I was just talking about how the old Paul Simon song Mother and Child Reunion was inspired by the name of a menu item he saw in a Chinese restaurant.

I wanted to know what the dish is and what its name is. Specifically I wanted to know if the Chinese name of the dish used a word/character for "reunion" or if that was just made up by whoever made the English translation of the menu.

I did some investigation and found the actual story explained on Snopes:

Know where the words came from on that? You would never have guessed. I was eating in a Chinese restaurant downtown. There was a dish called "Mother and Child Reunion." It's chicken and eggs. And I said, "Oh, I love that title. I gotta use that one."

Simon wasn't pulling his interviewer's leg: chicken-and-egg dishes known as "mother and child reunion" or "mother-daughter reunion" are not uncommon menu items at Chinese restaurants. According to the "New York Rock-N-Roll Trivia Map," the specific eatery where Simon made this fortuitous culinary discovery was Say Eng Look Restaurant in New York City's Chinatown district.

Annoyingly, when I try to search further and find the actual Chinese name of the dish, I run into the typical western ignorance confusing all things Chinese and Japanese and can only find the Japanese dish Oyakodon mentioned.

So what is the Chinese name for the chicken and egg dish? Does it have the character for "reunion"? Is it even a famous/typical dish or just something invented by that one restaurant? Or is it a Chinese version of the Japanese dish? Or is the Japanese dish a version of the Chinese dish.

Anyway I'd like to know the Chinese word for this, if it is indeed a typical Chinese dish.

Only after asking this question did I find out that the Japanese dish's name literally contains the characters for "parent and child": 親子. There could even be the possibility that the restaurant Paul Simon ate in served both Chinese and Japanese food?

  • 3
    I believe it's 母子团聚 in Chinese, according to some posts on the Internet, this, and this. And 親子丼 in Japanese has a different historical story, as said in JP Wiki and this page. Anyway, again, I'm not 100% sure about the correctness of the Chinese name, so I won't put this as an answer :)
    – Stan
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 3:03
  • When I Google 母子团聚 I seem to find only the literal meaning and nothing about food. Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 4:09
  • 1
    As songyuanyao said, probably, it wasn't a famous dish -- at least I couldn't remember if I encountered once. So the lack of expected Google results is quite predictable, since 母子团聚 or 母子团圆 are too common phrases. And if you search by "母子团聚 菜名" or "母子团圆 菜名", you can see few -- but still, I can't tell if any of them is the exact name that Paul Simon has ever seen ... Hmm it seems we need a photo of that menu in "Say Eng Look Restaurant" to confirm it.
    – Stan
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 5:27
  • 1
    iirc it's more of a general description for dishes of that sort rather than for something specific
    – user3410
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 6:57
  • @Stan: Yes I've been Googling to see if there are any photos of the menu. Apparently the Chinese restaurant at the same address is now a dim sum place called "Go Go". Lots of references to the place under both names, and of the address, and some mentioning the song/story, but so far I haven't found a menu. Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 7:06

6 Answers 6


I think it's just invented by that one restaurant (or some restaurant else before). It's something like paronomasia, and may be seen at some Chinese restaurant, but it's not a famous/typical dish in Chinese dishes.

親子丼 has nothing to do with the Paul Simon song. And 親子丼 is a famous/typical dish at Japan.

BTW: "Mother and Child Reunion" can be translated as "母子重逢".

  • Might it not be 蛋花湯? Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 15:10
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    @hippietrail I don't think so. Simon said there was a dish called "Mother and Child Reunion.", it should not be soup. And Simon said it's chicken and eggs, while chicken implied meaning "Mother", eggs implied meaning "Child", but 蛋花汤 is made mainly by eggs, not including chicken, so could not express the meaning of "Mother and Child".
    – user4072
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 15:47

There's no standard Chinese name for the chicken and egg dish! you must know something about the Chinese food and its naming rule (actually there's no strict naming rules, just some conventions) to figure out what's going on.

The Chinese dish naming rule is that, to attract customers to order a certain dish, the restaurant owner will name the dish in an attractive way, you can name the dish, for example, "Fried chicken with egg", that's totally no problem, but the result could be totally different, because that name is toooooo ordinary, it's far less to be attractive. So, "Mother and Child Reunion" is a good name, because it reflects the chicken and egg and at the same time it arouses customers' curiosities. You can name this dish whatever you like, and the same dish could have different names in different restaurants, that's why there's no Chinese name for it.

  • 1
    But there're also some typical names which are indirect such as "佛跳墙" or "蚂蚁上树".
    – user4072
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 7:54
  • Yes I was taking a special interest in food words and menus while I was travelling around China and Taiwan. They seem to have some tricky properties all their own. But I can't recall whether I saw anything listed with both chicken and egg as ingredients or not ... Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 11:41
  • @hippietrail check here, there are hundreds of dishes made of chicken, but rarely can you find a dish made of chicken with egg. Besides, I don't think cook chicken together with egg is a good idea, since it seems I've never had such a dish in my life.
    – j5shi
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 2:05
  • Yes China is so big and varied that it's hard to know everything that might be a popular dish in just one area. But just because there are lots of dishes I've never had in my life that's got nothing to do with whether or not it's a good idea for those ingredients to be cooked together. Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 5:30
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    蛋花汤 is a kind of soup with vegetable and eggs, and possibly with other ingredients, but less possibly with chichken, so I don't think it's the food Simon described.
    – j5shi
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 6:16

There was no 'chicken-and-egg dish' in traditional chinese food at all, at least in my 27 years life in China I've never seen such dish in any chinese restaurant . As I know this is a Japanese dish called 親子丼


The original restaurant named for "Mother and Child Reunion" is really "Chicken Egg Foo Yung". Chicken Egg Foo Yung is a Chinese Indonesian omelet cooked with mixed vegetables such as bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, onions or scallions or other vegetables. The omelet or pancakes as it's also referred, are then served topped brown gravy and a Sprinkle of chopped or minced scallions. It originates from the Canton side of mainland China. It’s a popular dish in Chinese American cuisine that can be found on most menus across United States.

  • So you're saying that most places called this dish "chicken egg foo young" but this particular restaurant where Paul Simon noticed it happened to give it the novel name of "mother and child reunion" instead? Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 23:56

According to this: www.joyofkosher.com/recipes/mother-and-child-reunion-chicken-and-corn-egg-drop-soup/

Mother and Child Reunion (Chicken and Corn Egg Drop Soup)

then wikipedia: Egg drop soup (traditional: 蛋花湯; pinyin: dàn huā tāng; literally "egg flower soup") is a Chinese soup of wispy beaten eggs in boiled chicken broth.

gives us: 鸡蛋花汤 http://baike.baidu.com/link?url=vnt7q2xujF5GZN5VDQWW9JzUBfrVYkJynmo52cv0nuR6VeMIf0wBQAZ5Xt4X90J4

the translation I'm not so sure about ... maybe it's got something to do with the fact 蛋花汤 is sometimes called 木樨汤 ... because 木樨 can easily be confused with 母系 meaning "maternal" but I don't really have anything to prove this at the moment just speculating....


I'll bet it was a famous dish, very famous at the time which was 1972, but not in China. I'll bet it was chicken egg foo young, a mainstay of American Chinese restaurants. He did say it had chicken in it, which he would probably not say if it was just chicken broth.

In those days "Chinese food" pretty much meant egg rolls, chow mein, and chop suey. It was popular, sure, but people did not expect much variety. Pepper steak was considered fancy. And chicken (or shrimp, or beef, or bean sprout) egg foo young was one of the staple menu items.

Paul Simon could have found a lot more Chinese food than that around New York's Chinatown if he wanted to. But it does not seem that he was very interested in that, since he just says he was in "a Chinese restaurant downtown." And the article specifies that "mother and child reunion" was a common menu item at Chinese restaurants.

I think it was chicken egg foo young with a fine name applied to it.

These reviews show what this restaurant Say Eng Look was serving in 1979. A fair variety of things. And they show how New Yorkers thought of the newly expanding Chinese food world. One review here calls out egg foo young as the passe kind of thing people used to get:


By 1992 the chicken and egg dish that Paul Simon saw was no longer on the menu at the restaurant but the chef would make it if you called in advance: https://books.google.com/books?id=oOQCAAAAMBAJ&pg=RA1-PA17-IA6&lpg=RA1-PA17-IA6&dq=%22Say+Eng+Look%22+Restaurant+egg&source=bl&ots=v6SrsND8vF&sig=QHRX_4-iX213AWb7wWSBts-slps&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjIo5iN1pLLAhWIcz4KHUKvDqUQ6AEIPjAG#v=onepage&q=%22Say%20Eng%20Look%22%20Restaurant%20egg&f=false

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