It was the first day of summer school in 2019 when I tried 番茄鸡蛋 (fān qié chǎo dàn) for the first time. At that time, I was in Shanghai attending a Mandarin immersion program through New York University at their Shanghai campus.
Envision a large dining hall beaming with natural light entering the room from the ceiling windows. Students line up, single file, for a buffet line of different dishes – rice, vegetables, dumplings, boiled eggs, sweet potato, congee, bao buns, and of course ‘eggs and tomatoes’. A few kids in my program, all American Born Chinese (ABCs), take their turn ahead of me and tell me that I “HAVE to try the eggs and tomatoes” because it’s their favorite. However, just looking at the dish, it looks quite plain. Simply put, it is a scrambled egg with some cooked tomato. I take it anyway – and add a little chili oil at the condiment table before sitting down. When I do try it, I realize how this dish has become a staple across China. It’s so simple to make, nutritious, and is a very warming dish, especially with the added chili oil!
While I do not have a picture of my very first 番茄炒蛋, here is a picture of the finished product that you all can also make by following the recipe that is included above. Please note, however, that the recipe does not include rice. But of course, feel free to prepare and add rice if you would like a more substantial and filling meal.
Recipe for 番茄鸡蛋 (1 serving)
2 tomatoes (I used Roma tomatoes but can be any type)
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sugar
Picture of all ingredients:
Step 1: Cut the tomatoes into wedges (steps pictured below) by first cutting them in half and then into smaller wedges.
Step 2: Add the tomatoes to an oiled pan (I used sesame oil here) and cook down .
Once tomatoes have cooked down for about three minutes, add the sugar:
*I like my tomatoes pretty cooked down so I take the tomatoes off the pan and put them into the serving bowl once the skin of the tomatoes has detached from the rest of the tomato
Step 3: *While the tomatoes are cooking down, crack the eggs into a bowl, add one teaspoon of soy sauce into the bowl and mix.
Step 4: After the tomatoes are done cooking and have been placed into the serving bowl, add some more oil and then the eggs to the hot pan. Now, simply make scrambled eggs.
Step 5: Add the eggs to the tomatoes and mix them together and eat!
While this dish is enjoyed all across China, there is an ongoing debate on whether one should add salt or sugar. In northern parts of China, adding salt is more popular while adding sugar is more common in the south. In this recipe, you can see that I have added sugar! An ode to my Jiangxi roots. However, I believe the soy sauce adds a nice saltiness that complements the sweetness of the tomatoes. This, I find to be the best of both worlds.