On every Chinese take out menu, you will find a small category called "Egg Foo Young", sometimes with the word Omelet in parenthesis next to it, and you get a choice of Egg Foo Young with chicken, beef, pork, shrimp or vegetable. Usually served with rice and a sauce. So why called Egg Foo Young and not just omelet?
The name "foo young" comes from a plant called Hibiscus Mutabilis. It has beautiful flowers that are either white or pink color. The cool thing about this plant is their color changing ability, their flowers turn red late in the afternoon and into the evening. Drawn by their beauty, many famous Chinese scholars in the old days often use it as a referral to something beautiful and elegant, especially on women. You can trace that in their writings or poems. In Chinese dictionary, the first definition for foo young is "beautiful". Also you might notice that a lot of Chinese parents like to name their daughter foo young too.
The dish originated from Zhejiang, China. There was a saying that this dish was originally named as "蛋饼" (translated as "egg biscuit"). Then one day, it was served to a group of scholars who immediately were attracted by its gold and white color, which was as pretty as the way the foo young flowers look under the sun. So poet were created and they named this as "egg foo young". After that, everyone called this dish as "egg foo young" and also similar egg dishes, like shrimp or crab foo young (scramble like egg white with crab meat on top), steam egg foo young and many more.
I was in Zhejiang a couple of years ago and was able to taste this original dish at one of the oldest restaurant. The egg was lightly pan fried, crispy golden brown on the outside, running egg yolk inside with shredded vegetables like napa cabbage, mushroom, black fungus. Very enticing and definitely lives up to the foo young name. Everything was cooked perfect and I really enjoy it. They do not serve this dish with any dipping sauce.
I also tried other restaurants' egg foo young, some of them pan fried their egg to the size of a pizza, then slide them up into wedges. Or thinly folded egg with running yolk inside.
Another thing that surprise me is this dish can be ordered in every Chinese take outs here in the US, but you can only find them in a small handful of Chinese restaurants, weird? I can assume it being a northern style dish, can only be served in Shanghainese cuisine which usually serves Zhejiang style food too, but so far, not many have it on their menus.
If you are interested in learning how to make this dish, you can purchase the Chopstick Bowl's Chinese Take Out Cooking - Specialty Dishes DVD, where I demonstrated this dish. It's very simple and easy to follow.