芙蓉蛋是用蛋汁、蝦仁、芽菜等拌在一起炸製的。相片:iStock

周日午餐時間,芝加哥南區的「華廚」外賣中餐館(See Thru Chinese Kitchen)3、4個爐頭火力全開,台上的訂菜單,幾乎每份都有「芙蓉蛋」(egg foo young),1995年從天津移民來美,一頭栽進中餐業的老闆馬振偉說:「我15歲在中國就從事餐飲,37歲來美前,從沒做過也沒吃過『芙蓉蛋』,沒想到會靠這道菜養家活口」。

根據美國餐飲月刊「中餐通訊」估計,美國中餐館逾4.5萬家,其中八成賣的都是「美式中餐」,而中餐外賣店,更是其中大宗。

1997年獲佛州坦帕廚藝大獎、2005年獲芝加哥「中國金牌菜」冠軍,馬振偉說,他在「金牌菜」比賽中奪冠的是蘇州名菜「松鼠桂魚」,刀工、配料、油溫控制等均表現出色,連當時評審之一的名廚甄明德都感到驚艷。

馬振偉一直懷著推廣中餐的宏願,雖然經營外賣店,多次嘗試在餐館推出傳統中餐菜色,「我試過松鼠魚、香酥雞、八寶鴨等,想讓老外顧客擺脫芙蓉蛋,嘗嘗正統中餐,但銷路奇差,最後只得下架」。

「顧客口味堅持『一成不變』,讓我哭笑不得。」馬振偉說,前五名外賣餐點,依序為芙蓉蛋、炒飯、芥蘭牛、芥蘭雞、陳皮雞,18年間,沒有太大變動。

芙蓉蛋堪稱外賣中餐的「專利」,華埠反而少見,馬振偉也是到外賣店後,才真正學到這道菜的作法,他示範,先將蛋汁、蝦仁、芽菜等拌在一起,然後倒入油鍋,炸成手掌大小的半球狀,兩個芙蓉蛋算一份order,售價不到6美元。

剛好來叫外賣的梅森(Geraldine Mason)說,「芙蓉蛋是我最喜歡的中國菜,好吃又便宜」,她15歲跟著家人到中餐館,第一次吃到芙蓉蛋就覺得是「人間美味」,50年來,去過不少中餐廳,但還是覺得「芙蓉蛋」才是最地道的中餐。聽到記者從來沒有嘗過芙蓉蛋,她露出吃驚不已的表情,接著大力鼓吹「你一定要試試」。

馬振偉說,10年前一名炒鍋的月薪大概2,300美元,現在已經到3,200美元,卻仍舊很難找到合適的幫手,人工飛漲超越物價漲幅,他也不能任意調高售價,「現在中餐外賣利潤可以做到10%,都要偷笑了」。

忙著炸芙蓉蛋的他,準備過幾年退休,「客人喜歡就繼續做給他們吃。」

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