It seems kanitama-don is a popular dish in Chinese restaurants in Japan. While we were eating, Mr. Tess said that this dish tasted just like egg foo young! When I was young, I hated eggs eggs were not my favorite; I was unfamiliar with the dish. It’s an omelette found in American Chinese restaurants: eggs are beaten with minced ham (or pork, shrimp or chicken) and vegetables (bean sprouts, water chestnuts, onions), then fried like pancakes (small circles), and served with a sauce made with chicken stock thickened with cornstarch and flavored with soy sauce. Rice on the side.
Wikipedia notes that creative Chinese cooks in the U.S. invented egg foo young in the 1930’s. Carl Sandburg mentions egg foo yong (alternate spelling) in his 1936 poem The People, Yes. There is a Vietnamese dish called trung hap (I don’t know how to make the diacritical marks over letters) similar to egg foo young. And in Japanese Chinese cuisine you’ll find the dish is called Kani-tama, using crab meat instead of ham or other meats.
According to Merriam Webster online, the etymology of the word fuh yuhng egg white, egg coated ingredients, literallly, a kind of hibiscus. I don’t understand why a hibiscus would be associated with an omelette, but people want to make sense of things. Perhaps because egg foo young is usually fried as round patties, and the petals of a hibiscus flower are round, if you arranged five egg pancakes on a plate they would look like the flower?
Various other sites I checked out say that when the kanitama omelette is served on top of rice it might be (or might not be???) called tenshin rice or Tien Shinhan. The popularity of this dish in Japan began in the early 1950’s. Ms. Shimbo’s addition of “-don” follows the format of her book that indicates that this dish is served over rice.
- cook 6 cups of Japanese rice (4 if you don’t want leftovers)
Make the omelette:
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes, drained (I only had some very cheap dried shiitake and they were very small, so I used 6 of them—watch the quality of the ingredients you stock—these perhaps would have been suitable for making vegetarian “dashi”—they had good flavor but were too small!)
- 2 ounces bamboo shoots (fresh, parboiled, or canned in descending order of flavor, but all are good for texture), julienned in 2″ lengths) about 1/2 cup
- 1/2 cup negi (or green onions) julienned
- 1/2 cup crab meat (canned, surimi, fresh, or the expensive stuff we can get in Ann Arbor, MI)—Ms. Shimbo notes it should be from legs
- 2 ounces pancetta, diced (I went upscale here and it was a good idea: Ms. Shimbo calls for ham, but we don’t eat much ham in Tess’s kitchen and the deli ham looked to be grossly made with chemicals for better living with chemicals. The pancetta added a very nice flavor.)
- 6 eggs, lightly beaten in a large bowl
- pinch of salt
- vegetable oil to cook the omelette (not the 4 Tablespoons Ms. Shimbo used)
Cut away the stems of the mushrooms. Julienne the caps. To the large bowl in which you have beaten the eggs, combine the julienned mushrooms, bamboo, onion, crab, and pancetta. Add a pinch of salt.
Heat a skillet (use a skillet about the size of the bowls you will serve in). Add oil for pan-frying. Add half the egg mixture and cook the first omelette on both sides. Then the second. Keep the eggs warm.
Make the sauce:
- 2 Tablespoons sake
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons shoyu
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons potato starch mixed with 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Wipe the skillet with a paper towel, and add the sauce ingredients: first the sake (to cook off the alcohol), then the stock, sugar, and shoyu. Mix the potato starch and water and add; stir to prevent lumps, and cook to thicken. Finally stir in the sesame oil.
Put half the rice in each dish. Cover it with the omelettes. Serve with the sauce poured over the rice/omelette bowl.