Tomato Egg Stir-Fry (番茄炒蛋)
Tomatoes with scrambled eggs may sound more like a Western breakfast than an Asian stir-fry, but this easy meal has been a Chinese comfort food staple for over 100 years. All you need to make this Chinese tomato and egg stir fry are some tomatoes and eggs, along with a few pantry staples. Put them together in a hot pan using a few kitchen techniques, and you'll have a magically flavorful entre that's creamy and flavorful yet juicy and refreshing, all in one bite.
Table of contents
Why This Egg Recipe Works?
- Adding starch to the tomatoes thickens the juices they release, preventing the eggs from getting watery.
- Cooking the eggs in the thickened tomato juices saves a step and ensures the eggs turn out nice and creamy.
- Ketchup fortifies the flavor and sweetness of tomatoes that aren't perfectly ripe.
Ingredients for Tomato Egg Stir-Fry
- Tomatoes - Normally, I would advocate for finding vine-ripened tomatoes, but this is a convenience food, and let's face it, most of us don't have access to perfect fresh tomatoes year-round. Between the high temperatures involved in stir-frying and the next ingredient, you can get away with just about any kind of tomato, but this recipe works best with pulpy tomatoes without a ton of seeds such as roma tomatoes. I also recommend peeling the tomatoes as the plasticky skins really get in the way of the smooth, creamy texture of the dish. I have a tutorial on how to peel tomatoes easily if you need pointers.
- Ketchup - Ketchup might sound like an odd ingredient to add to a stir-fry, but it's basically just concentrated tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and spices. Tomatoes that aren't sun-ripened will have a weak flavor while also lacking in sweetness and acidity. Ketchup addresses all of these issues.
- Starch - Starch helps to gel any liquid from the tomatoes and eggs, preventing them from becoming spongy and watery. I recommend using potato starch, but cornstarch or other types of starch will work in a pinch.
- White pepper - White pepper comes from the same plant as black pepper. The difference is in how they're processed. While black pepper is simply picked and dried, white pepper is hulled and then left to ferment for about two weeks before being dried. This makes it less spicy than black pepper while imparting a unique aroma. If you've ever had white pepper and thought it smelled like a barnyard, it's most likely because it was not processed properly or because it has oxidized. To avoid this, I recommend grinding the pepper yourself. If you don't like the flavor, you can substitute black pepper.
- Eggs - Unlike boiled eggs, you want to use the freshest egg you can find for soft scrambled eggs. I like using eggs from hens fed a diet rich in beta-carotene, which gives the yolks a vibrant orange color.
- Soy Sauce - The tomatoes are seasoned with salt, but it's also essential to season the eggs to ensure every bite of these Chinese scrambled eggs is flavorful. A small amount of soy sauce seasons the eggs and adds loads of umami. Just be careful not to overdo it, or your eggs will turn brown.
How to Make Tomato Egg Stir-Fry
Like most Chinese stir-fries, this tomato and scrambled egg dish is super simple, and quick to make, but the speed in which it cooks requires that you prep all of the ingredients and have them ready to go in advance.
For the tomato stir-fry, mix the cut and peeled tomatoes with the ketchup, potato starch, salt and white pepper in a bowl until the starch is evenly distributed. For the eggs, break them into a separate bowl and beat them together with the soy sauce. Be careful not to overbeat the eggs, though, or it will make them tough.
To stir-fry the tomatoes, add them to a hot nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat along with the oil. Be careful as the oil will spatter, but you want to keep the tomatoes moving around the pan to keep them from burning. Once the tomatoes have softened, you should have a nice thick sauce.
Pour the egg mixture over the tomatoes and quickly turn down the heat all the way. Allow a layer of egg to set at the bottom of the pan before gently stirring up the curds with a spatula. Repeat until the eggs have thickened up in consistency and then briskly scramble the eggs for a few seconds.
Get the eggs out of the pan as quickly as possible to keep them from overcooking. Top with some sprigs of cilantro or chopped green onion for garnish.
How to Serve Chinese Scrambled Eggs
Unlike its Western cousin, Chinese tomato egg stir-fry isn't limited to breakfast. This protein packed entre can be served over steamed rice to make for a full meal, or as a part of a family-style spread of Chinese dishes. Check out the recipes below for some dishes you could serve this with.
Other Easy Stir Fry Recipes
- 200 grams peeled tomatoes (cored and cut into bite-sized wedges)
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- ½ teaspoon potato starch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- white pepper (to taste)
- 4 large eggs (58 grams/2 ounces per egg)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- cilantro (for garnish)
- Add the tomatoes, ketchup, potato starch, salt, and white pepper to a bowl and toss together until the ingredients are evenly mixed.
- Break the eggs into a separate bowl and add the soy sauce. Beat the eggs until they are no large clumps of egg white remaining.
- Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat until hot, and add the vegetable oil and tomatoes. Stir-fry until the tomatoes have released a significant amount of liquid and they are starting to get soft.
- Pour over the eggs, and then immediately reduce the heat as low as it will go.
- Let the eggs cook undisturbed until you can see the bottom of the eggs turn opaque. Then, gently stir the egg curds to the surface, allowing the liquid egg to run underneath them. Let this continue to cook undisturbed until the bottom layer turns opaque again. Repeat until the egg is no longer runny (but still shiny and wet).
- Quickly scramble the mixture and transfer the stir-fried tomato and eggs onto a serving plate. Garnish with cilantro to serve.
I've been on a bit of a roll trying your recipes, and this one was great as usual. I think it is so smart to use ketchup, especially in the winter time when tomatoes aren't in season. I made this for breakfast, and it was delicious--it tasted like a comfort food to me. Eggs and rice for breakfast is always tasty, but this dish made it extra special!
My dish came out very soupy. The flavor was good but it looked like something my doggy might have regurgitated. Not pretty at all. I’m wondering if my tomatoes were too ripe, and therefore liquified too quickly? Thoughts on how to keep it pretty looking?
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Kristen, I'm sorry to hear it didn't work out for you. There are a couple of possibilities 1) The tomatoes should still hold their shape after they've been cooked. If they fell apart, it could have been because they were too ripe, or they were cooked for too long (they don't need to be stir-fried for very long). 2) Because you're cooking the egg in the thickened tomato juices, it's important to let the egg form larger curds. If you mix it too aggressively the tomato juices will get mixed into the egg before it sets and this will result in something like what you described. Once you pour the egg in, turn down the heat all the way and don't stir it until you have a layer of cooked egg at the bottom of the pan. Then when you stir it, you really just want to life the curds up at the bottom to allow the uncooked egg to go underneath. Once the egg is mostly cooked through, you can give it a light scramble but again you don't want to be super aggressive here, just enough to break up any huge curds and distribute the tomato through the eggs.
One of my favorite comfort foods! One trick I incorporated from a J Kenji Lopez-Alt recipe is to add tapioca starch to the eggs to keep them fluffy as you scramble them. I usually do eggs first, set them aside for the tomatoes then add them back in, but I’m definitely going to try your process next time.
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Katherine, adding starch to eggs is a fairly common practice in Asia and the same principle works here as the starch in the tomato mixture gets mixed into the eggs as you scramble them. As for doing the eggs first if you like your eggs firmer and separate from the tomatoes, it's a good idea to cook them first. If you like your eggs more creamy and melded with the tomatoes, this is the way to go.
Delicious! Making a second batch after enjoying this for breakfast yesterday. Move how moist and umami it is.
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Kim, I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed this so much! It's a nice quick meal.