I grew up eating my mom’s fanqie chaodan (番茄炒蛋), “tomato scrambled eggs,” a typical dish of Chinese home cooking. This Vegan Tomato Egg Stir Fry made with tofu comes pretty close to the look and taste of the real thing, no animal products required.
History & Origins
Although fanqie chaodan (sometimes called fanqie jidan) is pretty ubiquitous in Chinese households, tomatoes have a pretty recent history in China.
When they were introduced in the 1600s, Chinese people saw them as an “inedible” foreign curiosity. In fact, the tomato has two Chinese names, both of which refer to the its outsider status:
- 番茄 (fanqie) = literally translates to “foreign eggplant”
- 西红柿 (xihongshi) = means “red western persimmon”
Cooking eggs together with tomatoes only began in the early 1900s as the Western influence on food made its way into Chinese cities. It started as a restaurant dish that has evolved into a popular home-style recipe. So I guess you could say fanqie chaodan is a great example of fusion food!
A Note on Kala Namak
Kala namak (aka black salt) is traditionally used in South Asian cooking to flavour both sweet and salty snacks. It’s also used in many vegan “egg” recipes, like this one, for its sulfurous smell. The smell comes from firing rock salt, in which naturally-occurring sulfur-containing compounds in the salt undergo chemical reaction into smelly compounds that give this spice its rotten egg odour. (I know, I just made it sound reaaal appetizing. But seriously, it’s the magic ingredient if you want your tofu to actually taste like eggs.)
Despite its name, ground kala namak is more purple/pink than black. Also, its smell dissipates when exposed to heat, which is why it’s important to add it at the end of cooking or else you’ll be losing all the flavour. If you don’t have kala namak, you’ll have to add more regular salt to make up for the lack of saltiness.
You can find kala namak at your local Indian or South Asian grocery. Even big box stores like Superstore are beginning to carry it now!
More Vegan Tofu Recipes
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Vegan Chinese Tomato “Egg” Stir Fry
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- Wok or large saucepan
- Large spatula or wooden spoon
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 lb fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1 block firm or extra-firm tofu around 12 to 16 oz; see Note 1
- 1 tbsp shaoxing wine *can sub with mirin, sake, or dry sherry
- ¼ tsp fine salt or 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ⅛ tsp turmeric see Note 2
- 1 tsp kala namak aka black salt *optional; sub with 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp sugar *optional
- 2 scallions, diced
- Set a wok on high heat and pour in the oil. While the oil is still heating up, crumble in the tofu, followed by the chopped tomatoes, Shaoxing wine, salt, black pepper, and turmeric.
- Give everything a stir, then turn heat down to medium-low and cover with the lid half ajar.
- Check on the wok and give it a stir every five minutes or so, to dislodge any bits stuck to the bottom. Simmer until the tomatoes are broken down and the sauce is thick enough for your liking (15 minutes for me). If the wok starts to dry out before the tomatoes are soft enough, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.
- Turn off the heat. Taste a spoonful to check for seasoning. If it's too acidic for your liking, add 1 tsp of sugar.
- Stir in 1 tsp kala namak, sprinkled over diced scallions, and serve.
- Any kind of tofu that’s medium or firmer will work for this recipe. Heck, I’ve even used soft tofu for this recipe, which works, but tends to break up into too-small pieces and doesn’t have the right mouthfeel.
- Turmeric is here to add that eggy colour. Literally just a pinch is enough; 1/8 tsp is the upper limit. Don’t add any more than that or it will impact the taste of the final dish.