Coronavirus lockdown, day negative two: We walked to the church that organises our local fruit and vege co-op (and let me just say, I am an atheist, but I am still one hundred percent positive that providing mountains of affordable fruits and vegetables in a community as deprived as ours is doing the lord’s work) and picked up this week’s produce pack. They reassured Barnaby, the only member of the family allowed to go inside, that they would keep going once the lockdown started for real. What a relief. (Since writing this post, we’ve learnt that they will indeed have to shut doors, and we’re stuck with what they have at the local Countdown. Sigh.) And look: silverbeet!
I wanted to stir-fry the silverbeet and needed a second dish to go with that. I still had tomatoes left from last week’s pack so decided to make something I’ve wanted to try for a while – Chinese-style egg with tomato. This is a very common dish in the Chinese-speaking world. I encountered it many times in Taiwan. Apparently it’s a common quick meal, an easy week-night dinner, a dining-hall staple. In other words, a comfort food. Fluffy eggs with juicy tomatoes. Sweet, tangy, oily and tasty.
I did my best and was thrilled with the results. It tasted like Taiwan. Man, I miss Taiwan. I excitedly served it up for dinner. Barnaby is normally a very appreciative audience for my mediocre cooking and I was expecting rave reviews. He chewed it solemnly. Swallowed.
‘It’s okay I guess. I just don’t…get it?’
So deflated. In these lonely days, a bit of praise goes a long way. Then I remembered the first time I tried this dish. Grant from Star Hostel treated me to the lunch box, enthusiastically explaining the cultural significance of the tomato egg. I eyed it apprehensively, the unappetising contrast of gloopy tomatoes and solid yellow egg chunks not filling me with confidence. But I tried it and, well, it tasted okay, I guess. I just didn’t get it.
Ah, nostalgia. Smooths out all the old lumps and bumps. I could understand where Barnaby was coming from, after all.
Still, I enjoyed my tomato egg, and so here is the recipe in case you want to try it. It’s a great dish – easy, quick, cheap, filling and uses common ingredients. It is also, as you will see, pretty robust if you’re prone to cooking errors. The combination may be a bit strange at first but comfort food is a universal language.
RECIPE: CHINESE STYLE STIR-FRIED EGG WITH TOMATO
Ingredients PER PERSON:
1 – 2 tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
A teaspoon-ish of cooking oil
A splash of cooking rice wine / sake, if you have it on hand and fancy it
Sliced green onions to garnish (these are traditional but we had none on hand so I omitted them)
Step one: Slice up the tomatoes. I like to do them in eights, length wise. Put them in a bowl with the salt, sugar and sake.
Step two: (optional) If your kitchen has a couple of flies buzzing around, pop the bowl out of the way. I put mine in the microwave.
Step three: Start heating up your pan.
Step four: (optional) Put in an ear of corn in the microwave for your kids dinner, forgetting the tomatoes are in there, and zap that for four minutes.
Step five: Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk them with a balloon whisk until you’ve incorporated quite a lot of air. You definitely want a layer of foam on the top.
Step six: Heat up the oil. The pan needs to be hot but not like, smoking or anything.
Step seven: (optional) When the microwave beeps, remember your tomatoes are in there. Remove them and stare at them sadly. They are shrivelled. Still, they’re the only tomatoes you have so they’ll just have to do.
Step eight: Tip the eggs into the pan. Flip them as soon as they are set enough to do so (this should only take a minute or two) and break them up into small pieces with your wooden spoon. Pop them on a plate as soon as you can.
Step nine: Put the tomatoes in the pan. If you have done the optional steps, you will be thrilled to see that juice is still being released. Hooray! As soon as it’s all hot, put the eggs back in. Cook it for just a few minutes and then it’s done. Yes, it really was that easy!
Garnish if you want and serve with rice. Enjoy!