It's another sunny March day here in New York. I've found myself wanting to spend more time working by the windows instead of working in the kitchen, which is in the interior of my apartment. So in celebration of an early spring, here is a light yet delicious Chinese comfort food dish from the archives that takes about 5 minutes on the stove.
Within China, there are wildly divergent ways of cooking almost any dish. Take kung pao chicken, for example. The Sichuanese are wild about their version with smoky dried chilis and crunchy peanuts, while folks from Guizhou province love theirs with fresh chilis and absolutely no peanuts, and Beijingers are just fine with their mild kung pao dishes. Another example is pan-fried dumplings, whose thinned-skinned Cantonese and thicker northern varieties each have their fans. Or Cantonese wontons versus Sichuan wontons. The list goes on and on.
Stir-fried tomato and eggs, however, is remarkably the same all over China.
I grew up eating this dish and always associated it with weekend afternoons when my mom was too busy running errands to fix anything that took longer than 5 minutes. We also had it for weeknight dinners when my mom needed a 3rd or 4th course that didn't take longer than 5 minutes. (See a pattern?) It was our version of spaghetti with tomato sauce, the no-brainer that's also pure comfort food.
So I had always associated this dish with Cantonese cooking, until I moved to China and found that it tasted exactly the same at little diners and fast food stalls in Beijing and Shanghai. Fluffy eggs with lightly sweetened tomatoes, maybe another vegetable thrown it to fancy it up. It was oddly reassuring. Winter in Beijing may have been bone-chilling, smoggy, and depressing, but for the 10 minutes I was scarfing down stir-fried tomato and eggs at a local restaurant I may as well have been in the sub-tropical warmth of Hong Kong.
It's really hard to resist such a quick dish of eggs and juicy tomatoes. I actually feel a little odd publishing this as a recipe, since it's so easy you can just skim the directions and make it from memory. In addition to the title ingredients all you need is a little cooking oil, scallions, some sugar to sweeten up the tomatoes, and the usual salt and pepper. It's also a cinch to divide or multiply the portions. I find that 2 to 3 eggs and 1 tomato per person is the perfect ratio and, paired with rice, makes quite the filling meal.
You can certainly have this for lunch or dinner, but I also have no qualms making a hearty post-yoga breakfast with the leftovers and some strong coffee.
Stir-fried Tomato and Eggs
- 5 to 6 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 scallion, white and green parts chopped and separated
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into then wedges
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the cooking oil and swirl to coat the base. Pour in the eggs and cook undisturbed until a thin layer forms on the bottom, about 30 to 60 seconds, then scramble the eggs until they are cooked but still light and fluffy. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I find 1/4 teaspoon salt is good to start.) Scoop out the eggs onto a plate and set aside.
- In the same pan, add the scallions whites and stir-fry until just aromatic, about 20 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the juices start to release and the tomatoes wedges are slightly softened but still intact. Sprinkle sugar over the tomatoes.
- Return the eggs to the pan and heat for another minute, stirring so they are well-mixed with the tomatoes. Transfer to a serving dish and add the scallion greens on top.