Simmer Down: How to Make Tomato and Egg Noodle Soup
Make Chef Lucas Sin’s comforting recipe that’s a wintery take on the classic Chinese stir-fry.
The most consistently-ordered dish at Chinese fast-casual chain Junzi Kitchen is the tomato egg meatball. Served in a bowl, the dish features wavy, wide-cut, and deeply satisfying knife noodles studded with impossibly fluffy lion's head meatballs (Shanghai-style, soy-braised pork meatballs), bright pickled veggies, and fresh herbs. But the hero is undoubtedly the tomato and egg sauce; a housemade special that blesses everything it coats with rich, savory superpowers.
It’s just one iteration of the Chinese staple tomato and egg (番茄雞蛋), which Lucas Sin, the chef at Junzi, loves. The riff Sin remembers eating as a kid in Hong Kong was stir-fried and served with a drizzle of sesame oil over steaming rice. But don’t go calling his version “the version”—the precise historical story of tomato and egg is actually its lack thereof. “It’s one of those ubiquitous homestyle Chinese meals that you’ll find in every single household,” Sin explains. The dish is simple, but because of its status as a national icon, there are more variations on tomato and egg than there are regions in China. “You can eat it anywhere in the country and learn something about the people and the way they cook,” says Sin, who has spent his career exploring the millennia-old cuisine.
At 16, the chef opened his first restaurant in an abandoned newspaper factory in Hong Kong; it was a private, student-run kitchen serving an elaborate tasting menu of local dishes. This same spirit of “recklessness and revelry” followed him to college at Yale, where he hosted pop-up restaurants in his dorm room, and then through kitchen experiences from Tokyo to Seattle, and eventually from New Haven to New York, where he joined the Junzi co-founders in 2015 and last year launched the Chinese-American eatery, Nice Day.
Throughout the pandemic, Sin’s been focussed on honing the homestyle techniques and dishes like tomato and egg, that he always “took for granted.” While it’s a “universally comforting” dish, and there are many ways to prepare it year-round, during the winter months Sin prefers tomato and egg as a warming noodle soup. He first tried this brothy version in Northern China—where the main carbs are wheat-based dishes like noodles and doughs instead of rice—at a snowy Holiday Inn Express in Liaoning province. Breakfast was included, and one of the options at the noodle station was a “really silky, beautiful egg and super savory tomato broth accented with dried shrimp and cilantro,” Sin remembers. “It was outstanding.” Having grown up in Hong Kong, this kind of Chinese cooking was eye-opening for Sin. “It was such a different flavor profile to anything I’d tried.”
Chinese cooking is famous for pairings; just look at any dumpling menu and you’ll see time-tested combinations like chicken and mushroom or pork and leek. And for good reason: “The sort of philosophical or scientific side of things is that with Chinese cooking, in the home context especially, people are really obsessed with Yin Yang, or two ingredients that come together to be more than the sum of their parts,” Sin says, explaining how some amino acids have “multiplicative savory properties” when married with others. “Tomato and egg is a great example of this,” he says, “because there’s something about the umami notes in eggs and the umami notes in tomatoes that has a sort of magical synergy.”
The best part is, you don’t have to order from Junzi Kitchen to experience that synergy (though of course, we recommend you do!). If you want to make your own tomato and egg noodle soup at home, here’s where to start.
Soft-scrambled eggs might be popular across the social media sphere, but this dish calls for the opposite. “You’re cooking the shit out of those eggs because you want a lot of flavor,” Sin says. (Imagine a broth that tastes a bit like the browned, crispy edges of a sunny-side-up.) The eggs are cooked in a lot of oil at a very high heat, “because you need the oil to emulsify with the water,” Sin explains. They pop and fizz in the wok for a while before the tomatoes go in, and everything is covered in hot broth, and a pinch of sugar, salt, and white pepper. At the end of the day, you should end up with “this really opaque broth” that’s ripe for ladling over cooked noodles and topping with scallions and chili oil.
Tomato and egg noodle soup might be the easiest (and most affordable!) route to savory, velvety comfort food you’ll find anywhere on the internet, and that’s exactly the point. By sharing accessible-but-delicious recipes like this, Sin’s real hope is “for people to realize that Chinese food is perhaps more interesting than they thought,” he says. “I want people to learn techniques and mindsets from Chinese food and be able to apply them to anything they’re cooking; recipes don’t have to be these sacred, untouchable things.”
Tomato and Egg Noodle Soup Recipe
Makes enough to serve 2
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 6 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
- 2 portions rice or flour noodles
- White pepper powder
- Neutral oil (like canola or grapeseed)
- MSG or chicken powder (optional)
- Chili oil (optional)
1. Cook noodles in water according to package instructions. Divide into two bowls.
2. In a pot, heat stock until boiling.
3. In a second pot, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot until smoking.
4. Add the eggs, stirring well with a spatula or cooking chopsticks until just set, about 15 seconds. Flip and cook for an additional 5 seconds so both sides are set but still runny inside.
5. Add tomatoes and scallions and mix. Pour boiling hot stock over the tomato and eggs. Boil mixture vigorously for 10-15 minutes until the soup is emulsified (opaque-looking).
6. Season liberally with salt, sugar, white pepper, and MSG or chicken powder (optional).
7. Pour the tomato and egg soup over the cooked noodles. Finish with extra sliced scallions and a drizzle of chili oil.