sat on my Chinese food bucket list for years: egg foo yung and Brookline's Golden Temple.
Most of us who ate at Cantonese restaurants in the '80s (or earlier) recognize the name egg foo yung from menus. As the article notes, it falls under the same umbrella as Chinese-American classics like moo goo gai pan and chop suey. And yet, I'd never actually eaten the dish before, my parents' and my Chinese food order rarely diverging from beef with broccoli and pan-fried noodles. I've always been curious, though.
Fast-forward a couple decades: I've been living up the street from Golden Temple for eight years but have never set foot inside. That's because I've gotten pretty uppity about my Chinese food in the past several years—a development I blame partially on my myself and partially on the really excellent options for Sichuan, Taiwanese, and northern-style Chinese food in the Boston area. Golden Temple's also a funny place: between the relatively steep prices, the gaudy ice sculpture they display on the sidewalk on New Year's Eve, and the unlikely meshing of family restaurant and E Room that features a DJ and seductive lighting, the whole thing sounds like a hoity-toity version of Kowloon. On the one hand, why would you want to eat there. On the other, how could you resist?
The Saveur piece was a great excuse to check out the dish and the restaurant, both of which about met my expectations. I learned that the restaurant retains an incredible number of waitstaff, so you're table is practically butler-serviced, and the egg foo yung is basically a deep-fried omelet with a bowl of really savory gravy on the side. The version at Golden Temple (which occupies its own section of the menu) features chopped onions, bean sprouts, and a protein of your choice running through the eggs. I chose shrimp, and they don't skimp on the seafood: each of the three saucer-sized omelets contained a row of whole large shrimp. That said, the crustaceans would have been more evenly distributed if they had been chopped and scattered through the eggs as the vegetables were, but I suppose that would have downgraded the presentation value.
My only real complaint about the dish: the omelets themselves were underseasoned. In fact, the other dishes we tried also lacked salt—odd for a Chinese restaurant, though this one bills itself as healthy (note the restaurant's URL), so maybe that's part of the gig. But the gravy came to the rescue like good brown should. It was the kind of savory, lightly viscous liquid that would make just about anything taste good; hence, I found myself dumping more and more of it on the pancakes like little kids dump maple syrup on pancakes. Had my manners not gotten the better of me, I would have poured the bowl over the omelets and lapped up whatever was left clinging to the container with a spoon.