March 30, 2019

Depression Era Chinese-American Shrimp Fried Rice Recipe

Depression Era Chinese Fried Rice Recipe WWII

It's no secret that I love historical cookbooks and Asian food. I was ecstatic to find The Chinese Cook Book printed in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1936.

Historical Cookbook? Asian Food? Local Food History? Take my money! 

This book was in print from 1934 all the way until the 1970s. Man Sing Au was a Chinese-American born in 1910. She married Kam Chow Tom in 1928. In 1940s she was living in Honolulu, Hawaii with her brother in law Major, Man Sing Au. Not much is known about her life but she was widowed by 1940.

The Chinese Cook Book Man Sing Au

Depression Era Chinese-American Shrimp Fried Rice


- 5 Cups leftover White Rice
- 1 Pound Shrimp, washed and peeled
- 1 medium sized Onion, diced
- 1 stalk of Celery, chopped
- 1/2 cup White Mushrooms
- 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 5 Eggs
- 3 Tablespoons Peanut or Cooking Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- Pepper to taste.


Clean and wash your shrimp.  Heat your cooking oil in a large frying pan on wok on high heat. Fry your protein until half done. Add the onions and celery until and fry about 5 minutes. Add the rice, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Stir with a wooden turner until well mixed. Crack 5 eggs over the rice and stir until firm. Serve warm.

Depression Era Chinese Fried Rice Recipe WWII

Breaking eggs directly over rice has been a point of contention in my family for years. My dad did this when he made Kao Pad (Thai fried rice) a recipe he became accustomed to during the Vietnam War. He insisted he cooked it perfectly, 15 year old me was sure he was doing it wrong. It definitely couldn't be the "authentic" way. It coated the rice and made it all sticky and didn't taste anything like any fried rice I got from restaurants.

I preferred to wait until the rice was cooked, make a divot in the center of the rice in the frying pan, add a little oil and scramble the egg in the divot in the pan until it was done, then quickly incorporating it into the rice. I've asked around to see which way is "most authentic" and, as you'd imagine, people do both.  But I was so sure as a kid that a separate egg must be the more authentic way. I cooked this while my family was away and have seemed to have forgotten to mention this discovery to my dad. :) 

 For this recipe, I ended up using some fake crab that I had on hand instead of the shrimp. The book mentions you can use bacon, ham, "Chicken, beef, pork, lobster or crab.. Also, any left-over meats, cut up in small pieces, can be utilized in the same manner and will make a very appetizing dish." It's a great way to use up leftover onion, celery, mushrooms and proteins that would otherwise go to waste. I will probably be cooking and sharing a few more recipes from this book. I've been eyeing up the Chop Suey and some of the tofu recipes.   

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