The Tale of Tomatoes and Eggs Across Cultures
From Chinese broths to Mediterranean delicacies, the revered union of tomatoes and eggs spans many cultures. The Middle East offers the fragrant Shakshuka, Southern Italy introduces the fiery “Eggs in Purgatory,” and China boasts its comforting tomato egg soup. Pondering the allure of a hot soup in summer’s zenith? Allow me to guide you through this tantalizing voyage.
Memories from Shanghai: A Soup for Every Summer
Many would balk at the idea of a warm soup during the scorching summer months. Yet, reminiscing about the sweltering Shanghai summers of my youth, the practice begins to make perfect sense. In the era before air conditioners, Shanghai presented summers filled with heat and oppressive humidity. Relief was found in simple pleasures like a refreshing red bean ice pop, a cup of cold mung bean soup, or a slice of juicy melon.
Amidst the city’s tight alleys and clustered buildings, greenery was scarce. The evening routine included drenching the building walls with water to dissipate the day’s accumulated heat. Outdoor dining was the norm, with children even sleeping al fresco. And on every table, there were soups: from the beloved tomato egg drop soup to varieties with potatoes and Chinese preserved mustard greens. Crafted in the late mornings, these soups cooled down to be consumed at lunch or dinner, providing necessary hydration and nutrition in a climate that sapped appetites.
Temperature Tidbits: Serving it Just Right
Back in the day, this nourishing soup was enjoyed at room temperature. Fast forward to the modern comforts of air conditioning, and I often relish it warm. Yet, its versatility means you can serve it just as you prefer. A blend of rich chicken stock, tangy tomatoes, and smooth egg, this soup captures the essence of simplicity. Brighten it up with scallions and cilantro, and you’ve got a delightful dish that elevates any meal setting.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 10 ounces tomatoes (either 1 large or 2 small, diced)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cups water (or additional chicken stock)
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- salt (adjusted to your preference)
- 1 egg (lightly whisked)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (blended with 2 tablespoons/30ml water)
- 1 scallion (minced)
- 2 tablespoons cilantro (finely chopped, optional)
- In a suitable pot or wok set on medium-low heat, warm the oil. Incorporate the diced tomatoes, sautéing for around 5 minutes until they become tender and begin to meld.
- Introduce the chicken stock, water, soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, and salt, adjusting for your taste. Let the mixture come to a gentle boil, then reduce the flame, letting it simmer covered.
- In the meantime, have the whisked egg and cornstarch mixture ready on the side.
- To achieve the egg drop effect, swirl the soup gently with a ladle. While maintaining this motion, seamlessly blend in the cornstarch mixture. Following this, introduce the egg, pouring steadily into the whirlpool’s center.
- Dish out the soup as per your preference in temperature, enhancing its presentation with scallions and optional cilantro.
Through its warmth and flavors, this soup transcends seasons, reminding us of shared moments, cultural bridges, and the beauty of simple ingredients. Whether it’s a memory of balmy nights in Shanghai or just the comfort of a family meal, every spoonful is a tribute to enduring traditions.