Hangtown Fry – David Herndon, upper Dymer

Hangtown Fry

Hangtown Fry for breakfast

Hangtown Fry for breakfast

Hangtown Fry is a gourmet combination of oysters and eggs that originated in California during the gold rush.  It is very easy to prepare.

During the late 1800s, Hangtown (known as Placerville, CA today) was a base of supply for the mining region in California.  It was originally known as Old Dry Diggings (it was called Dry Diggings because the miners had to cart the dry soil down to the running water to wash out the gold), but it was shortly labeled Hangtown after three desperadoes had been hanged there on the same day and from the same giant oak tree.

In 1849, just a short time after Old Dry Diggings had been renamed Hangtown, a prospector rushed into the saloon of the El Dorado Hotel announcing that right there in town, along the banks of Hangtown Creek; he had struck it rich and wanted to celebrate.  Untying his leather poke from his belt, he towed it on the bar where it landed heavily, spilling its shining gold dust and nuggets.  Turning to the bartender he loudly demanded, “I want you to cook me up the finest and most expensive meal in the house.  I’m a rich man and I’m celebrating my good luck.”  The bartender called to the cook and relayed the prospectors order.  The cook stated the most expensive items that he had available were eggs and oysters that both had to be carefully packed and shipped from the coast.  The miner said “scramble them up together and serve ‘em up. I’ve been living on nothing much more than canned beans since I got to California and now I can afford a real meal.”  The cook did just that and Hangtown Fry was born.  In the gold-mining camps in the late1800s, Hangtown Fry became a mark of prosperity for those minors who struck it rich and had plenty of money to spend.  The recipe swept the entire west coast from California to Washington.

In 1949, one hundred years after the origination of Hangtown Fry, E.A. Stephen, Sr., the founder of the Tides Inn in Irvington, VA, brought the Hangtown Fry recipe to the Inn as a breakfast selection.  This breakfast was served for many years at the Inn.  However, with the changes in ownership and chefs, the Inn no longer serves this delicacy.


Hangtown Fry is usually served as a breakfast on the east coast, but on the west coast, it is also served as a dinner.  It’s great either way.

About two servings.

2 whole large eggs (beaten)
4 large (or 6 small )shucked oysters

Sauté oysters in buttered frying pan using moderate heat for about one minute or until the oysters start to curl
Cut large oysters in half (to make bite sized)
Drain off the liquid from the oysters
Add the egg batter and stir it into the oysters
Continue cooking using moderate heat for another minute or two until eggs are properly scrambled

Serve on crisp oven toast (optional, but highly recommended)

Note: The above, simple, easy-to-make recipe is considered to be the original, 1849 Hangtown hangtown-fry-signFry recipe.  Many west coast restaurants have developed and now serve more complex recipes for Hangtown Fry that include adding onions, cream, bacon, bacon bits, peppers, tomatoes, hot sauce, and other ingredients.  These recipes can be found online by typing in, “Hangtown Fry.”  As adding spicy ingredients will mask the delicate flavors of eggs and oysters, most seafood lovers prefer the original Hangtown Fry recipe.

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