Most Asian-inspired dishes include a plethora of different vegetables but are also typically served with noodles, rice, or fried meats that have been battered with starch. While delicious, these dishes can be difficult to include when following a ketogenic diet. Many dishes can be altered to reduce total carbohydrate count by simply removing the rice, noodles, or fried meats. One dish, in particular, can be considered keto-friendly with minimal, if any, revisions at all. This Chinese specialty, known as egg foo young, first originated in China, but has since been developed by American-Chinese restaurants into its own unique, fried omelet-like dish. It offers minimal carbohydrate, lots of vegetables, and a relatively high fat content. These factors help make egg foo young a healthy, keto-friendly choice for those following a ketogenic diet.
Egg Foo Young is considered keto friendly. Even with the addition of gravy, as many American-Chinese restaurants serve it, Egg Foo Young contains minimal carbohydrate while also including a decent amount of fat, fresh vegetables, and protein. Some alternative keto friendly options to egg foo young include dishes such as Cha Trung Hap, Kanitama, and Telur Bungkus.
In this article we will review the origins and overview of egg foo young, breakdown its nutritional profile, and offer several egg foo young alternatives. Let’s dig in!
What is Egg Foo Young?
Egg foo young is a popular Chinese-inspired dish that has evolved into a staple menu item at many American-Chinese restaurants. It can be referred to by other names like Egg fooyung, egg foo yong, egg foo yung, or egg fu yung. For the sake of this article, we will refer to the dish as egg foo young and discuss the American-Chinese version.
Egg foo young is considered to be an omelet dish, but also uniquely different from the western-style omelets we are accustomed to in the United States. The preparation methods, ingredients used, cooking time, to final appearance are what set this dish apart.
As mentioned previously, in American-Chinese preparation of the dish, a gravy made from chicken stock, soy sauce, and cornstarch is often added. This has been described as a deviation from the traditional or authentic style of preparation.
Culinary historians believe that egg foo young traces its origins back to China and parts of Southeast Asia. Specifically, it can be traced to the Guangdong Province in the capital city of Guangzhou. The dish is said to have been inspired by another Chinese dish known as fu yung egg slices.
It is believed to have first made its appearance in the United States during the time of the transcontinental railroad construction. According to some, immigrants from China would make egg foo young for the construction workers.
Egg foo young vs. American omelet
For starters, egg foo young typically uses ingredients that are not common to American omelets. These ingredients include barbecued pork, bean sprouts, shrimp, and bamboo shoots. Typical American omelets utilize ingredients like ham or bacon, onions, peppers, spinach, and mushrooms. Another key difference is how long the dishes are cooked. American omelets are generally cooked until they are just set or slightly brown. Egg foo young is usually pan-fried until the egg mixture turns golden brown.
Is Egg Foo Young Keto-Friendly?
Egg foo young is a keto-friendly menu item. It is common in American-Chinese restaurants for a special gravy to garnish the dish. This gravy is generally made using soy sauce, chicken stock, and cornstarch. While cornstarch does contain carbohydrate, it is not likely that the amount used in the gravy would add significantly to the total carbohydrate count. Because of this, egg foo young can be considered a low-carbohydrate choice, making it an easy go-to for those following a ketogenic diet.
Is Egg Foo Young Healthy?
Egg foo young is similar to an omelet that we would be familiar with here in the United States. The health benefit of the dish is essentially determined by the ingredients added.
At the core of the recipe, egg foo young is made from eggs. Eggs are rich in protein and micronutrients like vitamin A, folate, vitamin B5, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium. Eggs also contain a decent amount of the trace mineral choline. They are low in carbohydrate and provide a complete protein source.
Common additions to egg foo young include bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, cabbage, mushrooms, and meat. While a variety of different vegetables can be used, all vegetables will boost the nutritional value of this dish.
Lastly, egg foo young is prepared using a relatively large amount of oil and served with a gravy that is heavy with sodium. This increases the total fat content of the dish, but using healthier oils like avocado or olive oil will increase the health benefits of the meal. Opting for low sodium soy sauce to include in the gravy, or choosing to use a different sauce or no sauce would ensure that excess sodium consumption is avoided.
Nutritional Profile of Egg Foo Young
The nutritional profile of this dish really depends on what ingredients are used. While we know that commonly used ingredients include eggs as the base and oil for deep frying or pan-frying, we can assume that the dish provides a decent amount of protein and relatively high amounts of fat. Furthermore, depending on what vegetables are used, the dish could also provide a plethora of different vitamins and minerals.
The USDA provides a breakdown of the nutritional profile of egg foo young prepared with minimal oil, bean sprouts, chicken, mushrooms, and onion. This version of egg foo young has a nutrient breakdown as follows:
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Cup Bean Sprouts, Fresh
- ½ Cup Chicken, Cooked and Diced
- ⅓ Tablespoon Dried Minced Onion
- 1 Cup Mushrooms, Stems and Pieces
- 2 Teaspoons Oil
Nutritional Information (per ½ recipe):
- Calories: 197
- Total Fat: 10g
- Saturated Fat: 2g
- Cholesterol: 196mg
- Sodium: 452mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 8g
- Total Sugars: 3g
- Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 19g
Keto Alternatives to Egg Foo Young
Cha Trung Hap
Cha Trung Hap is a traditional Vietnamese egg-based meatloaf that utilizes ground pork, eff, and mushrooms as its base ingredients. It can be served over rice, but for those following a ketogenic diet, skipping the rice would ensure excess carbohydrate consumption is kept low. The sauce used in this recipe does contain some sugar, but it is likely not in amounts great enough to impact total carbohydrate content drastically. As always, it may be of benefit to simply skip the sauce or use a carbohydrate-free sauce variety and err on the side of caution when eating out.
Kanitama is a Japanese style omelet that is filled with crab meat. It also contains vegetables like bamboo shoots and spring onions. This dish is a direct evolution from egg foo young. The two are similar in regards to both utilizing eggs, vegetables, and meat. They are different, however, in the choice of meat, the sauce added as a garnish, and the presentation of the final product. Kanitama sauce included ingredients like potato starch, green peas, sugar, chicken stock, soy sauce, and mushrooms. Many of these ingredients contain a decent amount of carbohydrate, so if you opt for kanitama over egg foo young, it may be best to avoid the sauce if you are following a ketogenic diet and are unsure of the total carbohydrate count.
Moo Shu Pork
This is a stir-fried dish made of pork, scrambled eggs, and vegetables like cabbage and mushrooms. It is a common menu item in many Chinese restaurants and could be chosen as an alternative if egg foo young is not available. While it is typically served over rice, those following a ketogenic diet could simply skip the rice and enjoy a perfectly keto-friendly meal.
Egg foo young is native to Chinese cuisine and is said to have roots traced back to the Guangdong Province. It goes by several other names including egg fooyung, egg foo yong, egg foo yung, or egg fu yung. While it is common knowledge that egg foo young contains a decent amount of protein and fat, the nutritional profile of the dish really depends on what other ingredients, like vegetables, are used. The ingredients used will also determine whether or not this dish would be considered keto-friendly or not. Typical ingredients included in this traditional Chinese meal are generally low-carbohydrate and the total carbohydrate count remains relatively low. Because of this, egg foo young can be considered a keto-friendly menu item. Some alternatives that are similar to egg foo young and are also keto-friendly include Cha Trung Hap, Kanitama, Telur Bungkus.
Is egg foo young gluten-free?
Most varieties of egg foo young would be considered gluten free as long as they are consumed without the sauce or gravy. The typical ingredients used are eggs, vegetables, meat, and oil. However, the sauces and gravies are made using wheat-based flours, thus posing an issue for those avoiding gluten-containing foods.
What does ‘foo young’ mean?
Foo young means “lotus” in Chinese. Legend has it that this traditional Chinese dish was named egg foo young by an ancient scholar of the Chinese dynasty. This scholar described the egg dishes as resembling the lotus flower. According to this legend, when he was back in Guangdong, he improvised the dish and called it ‘foo young’.