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 version made with tofu comes pretty close to the look and taste of the real thing, no animal products required.
(Btw, my boyfriend insists on calling it fanqie jidan aka “tomato egg” which is another name for this dish.)
History & Origins
Although fanqie chaodan 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!
Vegan Tomato “Egg” Stir Fry (番茄炒豆腐)
- 1/4 cup cooking oil 50g
- 1 lb tomatoes, chopped 450g; can sub with canned diced tomatoes
- 12–16 oz tofu 350–450 g; see
- 1 tbsp shaoxing wine 15g *can sub with mirin, sake, or dry sherry
- 1/4 tsp fine salt or 1/2 tsp kosher salt 2g
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp turmeric see
- 1 tsp kala namak aka black salt
- 1 tsp sugar *optional
- 2 scallions diced
- Pat tofu dry.
- Set a wok on high heat. Crumble tofu into the empty wok. Once all the tofu has been added, pour in the oil. (We add the oil after the tofu because this reduces splattering.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until around half of the tofu crumbles have turned golden brown.
- Add the tomatoes, followed by shaoxing wine, salt, pepper, and turmeric. 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 the sugar.
- Stir in the scallions and kala namak, and serve.
- Any kind of tofu that’s medium or firmer will work for this recipe, but the softer the tofu, the higher the water content, the longer it will take to cook. Heck, I’ve even used soft tofu for this recipe, which works, but doesn’t really get brown (it starts sticking like crazy to the bottom of the wok before it has a chance to brown). I like getting a nice golden crust on some of my tofu pieces, so I prefer extra-firm tofu.
- Turmeric is here to add that eggy colour. Please do not add more than 1/4 tsp or it will impact the taste of the final dish. We are not here to make turmeric-flavoured tofu. Really.
More Vegan Scramble Recipes
Nutrition, Cost, and Emissions Information
Each side of vegan fanqie chaodan is 268 cal, costs $0.78, and releases 577 gCO2e of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Calculation for full recipe as written (3 servings):
Feel free to contact me for sources on the nutritional and carbon emissions information presented here. Note that I am not a nutritionist and guidelines on this page are provided for informational purposes only.