Monday, March 10, 2008

Tomatoes and Eggs Stir Fry: Fan Qie Chao Dan

Tomatoes and Egg Stir Fry
I didn't have much of an appetite when I was very young and always had trouble eating. In one of my earliest memories, I was sitting on my uncle’s shoulders on the way home from kindergarten and I proudly told him of my accomplishment that day, that I had finished every last bit of my lunch. Of course my uncle asked me what the school served that day and I enthusiastically told him, “fan qie chao dan (tomatoes and eggs)!” Now, sixteen years later, some things have changed; now I always have quite the appetite but this dish still remains one of my favorites.

For the 8th and final dish of this impromptu Chinese Cooking 100 1/2 series I originally planned to make a dessert but instead, I want to introduce everyone to this relatively unknown but very traditional Chinese dish. You’ll rarely see this dish on the menu at restaurants but scrambled eggs and tomatoes is classic Chinese home cooking and comfort food. Whenever I’m sick and don't feel like eating, this is the dish I make for myself: 1 tomato, 2 eggs, and a bowl of rice. Not only does it bring back fond memories of my childhood but tomatoes and eggs are nutrient powerhouses and the meal provides me with vitamins, proteins, carbs, and most importantly, comfort, everything I need to feel better.

- If you’re using smaller roma tomatoes use 1 egg for 1 tomato but if you’re using medium sized tomatoes, use 3 eggs for every 2 tomatoes. If you have really big honking tomatoes, use 2 eggs for 1 tomato.
- I would not recommend using beefsteak tomatoes because they are just too tasteless and mealy and will make the dish too watery. Even though it’s not prime tomato season, I was able to find some pretty decent organic tomatoes on the vine for this dish.

Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes: Fan Qie Chao Dan

4 tomatoes (see note about tomato to egg ratio)
6 eggs
2 green onions, thinly sliced
White pepper
Vegtable oil

Cut the tomatoes into 1 inch chunks and set them in a colander to drain.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet or wok over high heat. Shake the colander or hit it against the side of the sink to get rid of any excess liquid. Once the pan is very hot and the oil is shimmering, add the thinly sliced green onion and the tomatoes. You should hear a loud sizzle. Season with salt and white pepper, and cook them very briefly, only about 30 seconds. You want the tomatoes to retain their shape, you don’t want tomato sauce. Don’t stir them too violently or you’ll break them up. After about 30 seconds in the pan, transfer the tomatoes to a bowl and set aside.

Add a tablespoon of oil to the wok or skillet again and heat over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the beaten eggs. Some liquid should have accumulated in the bowl of the stir fried tomatoes so add that liquid to the eggs. Season the eggs with a little salt. Quickly scramble the eggs until it is almost cooked but still runny, then add the tomatoes and stir fry until the eggs are cooked. Serve with rice.

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