|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 2 to 3|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 19g||24%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||20%|
|Total Carbohydrate 33g||12%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||10%|
|Total Sugars 7g|
|Vitamin C 25mg||127%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Growing up, I didn't think tomatoes and eggs were anything ethnic, traditional, or special in any way. In fact, it was so commonplace that I didn't think of the dish at all. It was just something my mom tossed together for any meal during those warm summers when her garden ran flush with tomatoes. An outwardly Western contrivance due to the unlikely presence of this non-ancestral veggie/fruit, which wasn't even introduced to China until the early Republican era, I just assumed it was a dish she made up to use 'em up.
That's why I thought it the strangest thing that this dish was the favorite off-menu request of a regular customer of my parents' restaurant. He was of Chinese descent and in a mixed-race marriage, and perhaps no one knew how to make it. But I always thought, "It's so simple to cook, so basic! Why would you buy it?" Then as an adult, I was surprised to see it appear on "nice" Chinese restaurant menus...and even more recently, all over the Internet as a high-demand, nostalgic recipe.
It was this way that I found out that it wasn't just my family that devoured it for brunch, lunch, dinner, and—at home—breakfast. Chinese tomato and eggs are often served family-style alongside plates of sautéed vegetables, bite-sized nuggets of pan-fried pork, steamed ginger fish, cucumber salad, and other accompaniments. All anchored by the individual bowl of rice that anchors each meal, it's a flexible dish in every sense...and that includes in preparation.
You'll find hundreds of variations of this recipe—as many as there are families, really. This colloquial, homey dish is just one of those foods so universal that there is no one authoritative way to make it, like grilled cheese or Italian Sunday sauce. Every household has its own interpretation, which would lead one to assume historical provenance. Yet tomatoes and scrambled eggs as a stir-fry dish didn't emerge in Chinese cooking until the 1920s and 1930s when they started cropping up in restaurants in Shanghai. Since then, it's developed several other styles, from the Cantonese thick-gravy iterations to this one below...an adaption of my mother's, father's, and famous Chinese cooking experts' recipes that I—in the dish's most signature tradition—made my own.
“I never tried anything quite like this dish before and now have a fabulous summer tomato recipe for any meal. Period! The delicate yet very present flavors enhance the eggs and tomatoes. Fabulous! fabulous!” —Mary Jo Romano
6 large eggs
4 large egg whites, or 1/2 cup packaged egg whites, optional
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine, optional
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon MSG, optional
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced, greens and whites separated
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
4 medium ripe tomatoes, cored, and cut into wedges
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
Steps to Make It
Gather the ingredients.
Whisk together eggs, egg whites, if using, sesame oil, cooking wine, white pepper, and MSG, if using. Set aside.
Heat a large wok to medium-high. Once you can begin to feel heat emanating from its surface, pour in 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in an arc around the walls of the wok. Allow it to warm up and swirl to coat the wok until it shimmers.
Turn the heat down to medium. You want the wok hot enough that the eggs begin solidifying right away, but not so hot that they brown on contact.
Give the eggs a few final whisks. Begin pouring them into the wok, but only enough to fill the bottom of the wok's well. Scramble into soft curds.
Before the eggs are fully set, push them up the side of the wok (where the temperature is lower) and repeat in batches until all the eggs are just barely cooked through. There is no need to break up the eggs yet.
Remove the semi-set eggs to a plate. Turn the heat to medium-high, and drizzle the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil around the wok walls, allowing it to trickle down to the floor of the wok.
Add the sliced scallion whites and ginger and stir to coat with the oil. Allow them to lightly brown.
Add the tomatoes, all at once. Toss the ingredients together, flipping frequently until the tomato skins start to blister. Lower the heat to medium.
Add the eggs back into the wok and drizzle the fish sauce over it all. Toss to combine; the fish sauce will caramelize and smoke slightly, giving it a hint of faux wok hei.
Quickly sprinkle the sugar over the ingredients, then add the water. Using your spatula, flip the ingredients until the sugar to dissolves into the sauce. While stirring, break the egg curds up into large, bite-sized pieces.
Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring and flipping ingredients occasionally to release sauce from the sides of the wok.
Lower the heat and reduce the sauce to the desired consistency.
Garnish with the green scallion parts and serve with cooked rice, if desired.
Cooking the Eggs
While it's tempting to throw all the eggs in at once, resist the urge! Batch cooking the eggs in stages ensures soft, full, light, and fluffy curds, preventing lower-volume yield and unevenly cooked eggs. The side walls of the wok are perfect "keep warm" stations for the gently set eggs as you add more egg mixture into the well. Removing the eggs to add back in later prevents tough, overcooked eggs and frees up surface space to blister the tomato skins.
One exception is if you're using a traditional large frying pan instead of a wok. In this case, you have the surface space to cook more at a time. Just be sure to add the tomatoes before the eggs are fully set to keep them from overcooking.
Regardless, never combine the scrambled egg mixture with the tomatoes before cooking. The eggs will get overly thinned out and become mealy white the tomatoes will have a harder time breaking down properly.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Shaoxing is a lovely rice wine that gives a nice acidity to the eggs for more dimension. It's a common pantry essential for most Chinese kitchens, and buying a bottle of this inexpensive ingredient is a decision you won't regret. However, while it's a popular addition, according to my chef father, it's not absolutely necessary. You can swap in dry cooking sherry or omit it entirely if you don't mind a slightly flatter dish.
- When choosing a sesame oil, opt for a toasted version. I exclusively buy Kadoya, which is consistent, affordable, and slow to rancidity. This ingredient adds fleeting fragrance to every bite when worked into the eggs without adding grease or heaviness. Be careful not to pour too generously, though. Too much can overpower the tomato flavor, which should remain at the forefront.
- Lastly, I recommend white pepper over conventional black pepper for this recipe for several reasons. Not only is it more common in Chinese cuisine than its Western counterpart, but it's much more subtle in recipes and offers a refreshing grassiness.
Tools & Substitutions
The simplicity of this dish extends beyond prep and ingredients. The only tools you need are a mixing bowl (or a large glass measuring cup to use as one, for easier pouring and less cleanup!), a measuring spoon, a high-heat safe spatula, and something big to cook it in.
While a wok is traditionally used for this dish, being the predominant form of cookware used in Chinese kitchens, my mom actually always used an oversized skillet at home. While that was because non-commercial woks were less available when I was growing up, there are practical advantages, too. This allows you to cook more eggs at a time, reducing the batching, and also eliminates the need to remove the eggs from the heat as you cook the tomatoes in the middle. However, this does mean loss of sauce due to evaporation over a wider surface.
Regardless, a good wok is invaluable to have on hand, and we've chosen the 9 Best Woks from which to start your search.
Tomatoes: Types & Cooking
While I prefer fresh tomatoes off the vine as they stay firm and separate easily from their skins, any whole conventional tomato in nearly any state of ripeness will do for this dish. In fact, this dish is my go-to when I need to use up fresh tomatoes that have begun to soften. Save money by opting for common Globe slicer or hothouse tomatoes. Their juiciness and thin skins will get you the best flavor and taste.
While expensive, specialty heirloom tomatoes have a delicious, concentrated tomato flavor, they're kind of wasted in this dish. Their flavors are best enjoyed raw and will be diluted by cooking and seasoning. Same with similarly costly Beefsteak tomatoes. Their high water content will cause it to dissolve and make your dish soupy. Whole cherry or grape tomatoes are also not ideal. They're usable but will disappoint due to excessive skin, loss of meatiness, and lack of juiciness. While plum or Roma tomatoes cut into wedges will give you back fleshy substance, they are also drier tomatoes that will yield less sauce.
No matter the type, resist the urge to peel the tomatoes. The skin will come off naturally and you need its pectin to thicken the cooking liquid.
Finally, some like a sweeter, thicker gravy or prefer their tomato and egg scramble to be saucier. You'll see ketchup, oyster sauce, and cornstarch slurries incorporated into those recipes. This is no more or less "authentic" than my recipe—it's simply a matter of familial interpretation and personal preference.
The loose definition of this dish also makes it open to riffs. For example, you can:
- Add cooked ground pork or turkey for a meatier feel.
- Use chicken broth or stock instead of water to amplify its robustness.
- Increase the egg whites for more low-calorie protein.
- Sauté in a neutral vegetable like zucchini for some green.
- Drizzle with chili crisp for a spicy, textured finish.
- Swap fresh grated ginger if you prefer more zip than the more subtle ground ginger in this recipe.
- Top with Vietnamese fried shallots or dried minced garlic for a savory-sweet crunch.
How to Store
This dish is simple enough to make fresh every time, and the recipe can be easily halved. It's best to eat this right away, especially since eggs toughen with microwaving. However, if you must, you can store the finished dish in a tightly sealed glass container in the refrigerator for about three days before the tomatoes disintegrate too much.
Keep the green scallion garnish separately, in an airtight container, chilled in the fridge.