A dish gets personal
Sometimes I think that the way I learned how to cook tomatoes and eggs was the worst. So it’s probably good if you already have your own recipe for this common, Chinese stir-fried dish — if we can even call them recipes, with so few ingredients and such simple technique.
Plus, the dish is purely personal. My mom’s version doesn’t waver, always soft spoonfuls where crimson and golden tendrils become one. My grandmother’s was firmer, red slivers nestled among yellow curds, surprising until I remember her gentle nature belied strong beliefs.
I must have drawn on this matriarchal lineage when I learned how to make this dish my own, not at home with their guiding hands, but on the fiery wok line at my aunt and uncle’s now-closed restaurant. I’m sure it was hot, but the deafening exhaust fan overhead also always made it feel like cooking in the eye of a tropical storm. The ingredients, while carefully prepped into bite-size pieces by a great-aunt who worked in back, were far from farm-to-table.
The way they came together, with scorching speed and just the way I wanted, changed all the time.
Right now, in the harvest season, it’s all about the tomatoes, the wildest heirloom colors, and if they’re literally bursting with ripeness, all the better. If you’re lucky enough to grow your own, you know they’re the best. I and my two black thumbs will go to the farmers markets to rescue the unlovely ones to reach their full potential.