Egg drop soup is a classic that you’ll find it on almost every Chinese takeout menu—but you won't get the same soup from restaurant to restaurant. Because it’s a classic, it’s going to have many variations. The Chinese name for egg drop soup (蛋花汤) literally translates to “egg flower soup.” The flower refers to the way the eggs look when it spreads out thinly and feathers into little wisps.
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There is probably no one “authentic” recipe to point to as authentic—there are just too many possible customizations, and every restaurant (and family) will make this soup in their own way.
At the very simplest, there will be water, seasoning, and egg. With tomatoes flooding the market stands this summer, I decided to include them in my version. In the winter, though, I ike to omit the tomato and add some shiitake mushrooms instead. There are also recipes that incorporate seaweed, corn, carrot, or spinach in lieu of tomato. Hot and sour egg drop soup is another popular rendition.
Generally, I’ve found that the egg drop soups in Chinese restaurants are very thick, but I prefer mine to be more runny, with a bit of thickening. I just don’t want to drink a sauce. I’ve also seen recipes that use chicken broth in place of the traditional water, but I find it overpowering.
As for the egg, there are three steps to obtaining beautiful wisps:
First, your eggs must be thoroughly beaten, to the point that you can’t tell the difference between the whites and yolks.
Second, when you stream in the egg, do it slowly and very gently. The hand stirring the soup must be slow and gentle, as well. I once whisked so vigorously with my chopsticks that I ended up with tiny bits of congealed egg in an unappetizing thick soup. Be gentle and give the egg room to spread out and blossom.
Third, make sure the soup is not boiling when you stream in the egg. The heat should be on low and there should be no bubbles forming on the soup. Otherwise, you may get clumps instead of wispy strips.