Neither chicken stock nor corn starch required, Chinese egg drop soup with tomato is a tasty, heathy dish that you can make in 10 minutes.
Tasty food doesn’t have to be complicated. Today I’m sharing a very homely dish: Egg drop soup with tomato (番茄蛋汤), one of the most popular soups on the dining table of Chinese households. My version of this classic dish requires neither chicken stock nor corn starch. The use of ripe tomatoes provides a very refreshing taste and texture.
Make the best “egg flower”
The Chinese name of egg drop soup is Dan Hua Tang (蛋花汤) which literally means “egg flower” soup. I presume it refers to the flocculent appearance of the cooked eggs which resemble blossoms. This particular look is achieved by slowly pouring the beaten egg into the boiling soup.
I like adding a little water to the beaten egg as this changes its consistency, thus you will be able to pour it into the soup smoothly. The exact size and look of the “egg flower” can vary. It depends on
- How vigorously the soup is boiling.
- How slowly you pour the egg.
- How you swirl the soup.
To achieve good looking “egg flowers”, I suggest you slowly pour in the beaten egg when the soup is gently boiling and swirl the soup constantly in the same direction.
Corn starch isn’t necessary
In China, the use of corn starch in soup is more of a practice in restaurants than in regular households. I’ve noticed Chinese restaurants in Europe tend to put an even heavier dose of corn starch in soup dishes (with an intention to adapt to locals’ preference I guess).
There is really no need to add corn starch to this soup. Personally, I don’t fancy the starchy taste and I wouldn’t like to add more calories to this healthy dish.
Simple seasoning & flexible garnish
It’s very simple to produce this egg drop soup with tomatoes. In terms of seasoning, you only need three basic ingredients: salt, ground white pepper & sesame oil. To give this dish an extra umami taste (鲜味), I like frying a little papery dried shrimp (虾皮) in the beginning. You may skip this if it’s not available.
Right before serving, I garnish the soup with chopped coriander. This adds another layer of subtle flavour and colour to the dish. Please feel free to improvise if you don’t have coriander at hand (or it’s not your preferred herb). Chive, dill, parsley or mint are all good.
Use good quality tomatoes
With very little seasoning required for my version of egg drop soup, tomato plays a very important role in enhancing the flavour of the dish. Therefore, I strongly recommend that you use the best tomatoes that you can get. Naturally ripened tomatoes have a richer taste. A good tomato should be firm to touch but not so hard that it doesn’t ‘give’ when you squeeze.
For this recipe, I usually peel the skin off the tomatoes for a better texture. Tomatoes are firstly diced into small cubes, then stir-fried in oil and boiled in water. If unpeeled, the small pieces of tomato skin would come off the flesh. This makes the soup feel less “smooth” in your mouth. However, this procedure is entirely optional. Keep the skin on if you prefer.
Egg drop soup with tomato (番茄蛋汤)
- 3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 stalk scallions, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon papery dried shrimp, optional
- 1000 ml water, 4 cups
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch ground white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- Coriander, chopped
- Cut a cross on each tomato (opposite the stem). Leave them in hot water (just boiled) for 1-2 minutes. Remove and peel the skin off from the cross-cut. Then dice them into small cubes (see note).
- Crack the eggs into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of water to the eggs. Whisk until smooth.
- Heat up the oil over a high heat in a pot/wok. Fry spring onion and papery dried shrimp until fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato pieces. Leave to cook until they become a little mushy. Pour in water then put the lid on.
- When the water begins to boil, uncover and slowly pour in the egg whilst swirling around with a spoon.
- Turn off the heat when the soup comes back to a boil. Add salt, ground white pepper & sesame oil. Sprinkle over the chopped coriander.