If there was one thing I’d recommend everyone learn to cook when they first move out of home, it would be Chinese eggs and tomatoes. This is cheap, easy, home-style cooking, and one that has probably kept many a poor uni student from starving. It is what you cook when you can’t be bothered cooking, and it’s the perfect sort of thing to pile into a bowl and eat in front of the TV when you need a night of doing nothing.
Growing up we were never allowed to eat meals in front of the TV, but this dish did make very regular appearances at the family dinner table. It was probably one of my favourite things my mum made. The eggs were always soft and fluffy, and the tomato sauce comfortingly sweet. It was always served piping hot with jasmine rice. The sauce would soak through the rice, and the whole thing would melt together in our mouths and warm our bellies.
Having my own family now, including a baby, means we rely a lot more on meals like this which are quick and easy. Our baby however is very soon going to be one, and I suppose not so much a baby anymore. The wonderful thing that has come with the ending of this chapter is that she now can eat pretty much the same things we eat, including this. Feeding my daughter the food I remember my mother feeding me has brought a much deeper level of appreciation for this humble dish.
I imagine most Chinese families would have their own way of making eggs and tomatoes, but if you’ve never had this, or you’d just like to try a different version, then give our recipe a go.
Chinese eggs cooked in tomato
Course: Rice dish
- 4 tomatoes, preferably roma or vine ripened truss tomatoes (Note 1)
- 4 eggs (Note 1)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (1/4 teaspoon for the eggs, 1/4 teaspoon for the tomatoes)
- 2 tbsp of canola oil
- 1 knob of ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and flattened
- 1/4 tsp of sugar
- 1/4 tsp of sesame oil
- 1/4 cup of water, plus another 2 tbsp
- 1 tbsp of cornstarch
- Finely sliced spring onion for garnishing (optional)
- Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the tough white core. Cut each half into quarters, then set aside.
- Beat the eggs in a medium bowl along with 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok over high heat. Cook the eggs until the underside is set, then flip over and cook until the other side is set. Remove onto a plate and use your spatula to cut into strips.
- Turn down the heat to medium-high and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Fry the ginger for about 10 seconds (or until aromatic), then add the tomatoes and fry for about 30 seconds (or until they just start to soften).
- Add the garlic, sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, sesame oil and 1/4 cup of water. Give the mixture a good stir, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook for three minutes.
- Remove the lid and use your spatula to bash the tomatoes down a bit to help release the juices. Add the eggs, cover again with the lid, and cook for another one minute.
- Mix the cornstarch with the two tablespoons of water in a small bowl, then stir through the tomato and egg mixture.
- Increase the heat to high, and stir until the liquid starts bubbling and thickens. Check the seasoning, and adjust if necessary (Note 2).
- Serve hot with steamed white rice and top with spring onion.
- Use the highest quality eggs and tomatoes you can afford, and use ripe tomatoes if you can. There are really only two main ingredients in this dish so the quality of what you use will make a difference.
- If the sauce tastes too sour, counteract with more sugar. If the sauce tastes too bland, draw out the flavours with more salt. I’ve tried to be conservative with the sugar and salt quantities above as it’s always easier to add more seasoning than to take it away.