When my editor suggested I write about the tomato and egg stir-fry dish I'd posted on social media, I thought, "There aren't any unique stories (or secrets) behind this iconic dish." Although this is a dish that's popular across China, it's simple and almost too plain to talk about. Then I thought about how life is often ordinary and monotonous. Many of us repeat day after day the motions of caring for our children and family, going to work and coming home. We are humble like the tomato and egg dish, but find comfort and happiness in our ordinary life.
Anyone can cook this 10-minute dish, and there are many ways and different recipes to make it. The taste is different depending on what region the maker of the dish is from: some are sweeter, some are tarter, some have a brighter color and some are paler. I thought I had nailed it for years, as my family has attested. However, after I tested and combined elements from other versions, this is my new favorite recipe. The soul of this tasty dish is the sweet summer tomatoes and fresh backyard eggs. The secrets (maybe there are secrets!) are scalding off the tomato skins, adding a little cornstarch to the eggs and tossing in freshly minced garlic at the last minute before serving. The silky eggs, the aromatic garlic, and the sweet and tangy tomato make this a classic dish that stands the test of time.
Tomato and Egg Stir-fry
Be sure to make extra rice to go with this dish. Serves 3 to 4.
3 large summer ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
4 farm fresh eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 shallots, chopped
4 thin slices ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 scallions, sliced
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Cut a shallow cross on the bottom of each tomato. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for one minute. Take the tomatoes out and peel the skins off. Chop each tomato into 1-inch chunks and set aside.
Mix the cornstarch with the tablespoon of water and set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, add the cornstarch and water mixture, and mix well.
Heat a wok or a pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. When the oil is hot, moving quickly when the pan is swirled, add the egg mixture. Scramble until the eggs are just cooked, about 1 minute. The eggs should be soft and fluffy. Pour them back to the same bowl and set aside.
Using the same pan over high heat, add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the shallots and ginger, and sauté until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and stir fry them for 3-4 minutes or until the tomatoes become soft. Stir in the sugar, ketchup and salt, and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the eggs and soy sauce before finally adding the garlic. Yes, add the garlic last! Toss and mix until all ingredients are combined. Turn off the heat, adjust the seasoning to your taste — this dish should taste sweet, sour and lightly salty — and garnish with scallions. Served with steamed rice or ramen noodles.