Eggs may be simple, but they can be used in so many delicious and amazing ways to create tasty meals. Particularly in some East Asian countries, eggs are at the centre of many delicacies. Let two top chefs from East Asia tell you why eggs are so important! Not only can they be delicious but they can also tell a story.

Eggs are humble but fantastic food that can be found in so many dishes without being the main element. Whether it’s a sweet treat, breakfast or main course, eggs can have a place. In Asia, eggs are essential – almost every Asian country has egg dishes with unique local characteristics. Different dishes celebrate their own unique taste, recipes and stories.

“Nothing is more important to them than eggs.” said Kaitlin Leung, a senior East Asian food critic who writes on the food review website The Woks of Life.

Rui Zhou is a 52 year old head chef at Barshu restaurant- the most popular Chinese venue in London’s bustling Chinatown. 

The inside view of Barshu Restaurant, photo by Zhen Zhang

Before he came to the UK, he already became a well-known chef who once won the championship in a local food competition in Sichuan, China.

Due to his rich cooking experience, Mr Zhou is proficient in Chinese dishes, especially Sichuan dishes. He boasts that he can cook as many as 40 kinds of Chinese dishes, including Kung Pao Chicken, Spicy Grilled Fish, and Dan Dan Noodles- mouthwatering famous Chinese dishes.

One of his best and most popular dishes is a local delicacy with a long history in China – Chinese egg fried rice.

Mr Zhou says: “Egg fried rice is a well-known egg dish in China. It has a good taste and successfully combines the taste of eggs with other side dishes.

“Egg fried rice is simple to make in theory, but it is  extremely challenging to make it delicious. What type of rice to use, what degree of heat to use, and how much spice and soy sauce to pour, all require the most precise control of the chef .”

He demonstrated the production of egg fried rice on the spot. He cut the onion and chicken into small pieces with fluent knife skills and then put the steamed rice into the pot for frying and lifted the lid occasionally to let the air inside. 

Later he prepared the ingredients, then poured in soy sauce and other seasonings evenly. After a few minutes, the fragrant Chinese egg fried rice is complete. The Chinese egg fried rice he made had a strong aroma, faintly spicy and intense- it was hugely appetizing. 

When Mr Zhou brought the finished dish to the table, the local white British guests couldn’t wait to pick up their chopsticks and try it. Upon seeing them taste it- full of praise, Mr Zhou also feels satisfaction.

Egg fried rice
Egg fried rice

He says: “This is not just a food tasting; I hope more British people can take this opportunity to become interested in Chinese culture.

“I have tried egg dishes in the UK, which are very different from Chinese. Chinese people like food with a strong and exciting taste, and egg fried rice didn’t care about the combination of ingredients in the first place – it was first invented by the poor in China; enjoying it is more about having fun.

“I am often proud that such food can finally become a part of the exchange between Chinese and Western cultures.” 

On the other side of England, in Newcastle, Tan Dung Nguyen, who runs a Vietnamese restaurant named Ngon Cafe, feels similarly enthusiastic about Asian egg cuisine.

The inside view of Ngon Cafe, photo by Zhen Zhang
The inside view of Ngon Cafe, photo by Zhen Zhang

Mr Nguyen grew up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and emigrated to the UK 15 years ago. He opened a restaurant in Newcastle, which was voted to be in the Top 10 UK best Asian cuisine by The Travel, 2022. For him, its the Vietnamese egg omelette that evokes his emotions.

“The Vietnamese egg omelet is called Trung Chien locally. “Trúng” means eggs in Vietnamese while “Chiên” means fried. When I was a child, people were pushing mobile food trucks to sell them in the streets and alleys,” Mr Nguyen says.

“It was my favorite food in childhood, and it was also the most common food for the older generation of Vietnamese. In that era of not being rich, Trung Chien was popular.”

Trung Chien-Vietnamese egg omelet, photo by Zhen Zhang
Trung Chien – Vietnamese egg omelet, photo by Zhen Zhang

As a senior chef specializing in Vietnamese cuisine, he knows many representative dishes of Vietnam, such as Goi Cuon (spring rolls), Saigon sandwiches, and Banh xeo (sizzling pancakes).

Mr Nguyen says that one of the crucial reasons for him to open a Vietnamese restaurant is that he does not want people’s perception of Vietnamese food to be limited to stereotypes but to learn more about local delicacies.

“My British friends generally don’t know much about Vietnamese food. Most of them can only name Pho (the rice noodle). There are many other local delicacies in Vietnam, such as this egg omelet.”

“It’s not a signature dish. But I want my friends in the UK to know that even a simple egg dish can be delicious and full of Vietnamese flavour”.

Mr Nguyen then showed how to make the Trung Chien by soaking cellophane noodles and dried mushrooms, then scrambling them with eggs, mixing in chopped spring onions and noodles, and finally flipping the omelette. A fragrant Trung Chien was complete.

“Trung Chien has light flavor and crunch.” said Mr Nguyen:” It may not be the most representative Vietnamese dish, but it certainly one of the most local cultural dishes. It also represents the best memories of food in my young era.”

Kaitlin Leung said: “For almost all Asian countries, especially East Asian countries, eggs can be said to be the core of food culture.”  

“Each East Asian country has modified egg dishes according to their eating habits.

“Chinese people like spicy egg fried rice, largely because the humid climate in southern China needs to exclude moisture, while Spicy food helps them sweat. The Vietnamese prefer lighter flavors, so their egg dishes don’t have a robust flavor.”

“Undoubtedly, every egg dish has a story behind its creation. This is also one of the best ways for food lovers to understand the culture.

“Folks mostly create Asian egg dishes, and sometimes they represent the preferences of the general public in a certain era, coupled with the blending of different tastes in different places, so they are always popular with local people.”

Leung believes that with the increasing globalisation of cultural exchanges, Asian egg dishes have also become an essential part of cultural diversity.

“By combining the local culture to carry forward the characteristic food, what people taste is not only the taste but also the story.”

This article was done by Zhen Zhang