Egg

The Nostalgic Chinese Egg Dish I Made My Own

Tomato eggs are an iconic childhood staple for many. Here's how I like to make them.

August 19, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

For many second- or third-generation Chinese immigrants, myself included, fān qíe chǎo dàn (or stir-fried tomatoes and eggs) is the third dish we learn to cook from our parents. First and second would probably be instant noodles and perfect rice-cooker rice (with a rice-to-water ratio measured with fingers, not with cups).

In other words, you don’t need much cooking experience to make tomato eggs; in fact, it comes together in less than 15 minutes, even if you’re a kitchen novice. At its core, it’s just tomatoes and eggs scrambled together in a pan, finished off with some Shaoxing wine and sesame oil to give it that Canto-Chinese aroma.

But strip away the convenience factor and the wistful cultural ties, and the average tomato eggs—especially those hastily made ones at home when you’re bogged down with work and only have a couple minutes to whip up dinner—let's be real, aren't that exciting. Maybe it’s just the chef in me wanting to bring out the best in every dish, because despite being satiated and comforted each time I eat a 10-minute tomato eggs, I know that the combination of creamy, buttery eggs, and tangy sweet tomatoes can, and should, amount to so much more.

So here are a few extra things I do to ensure that my tomatoes and eggs are their best selves.

The Tomatoes

Let me just start this subsection by saying I loathe the tomatoes in most tomato eggs. They’re often soggy and leaky, with their clear juices oozing out onto the eggs, diluting the rich creaminess of the eggs. The solution? Cook them longer!

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“Then the cooked scrambled eggs get quickly tossed in and then it all gets dumped over hot cooked rice. Great summer meal!”
— HalfPint
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Instead of lightly sautéing them before adding the eggs, I took half of the tomatoes and cooked them past the point of mush, concentrating their flavor into a thick, jammy puree. Only then do I toss in the other half of the tomatoes and cook them through, shorter this time, so they retain their shape but are coated in the sweet puree of the first round of concentrated tomatoes.

One more thing: This might be a personal preference, but it’s worth de-skinning your tomatoes, too, before cooking them. Just blanch them in hot water and shock them in an ice bath, and the skins should peel off easily. It makes for smoother, more uniform tomatoes that don’t leave bits of fiber stuck in between your teeth. In other words, a more pleasurable eating experience.

The Eggs

In the typical, hastily put-together tomato eggs, the eggs will go one of two ways: either rubbery and overcooked, or worse, gloopy and wet. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

My gold standard when it comes to scrambled eggs is Gordon Ramsay’s version. It’s lusciously creamy and barely set. The French might’ve been the ones to invent it, but Ramsay was the one who successfully proselytized this slow-scrambling method. In his now famous video with 16 million views, Ramsay starts off with the eggs in a cold pan. He then cooks it over a medium flame, and with a spatula, stirs it so furiously yet with such focus, in the way only Ramsay can. And as the eggs coagulate and come together, he takes it on and off the heat, controlling the texture of his eggs, "treating it like a risotto." This makes for the best scrambled eggs, in my opinion.

The only way in which I strayed away from Ramsay’s recipe is toward the end: Instead of the dollop of crème fraiche that Ramsay adds to enrich and temper the scrambled eggs, I added in a dash of Shaoxing wine and sesame oil to give it that iconic flavor base.

So, with an extra five minutes of careful cooking, you can avoid the usual pitfalls of tomato eggs, and end up with a creamy, tangy, and unexpectedly rich dish. I mean, with near-confited tomatoes and Gordo’s scrambled eggs, this is one elevated version of 番茄炒蛋 that I can absolutely get behind.

P.S. Sacrilegious as it may be, this version goes great on toast, too, versus the usual white rice. (But you didn’t hear it from me.)

Did you grow up eating tomato eggs? Let us know in the comments below.
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11 Comments

Annette A. September 2, 2019
Wonderful article and recipe, thank you for sharing - comfort food, jammy tomatoes make a huge difference.
 
HalfPint August 20, 2019
I found tomato eggs a few years ago, on F52. Love it. I’m too lazy to skin the tomatoes, so no blanching. I use cherry tomatoes which get cooked down until it is almost jammy. Then the cooked scrambled eggs get quickly tossed in and then it all gets dumped over hot cooked rice. Great summer meal!
 
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Yi J. August 28, 2019
Mmmm that still sounds so lush though! Can hardly go wrong with tomato eggs, heh.
 
javafiend August 20, 2019
Dumb question...what kind of tomatoes? Romas?
 
HalfPint August 20, 2019
I use whatever tomatoes I have on hand. Heirlooms and cherries can be watery so I cook them down to a thickish sauce. Roma or plum tomatoes are probably best but really this dish is great with any tomato as long as you add a little sugar to bring out the sweetness.
 
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Yi J. August 28, 2019
Yup! As HalfPint suggested, roma and plum tomatoes work well, but any should do, really! ;)
 
Zozo August 19, 2019
Wow this takes them to the next level! I also enjoy them with a bit of tomato sauce (aka ketchup in American-ese)… sorry not sorry 😋
 
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Yi J. August 20, 2019
Sacrilege! Hahaha I'm kidding, I do revert to ketchup too when I'm feeling lazy... (Shh don't tell.)
 
Maschell C. August 19, 2019
I learned about this dish from my mother-in-law and absolutely fell in love with it. Her version uses a squirt of ketchup and for a deluxe version she adds shrimp. So simple and delicious with steamed rice to soak in all the wonderful juices.
 
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Yi J. August 20, 2019
Mmm, shrimp!! 😍 And yes, steamed rice is a must!
 
alex September 1, 2019
Great article! My mom has made this dish a million times. Another popular version growing up for us was shrimp and eggs, without the tomatoes. Thanks for the graded version of eggs and tomato.