Recipe Review

I Tried Chinese Hash Browns and I Have a Lot of Thoughts

published Aug 27, 2023
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hashbrown patty with fried egg in the middle
Credit: Lena Abraham

If your TikTok “For You” page is dominated by food videos, there’s a good chance you’ve seen creator @foodiechina88, a.k.a. Wayne Shen’s “trending Chinese recipes” more than a few times. Impressively prolific, Shen’s videos feature eye-catching dishes he frequently dubs “trending,” a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

One of his recent recipes — “trending Chinese hash browns” — has amassed almost 900,000 views on TikTok at the time of writing, definitely enough to pique my curiosity. Plus, I love hash browns, so what could go wrong?

How to Make Chinese Hash Browns

  1. Peel and julienne one medium russet potato, then place in a large bowl and rinse with cold water.
  2. Drain the potatoes well, then add 1 tablespoon sliced scallions, about 3 ounces of julienned luncheon meat (I used Spam, which I figured was the closest approximation to the rectangular meat featured in the video), 4 egg whites, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/3 teaspoon salt, and 1/3 teaspoon five-spice powder. Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
    • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan over low heat. Add small piles of potato mixture to the hot pan, leaving a little space between piles. Flatten piles of potatoes and make a yolk-sized space in the center of each. 
    • Add an egg yolk to the center of each hash brown patty, then cook until the undersides are golden. Flip and continue to cook until both sides are golden. 
Credit: Lena Abraham

My Honest Review of Chinese Hash Browns

Before I get into the flavor of these hash browns, I have to address how difficult they are to prepare. As you might notice in the video, the yolks are thoroughly cooked (read: hard). Unfortunately, potatoes, even when cut super thin, are going to take longer to cook than an egg yolk. So, since there’s no use trying to keep the yolk at least slightly runny, you might as well focus on getting both sides of the hash brown crispy, right? 

It turns out this is a difficult task as well, because your potato “piles” need to be perfectly flat and even with the yolk in order to lie flat on the pan once flipped — it’s the only way to achieve that golden underside. If they’re not, only a few pieces of potato will have a chance to crisp up. I really wanted mine to turn out as beautifully golden as Shen’s, but as you can see by my photos, I never really got there. I think some practice is needed to really perfect these.

Tricky cooking technique aside, I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious these were. I’m more of a runny yolk girl myself, but looking past that, I thought the flavor of the potatoes, laced with salty pork, bright scallions, and five-spice powder, was truly delicious. If I were to attempt this again, I think I’d rather make one big rosti-esque hashbrown with this mixture and serve my eggs on the side.

Credit: Lena Abraham

Three Tips for Making Chinese Hash Browns

  1. Serve with hot sauce. These patties are begging for some condiments! Use your favorites to jazz them up: hot sauce, chili oil, ketchup, or whatever else you’ve got.
  2. Use a mandoline to help slice the potatoes. You want these potatoes matchstick-skinny! A mandoline can help cut your potato into super thin slices, which you can then cut into strips. If your mandoline has a shredding blade, that’ll work too.
  3. Keep the heat low. To ensure your potatoes are cooked through and your yolk is as gently cooked as possible, keep the heat super low and wait a few minutes for your potatoes to crisp up before flipping.