Ketchup Is The Key To A Simple Chinese Tomato And Egg Stir-Fry

While you may not see it on the menu at a Chinese restaurant, tomato and egg stir-fry is a common household dinner dish in China that dates back to the 1940s. It's a comforting fusion of Western and Eastern cuisines; tomatoes originated in Mexico but are prominent fixtures throughout the Americas and Europe, while eggs have long been a central part of Chinese cuisine.

Traditional recipes for tomato and egg stir-fry add a scallion and egg scramble into a bubbly sauce of diced fresh tomatoes, sugar, ginger, garlic, and a Chinese rice wine called Shaoxing. However, newer versions of the dish use ketchup as a flavorful secret weapon to enhance the sauce's flavor and texture.

Ketchup's purpose is twofold; it works with fresh tomatoes and aromatics to concentrate the tomatoes' umami flavor while also serving as a thickening agent. It's also a safeguard against a bad crop of fresh tomatoes because ketchup's intense flavor compensates for dry, green, or otherwise tasteless tomatoes. So, you can make this dish even when it isn't tomato season. Tomato and egg stir-fry is already a fusion dish, but ketchup further westernizes it and broadens its cultural scope, from a Chinese to a Chinese American staple. It may be a dish you've never tried before but it includes an ingredient you certainly have, so you might find it as comforting and familiar as many Chinese households do.

How to incorporate ketchup into your tomato and egg stir-fry

This tomato and egg stir-fry is far more involved than a simple plate of scrambled eggs, but the results are worth the effort. It requires you to cook the eggs and sauce separately, pouring the scrambled eggs into the ketchup-infused tomato sauce as the final step. To prepare the components, you'll need separate bowls for the eggs, tomatoes, and ketchup sauce. In one bowl, crack the raw eggs and add rice wine, sesame oil, and salt, whisking to combine. The next bowl is for the ketchup sauce, consisting of ketchup, cornstarch, and sugar. Cornstarch is a widely used thickening agent in Chinese cuisine; some traditional tomato and egg stir-fry recipes add it directly to the eggs.

Stir-fry the egg mixture with scallions until you get a simple scramble, remove them from the heat and put aside for later. In the same pan used for the eggs, fry garlic and ginger until fragrant before adding the fresh tomatoes and letting the mixture reduce over medium heat for a good five minutes. Then, stir the ketchup sauce in its bowl to activate the cornstarch before adding it to the bubbling tomato sauce.

Once the ketchup-infused tomato sauce thickens after bubbling a bit longer, you'll pour the scrambled eggs back in, breaking them up to combine with the chunks of tomato sauce. You can enjoy this dish plain, served over rice, or with bread.