August 7, 2013

Tomato Egg Drop Soup 番茄蛋花湯

egg, Soup, tomato, Tomato Egg Drop Soup, chinese, recipe, 番茄, 蛋花湯
By Published: 2013-08-07
In our little family we sometimes argue about Chinese food.  Mostly due to the fact that our respective families come from different provinces ( I am from Jiangsu and he is from Guangdong) and that means that we were raised eating different kinds of Chinese food.  

What a lot of people don't realize is that the difference between provinces in China are similar to differences between nations in Europe.  The differences range from extreme (as in I cannot for the life of me understand your version of the Chinese oral language) to vaguely similar (as with Chinese food which all seem to be based on similar ingredients but vary wildly as to the final product).  

So it was with pleasant surprise recently that we came up with the same taste requirements for this wonderful classic Chinese comfort dish, Tomato Egg Drop Soup, or 番茄蛋花湯.  This is a really, really easy light soup that tastes way better than you think it could.  It goes wonderful with a chinese dinner and is dynamite for these hot summer days because it tastes just as good cold as hot.

egg, Soup, tomato, Tomato Egg Drop Soup, chinese, recipe, 番茄, 蛋花湯

The english name for this soup is much less romantic than the chinese.  The chinese is 番茄蛋花湯, which translates to Tomato Egg Flower Soup.  Flower Soup!  Wow, what a cool name for a soup!  It came about, I believe, for the way the egg is cooked in the soup just off the heat, creating delicate, beautiful "flower" petals of egg floating dreamily in a light, delicate but flavorful soup.  Don't worry, it's a genius food idea on the part of the Chinese to invent it, but not that hard to do at all.  

egg, Soup, tomato, Tomato Egg Drop Soup, chinese, recipe, 番茄, 蛋花湯

You will need one special ingredient for this Tomato Egg Drop Soup: Chinese pickled mustard , or 榨菜, which you can buy at the grocery store or at the wet markets.  This is a description of  Zha Cai:

"The pickle is made from the knobby, fist-sized, swollen green stem of Brassica juncea, subspecies tatsai. The stem is first salted, pressed, and dried before being rubbed with hot red chili paste and allowed to ferment in an earthenware jar. This preservation process is similar to that used to produce Korean kimchi.

The taste is a combination of spicy, sour, and salty, while the aroma is similar to sauerkraut with hot chili paste. Its unique texture—crunchy, yet tender—can only be vaguely compared to Western pickled cucumbers."-wikipedia

I can remember this pickled mustard, thinly sliced, being used in many of the soups of my childhood.  For Tomato Egg Drop Soup expect the pickled mustard to provide saltiness and an excellently robust background flavor that is subtle enough to never overwhelm the soup's major ingredients.  Try it, you'll like it!
Tomato Egg Drop Soup Recipe  番茄蛋花湯
(Prep time: 3 mins  Cook time: 10 mins)



Wash tomatoes and press flat with side of cleaver, or slice in half. ( You can also use 2 medium regular tomatoes cut in eights.  However cherry tomatoes seem to have more flavor.)  Put tomatoes, pickled mustard, dried shrimps, and water in large pot over high heat. When boiled turn down heat and simmer 10 mins.  Add chicken stock to taste now if desired.   (We don't use chicken stock and the flavor is very good).

In the meanwhile prepare egg by gently whisking in a bowl.  Turn off heat for the soup.  Immediately, very slowly pour the beaten egg into the soup, stirring gently the whole time.  You should see the egg "flower" in the still hot soup.  Serve hot or cold.



  1. This looks wonderful! I have to ask, how long does the pickled mustard keep in the fridge? I'm assuming you don't use all of it, so does it keep well?

  2. Hi Laura - The pickled mustard is preserved in salt already so it keeps really well in the fridge for at least a couple of months. ~ellen

  3. Does the pickled mustard make the soup spicy?

    1. Nope, does not make the soup spicy. It's there for the flavoring and it does look quite red but pickled mustard is not spicy. ~ellen