When I ring my mother from New York on the landline—and not on the usual FaceTime, which is her time to see the kids—she knows that I’m calling for a recipe. She answers the phone with glee, as there is nothing she loves more than telling me how to cook. This is her tomato and egg “stew.” In truth, it is weird. First of all, because Cantonese don’t eat a lot of tomatoes. And then to team it with eggs. And then add sugar. The mind boggles. But somehow, amid the discordant flavor profiles, it works. This dish is the epitome of Cantonese home-style cooking, and almost every family has its own version.
- 4 tomatoes (about 1 1/3 pounds)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Sea salt and white pepper
- 3 scallions, finely chopped
- Cooked white rice, to serve
Set up a large bowl with ice and cold water—this is your ice bath for peeling the tomatoes. Boil a pot of water. Using a sharp paring knife, mark a small “x” at the bottom of each tomato and add them to the boiling water. The skin will wrinkle and split—this should take 60–90 seconds. Remove from the water and drop them straight into the ice bath. Once the tomatoes are cool, lift them out of the water and peel away the skin. Chop the tomato flesh.
Add some oil to a saucepan along with the chopped tomatoes and ginger, and stir well. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar and a splash of water, cover again, and cook for another 2 minutes.
Lightly season the beaten egg with a little sea salt and a small pinch of white pepper.
Increase the heat for the tomato mixture to high and very slowly trickle the beaten egg into the tomato mixture, allowing the heat to cook the egg. Once the egg has set into solid pieces, stir gently to break them up a little. Taste and season with sea salt.
Top the stir-fried tomato and egg with the chopped scallions and serve with white rice.
If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can use canned peeled tomatoes.
The more traditional way of preparing this dish is to scramble the eggs in a pan by themselves before mixing with the tomato sauce. You can try this if you prefer the egg to be more “solid.”
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day,” by Hetty McKinnon. Published by Prestel.