Cooked with minimum ingredients in just a few minutes, tomato egg stir-fry is a must-try Chinese dish. You’ll be surprised how wonderful it tastes!
I’m often asked which dish could represent Chinese cuisine. That’s an impossible question to answer considering the vast diversity of regional cuisines in China. However, there is one dish that’s popular in households all over the country: Tomato Egg Stir-fry.
I personally label it as the “National Dish of China (国菜)” despite its simplicity and humble, homely nature. This was the first dish I, like many children in China, managed to cook on my own at a young age.
If you have a look at the comments at the end of this post, you’ll surely get a sense of how important the dish is to people who grew up or had in-depth experiences in China.
What is tomato egg stir-fry
Chinese tomato egg stir-fry (known as Fān Qié Chǎo Dàn/番茄炒蛋 or Xī Hóng Shì Chǎo Jī Dàn/西红柿炒鸡蛋) features tangy, juicy tomatoes and tender, fluffy scrambled eggs which are lightly flavored with basic aromatics and seasoning.
Although it involves neither fancy ingredients nor complicated cooking methods, it’s by no means a plain dish. In one mouthful, you taste layers of flavors: sour, sweet, salty, garlicky, and umami. You can find similar flavor profiles in classic dishes like Tomato Egg Noodle Soup, Tomato Egg Drop Soup, etc.
Quick and cheap to make, it makes a great all-in-one meal over rice or noodles. If you’re on a vegetarian or gluten-free diet, this is a great dish to try.
Why this recipe
This tomato egg recipe reflects exactly how my parents cook this dish. It’s the northern Chinese style which calls for minimum seasoning and doesn’t have an intensely sweet taste. I love the fact that the natural flavors of the key ingredients shine through beautifully.
I’ve come across many variations of the dish which involve other seasonings, such as soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, ketchup, white pepper, etc. After testing, I remain happy to stick to the simplest version that I’m sharing today.
The concept of “less is more” works well in this dish. Let me know if you agree with me after trying.
The list is super short! Apart from pantry staples like oil, salt, and sugar, you only need tomato, eggs, garlic, and scallions.
Notes on tomatoes
You may use any type of tomato available to you. But if you want to produce the best-tasting tomato egg stir-fry, follow these tips:
- Choose naturally ripened tomatoes as they’re less acidic, sweeter, juicier, and have tender flesh.
- Thin-skinned ones are preferable to thick-skinned ones.
- Plum/cherry tomatoes aren’t ideal as I find their skin-to-flesh ratio is a bit off.
Tomato to egg ratio
For 2 servings, I usually use 4 medium tomatoes (about 11oz/310g) and 4 eggs.
Please feel free to adjust the ratio based on your own preference. If you like the dish more saucy and tangy, increase the tomato quantity.
Garlic and scallions (green onion/spring onion) add extra flavor to the dish. The latter also contributes visually. If you love the taste of ginger, mince some and fry it along with the garlic.
Salt and sugar are all that you need to season this dish. The latter is for balancing the sourness of tomatoes, as well as enhancing the umami taste (known as Tí Xiān/提鲜 in Chinese).
I often receive questions about oil for Chinese cooking. For Stir-fry dishes like this one, use neutral-flavored oil with a high smoking point. Sunflower, peanut, canola, vegetable, soybean, rapeseed, and corn oil are good choices.
For many Chinese stir-fries, I would recommend you use a carbon steel wok for optimal taste. Whereas for today’s dish, a large skillet/frying pan works well too. It helps if it’s high-sided and has a non-stick coating.
This is a quick stir-fry so make sure you have everything prepared and within reach before you turn on the cooker.
Step 1: Prepare the tomatoes
Wash the tomatoes and trim off their stems. Then cut them into bite-sized wedges or cubes. Don’t discard any seeds or juice.
🛎 Optional step: It’s perfectly fine to keep the skin on. Remove it if you prefer a smoother mouthfeel. Here is how you peel the skin: Cut a cross on the tomato then soak in hot water. Transfer to cold water to cool then peel from the splits.
Step 2: Beat the eggs
Crack the eggs into a bowl. Add a little water then whisk until the egg whites and yolks are well integrated.
🛎 Pro tip: Adding water is to make the scrambled egg more tender and fluffy.
Step 3: Scramble the egg
Here are two different approaches:
- If using a non-stick skillet/frying pan: add oil then heat it up over high heat until it becomes very hot. Pour in the egg mixture. Once the bottom part sets, move with a spatula to allow the running part to flow to the hot surface. Break the scrambled egg into small pieces then transfer to a plate.
- If using a carbon steel wok: heat the empty wok until smoking then add the oil. Follow the same method to scramble the egg.
🛎 Pro tip: During this step, your goal is to cook the egg to a fluffy, tender texture. To achieve that, make sure you keep the heat high so that the egg bubbles up quickly and it takes a very short time to cook through. Keep the whole process as brief as possible and avoid overcooking.
Step 4: Cook the tomato
After taking out the egg, turn the heat to medium and add a little oil to sizzle the garlic. Then stir in the chopped tomato. Fry for 20 seconds or so. Then add a little water. Leave to cook until the tomato becomes a little mushy.
🛎 Pro tip: If you want more sauce to flavor the rice or noodles you’re serving with, add more water and cook a bit longer so that the tomato disintegrates a little further.
Step 5: Combine & season
Add the scrambled egg and season with salt and sugar. Put in chopped scallions and give everything a final stir. Taste to see if you need extra seasoning.
🛎 Pro tip: I like my tomato egg stir-fry on the savoy side so a pinch of sugar is enough. If you enjoy a sweeter taste (or the tomato you use is quite tart), please feel free to increase its quantity.
What to serve with
Ta-da! Your homemade tomato egg stir-fry is ready to be served. For a quick lunch, simply scoop it over steamed rice while piping hot. This makes a delicious and healthy Gài Jiāo Fàn/盖浇饭 ( all-in-one rice bowl) which contains protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates.
For dinner, pair it with other savory dishes along with rice. Take what we had last time with this dish: braised pork belly, garlic bok choy, and smashed cucumber. Does this sound like a good combination?
Sometimes, I also use it as a topping for noodles. In this case, I’d use more tomatoes and cook them a little longer so that I’d have enough sauce to cover each strand of noodles.
A: Although the taste won’t be exactly the same, you can definitely use canned tomatoes to substitute when fresh ones are unavailable.
A: Many Chinese stir-fries involve cornstarch slurry. However, I don’t think it’s necessary for this recipe. But if you like a sauce with a thicker consistency, add some at the end of the cooking process.
Other tasty egg dishes
Eggs are so tasty and versatile. Agree? Here are other Chinese egg recipes to enjoy:
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & if you REALLY like it, consider leaving a comment as well!
Tomato Egg Stir-Fry (番茄炒蛋)
- 4 medium ripe tomatoes - about 11oz/310g (see note 1)
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoon neutral cooking oil - divided
- 3 cloves garlic - sliced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch sugar
- ½ stalk scallions - finely chopped
- Remove the stems of the tomatoes, then cut them into bite-sized pieces. Optionally, remove their skin beforehand (see note 1 to learn how).
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of water. Beat until the whites and yolks are well integrated.
- Heat 1½ tablespoons of oil in a skillet/frying pan over high heat until very hot (see note 2 if using a carbon steel wok).
- Pour in the beaten egg. Allow the bottom part to set first. Then move with a spatula so that the running part flows to the hot surface to cook. Break the scrambled egg into bite-sized pieces then transfer out to a plate.
- Add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil to the same skillet/pan/wok. Fry sliced garlic over medium heat until fragrant (do not burn).
- Put in the chopped tomato. Stir-fry for 20 seconds or so. Add ¼ cup (60ml) of water. Leave to cook until the tomato becomes a little mushy.
- Add the scrambled egg. Sprinkle salt, sugar and scallions over. Give everything a quick stir to combine. Dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice, or as a topping for noodles (see note 3 if using a carbon steel wok).
- Cut a small cross on the opposite side of the stem.
- Soak in very hot water.
- When the cut splits, transfer them to a bowl of cold water to cool.
- Peel off the skin from the cut.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.
Update Notice: This is a revised version of my original post published in 2017. It includes process photos, more tips and a video.
I make this all the time. Fast, easy and delicious. Thanks
Thanks for a great recipe and explanation for the need for sugar. I had been trying to recreate a recipe from Xining and this tasted the very best!
Wei Guo says
So happy to hear that Caro!
Wei Guo says
Thank you for your positive review!
I have 3 18 year old Chinese boys living with us. They requested this and I’ve been making it but I didn’t know it was a real Chinese national dish with an actual recipe. The recipe is much better. Now I know the secrets to its success. Thank you Wei!
I’m loving your site with great recipes and “how-tos.”
Wei Guo says
This dish is indeed a remedy for homesickness. Very happy you and your guest boys enjoyed it!
Your recipes are loved as we grew up with the dishes you cook, and no restaurant seems to add ginger root to any of their tomato dishes. We were always used to having the taste of ginger with our tomato & beef, so do not know WHY restaurants leave this out of their Chinese dishes.
Enjoy watching you cook with Dude eating & enjoying each dish. Keep up the good videos. From Toronto, Canada.
Dear Wei – thank you for this delicious recipe. It brought back tender memories of this dish shared with me by loved ones who I no longer see. <3 your recipes are treasure. And thank you for the Chinese characters-it is very helpful for my Chinese language learning!
All the best to you and thank you for sharing your culture, knowledge, and treasures with us Mx. Wei 🙏🏻
Wei Guo says
So happy to hear that Lori! Sharing recipes is also my way to connect with sweet memories. Glad you find my recipes helpful.
Dear Mx. Wei, I’m sorry – in saying “thank you for sharing with us” I think how I said may imply that people in your audience do not share your culture. My intended meaning in saying “us” is to refer to we who are your audience. 🙏🏻 I am sorry for any harm my comment may have caused and will take more care in expression before sharing in future ❤️
Wei Guo says
Oh No Lori! Your kind comment wouldn’t cause any harm to anyone. I’m thankful that you took the time to give feedback to my recipe. Have a great day!
Ok, noted 🤗 hope you have a great day too! 💕