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nakji

Egg and Tomato

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nakji   

One of my favourite simple Chinese dishes is egg and tomato. My husband's not a real big fan, so I usually reserve it for Saturday lunches when he's out, or when I'm ill and need some comfort food. A restaurant around the corner from me makes what I consider a gold standard version: the egg is in soft thready curds, gently wrapped around softly cooked tomato wedges. Both are covered in a light broth that binds them together and elevating it from scrambled eggs with tomato, perfect for spooning onto rice.

I have tried to make this dish several times now, and keep ending up with scrambled eggs with tomato.

I started out with Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe from "Sichuan Cookery", and got overcooked scrambled eggs with undercooked tomato. She calls for putting the eggs in first, making an omelet, then tossing in tomato in wedges, and cooking it together until the tomato has softened. My eggs stuck to the wok, then curdled, and my tomatoes remained hard. Also, it lacked any kind of soft sauce - because my tomatoes were undercooked, they didn't release enough water, I guess. Problem? I think my wok wasn't hot enough, which is why the eggs stuck. But putting the tomatoes in after seemed counter-intuitive.

I asked a cooking buddy who is my guru of all things Chinese cooking on the ground here in Suzhou. He recommended a bit of hot chicken stock into the eggs right before they go into the pan. I also decided to cook the tomatoes first, as a separate step. Because I like a little garlic, I added a smashed clove to the pan first, in hot peanut oil. Then, I added the tomatoes and stir-fried them until they were slumped and soft at the edges.

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I took them out, added more peanut oil, then the eggs.

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When they were half set, I added back in the tomato, and a ladle full of chicken stock. I finished with some cilantro, instead of the traditional green onion, as that's what I had in the kitchen. I prefer the version with green onion.

gallery_41378_6780_274585.jpg

gallery_41378_6780_147389.jpg

Nice, but the eggs are still a little curdled, and not gently thready and suspended in sauce like I'd like. Any experts out there willing to school me?

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Dejah   

That looks like a lot of egg in relation to the amount of tomato. Is that the way you like it? My family prefers beef as well in this dish, so the eggs are usually cooked separately, chunked, then added just before serving. I love cilantro, but like you, it has to be long pieces of green onion tossed in at the last minute.

I'm wondering if you could add the broth-thinned-out egg mixture at the very end - like the restaurant mushroom egg-drop soup? If you poured a thin stream of the egg mixture over the tomatoes. Is that the "thread-like" effect you are looking for?

Or, take out the tomato leaving the broth, set the broth in a swirling motion then adding the stream of egg mixture? That's how I do mushroom egg drop soup.

I always add liquid to the tomatoes. To extract enough liquid from the tomatoes, they become too mushy, over-cooked. Besides, the family likes everything OVER their rice. I use vinegar, sugar, touch of salt. Sushi seasoning works well when I'm too lazy to find the perfect balance between sugar and vinegar.

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I have no idea if there's a regionality to egg-and-tomato dishes, or how "authentic" the version I have is, but when I was in college I looked for and found a recipe online. This recipe (which had beef, too, but I was vegetarian at the time) called for cooking diced tomato for a few minutes, and then adding some water, sugar, salt, soy sauce, and tomato paste, cooking this mixture until it thickened a bit (I can't remember if there was any corn starch added) and then pouring beaten egg in evenly throughout the mixture (I usually kind of poured it in a swirl), and cooking it a bit with the cover on until it sets. Because of all the liquid, this version is very sauce-y, and the egg is very soft.

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annachan   

This is the way I like to it:

I heat up the wok to really high and quickly cook the eggs (scrambled and seasoned with a little soy sauce before going into the wok). I take that out of the wok when it's still runny. I add a few slices of ginger to the wok until it get fragrant, then the tomato and give it a few toss, then add a little water. That will help create some sauce. Add green onion (about 1-2 inches segments) if I have some on hand. I add the eggs back and then season to my liking. I know this is strange but I like to season with fish sauce as my salt. A little sugar as well.

If you want really soft eggs, I suggest what others have said. Loosen the eggs with a little water or stock, then pour them in at the end.

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Will   

Nthing adding some sugar, though the amount will depend on the tomatoes.

The time or two I've made it, I used salt, a little sugar, and very little other seasoning. The tomato itself seems to add plenty of liquid (and enough of a savory element) for me, even when the tomatoes themselves aren't that great.

My gf likes her eggs really soft, and so also does the method mentioned above with removing the eggs after scrambling briefly / gently, and then adding them back at the very end. She also avoids adding salt to the eggs until near the end (something about texture).


Edited by Will (log)

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This is the first dish my mom taught me to cook. Fry the tomatoes with some salt and quite a bit of sugar, when almost done, drop in scrambled eggs. I don't get the thready texture you're talking about; I've never had it like that. Could you get a photo of that?

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_john   

heat the wok up really smoking hot. put in the sugared tomatoes (sprinkle them with sugar as you would salt). when the edges show signs of being the least bit soft take the tomatoes out and clean the wok. heat the wok up really hot again and add about 4tbs or oil. heat the oil up until it is smoking and then holding the wok in your left hand and chopsticks in the right pour the hot oil into the beaten eggs while mixing with the chopsticks. mix very gently, with a motion almost like folding. let the wok start smoking again. pour the egg and oil mix into the wok followed immediately by the tomatoes. add about a tablespoon of light soy sauce, pouring it around the rim of the wok, and cook until the eggs are runny but the soy sauce is no longer distinguishable.

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A Chinese friend told me that this dish can be called either 'Tomatoes and Eggs' or 'Eggs and Tomatoes', depending upon which ingredient is dominant - for what it's worth. This is a great summertime dish and here in Beijing there are as many recipes as cooks. Cooking the eggs first then removing them is how I do it. The tomatoes are wet enough, don't need any additional water. I don't normally use soy sauce but many do. I throw in a lot of aromatics these days before putting in the tomatoes; garlic, ginger and leek. Heavy on the garlic as always.

Oh, a couple things I've noticed about restaurant food here (if you're trying to replicate it);

  • If you're not sure that there's enough salt, just add more.
  • Use a lot of Maggi Chicken Powder!


Edited by Big Joe the Pro (log)

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XiaoLing   

Nakji, does your tomato and egg dish look like the one in the pic on the bottom right?

Tomato Egg.JPG

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nakji   

对! :biggrin: Rather nice and soupy like that, with largeish curds/ribbons of eggs. Did you make that one?

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XiaoLing   

My mom made that one but it's a common dish that we all make for dinner often.

The key here is to cook the eggs first then remove from the heat and then cook the tomatoes.

Start with a very hot wok and then heat up quite a bit of vegetable oil (do not use olive because that will burn). Don't worry about it being too much oil because you will remove it later. And the oil prevents the eggs from sticking.

After both wok and oil is really hot, slowly pour in the scrambled eggs. Let it boil and bubble and fluff up then turn over. The important thing here is to not allow the eggs to burn or crust up but also giving it a good color.

Once the eggs have turned almost solid, you can now break up the eggs to your desired size. Remove from the wok by gently putting the eggs to the side of the wok to kind of drain the excess oil. Put in a plate or bowl and set aside.

With the left over oil in the wok, cook your tomatoes. (Should be about 1-2 tablespoons.) I like to let it caramelize in the wok on both sides a bit. Once it gets semi-soft add water and a tiny bit of salt and sugar. At this point press down on the tomato to almost puree it and make a thick soupy sauce.

Once the sauce is to the consistency you like and bubbling away, put the eggs back into the wok. Let it simmer and "boil" in the liquid so it soaks up all the flavor. Add soy sauce, salt, and white (or black) pepper to taste. Once the taste is to your liking, add fresh green onions and serve immediately!

I hope this helps. It's really a simple home dish with really simple ingredients but the technique is the key here.

Once you master the art of these eggs, you can cook any veggie with them. For instance, tonight, I made those eggs with Chinese chives. :)

photo.JPG

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nakji   

Excellent. I'll pick up some tomatoes later this week and give this a try out. I had been doing it backwards to your method - cooking the tomatoes first, then tipping them out and doing the eggs; adding the tomatoes back in at the end. I'll try it the opposite way, and with more oil. My tomatoes usually come out to my liking; it's the eggs I really need to work on.

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CFT   

Plenty of oil and eggs I'd say. I'd say you need a certain amount of egg for this to work, i.e. this is not a one-egg dish.

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