Why It Works
- Thickening broth with a large amount of cornstarch slurry before drizzling in the eggs allows the eggs to form tender, ribbon-like curds that give the dish a custardy texture.
- Made with mostly pantry ingredients (and a few fresh aromatics), this meal comes together in less time than it takes to cook a bowl of rice.
Depending on how you cook them, Western-style scrambled eggs can range from firm and fluffy to soft and creamy or moist and sauce-like. Working on the scrambled egg section of my book, The Wok, made me realize that egg dishes cooked in a wok are, if anything, even more diverse than their Western counterparts.
In their softest, most extreme form, you’ll find eggs scrambled into dishes like Slippery Egg with Beef, in which strips of stir-fried beef are served in a sauce that’s somewhere between a soup and a custard, bound with ribbons of silky poached egg. At the other end of the spectrum are puffy, browned scrambled egg dishes like the deep-fried Thai omelet khai jiao or classic egg foo young.
This particular recipe—silken eggs with tofu and peas—is a dish that I’ve not seen in other cookbooks, but have occasionally seen on menus under various names. My daughter is a huge fan of eggs, tofu, and frozen peas, and my kitchen almost always. has those ingredients, which, combined with a fridge-to-bowl cook time of around seven minutes, makes this an easy win for a weeknight dinner when I’m short on ideas and time. (Sometimes I’ll even pair it with those microwavable bowls of pre-cooked rice when I don’t want to bother turning on the rice cooker).
With no existing recipes to work from, my version is one that has just organically evolved over time, adapted from my experiences making other, similar eggs-suspended-in-thickened-broth dishes, such as shrimp with lobster sauce—a Cantonese-American dish developed in the Northeastern United States and Toronto (with not a bit of lobster to be found)—and classic egg drop soup.
I start the dish with a very simple stir-fry of ginger, scallions, and garlic, cooked very briefly in a hot wok to bring out their flavor, which I then immediately douse with Shaoxing wine (a dry sherry, sake, or even a dry vermouth or white wine would work fine, as would completely omitting the alcohol if you prefer) and stock (store-bought chicken stock is good, but I also really enjoy making this dish with dashi). The frozen peas go in along with the chicken stock. I don’t ever like to cook frozen peas for more than a few minutes, so that might give you a clue about how fast this recipe really is.
Once the stock and peas are in, I add a cornstarch slurry—a surprisingly large amount—and cubes of silken tofu. The goal here is not to lightly thicken the sauce, but to turn it almost into a custard sauce, thick enough to coat a spoon. This is part of the key to getting the eggs to stay silky and tender as they cook, and to keep the eggs evenly distributed throughout the sauce instead of floating to the top.
The most difficult part of this recipe (and none of it is difficult) is stirring the simmering wok without breaking up the tender tofu too much. Aim for a gentle folding motion with a wide spatula (wood is better than sharp-edged metal), as opposed to vigorous stirring or shaking.
After the broth has simmered and I’ve seasoned it to taste with salt and pepper, I drizzle in the eggs, which I’ve beaten with a bit of extra cornstarch slurry (the starch interferes with egg proteins binding, which makes the scrambled curds more tender) and seasoned with salt and white pepper. Here you have a little control over the finished dish. The faster you drizzle the eggs into the sauce, the more vigorously they’ll mix, and the smaller the curds will become. Drizzle them in slowly and you end up with wider ribbons (I typically prefer wider ribbons). When and how vigorously you decide to stir them will also affect their texture and appearance—the sooner and rougher you stir them, the more they’ll break up.
If you’ve ever made egg drop soup, you should be familiar with the process (and, if you haven’t, there will be an updated version of my recipe in the book). There's a bit of a learning curve for getting the eggs exactly they way you like them, but thankfully the dish is still silky, comforting, and delicious no matter how you cook them.
I typically season the dish with more salt, white pepper, and MSG just before serving it, but of course you can feel free to omit any of the seasonings if you wish. You can eat the eggs and tofu straight out of bowls with a scattering of cilantro and scallions (and a drizzle of chile oil, if you like), or serve them on top of a bed of rice to soak up excess sauce.
- 3 tablespoons (28g) cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups (355ml) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, dashi, or water, divided
- 4 large eggs
- Kosher salt and ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) peanut, rice bran, or other neutral oil, plus more for greasing wok
- 2 coin-sized slices fresh ginger
- 2 scallions, chopped into 1/4-inch segments, greens reserved separately
- 2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons; 10g)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) Shaoxing wine, dry sherry, or sake
- 1/2 cup thawed frozen peas (optional)
- One 12-ounce block firm silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see note)
- Salt, to taste
- White pepper, to taste
- MSG, to taste (optional)
- Small handful roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
- Steamed rice, for serving
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with 1/4 cup (60ml) of the stock, stirring to dissolve the starch. Reserve the remaining stock.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch slurry with the eggs and a pinch of salt and white pepper.
Using a paper towel, rub a thin film of oil into a wok and set it over high heat until smoking. Add the 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat. Add the ginger and let it sizzle for 10 seconds. Immediately add the scallion whites and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add the wine and cook, swirling as it sizzles, for a few seconds, then add the reserved chicken stock and peas. Stir the cornstarch slurry to redistribute, then stir it into the stock. Add the tofu and stir in very gently to avoid breaking it. Bring to a simmer, stirring gently, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 45 seconds. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt, white pepper, and MSG (if using).
Drizzle the egg mixture into the sauce, then very slowly stir it with a ladle or wok spatula until the eggs form tender ribbons, about 30 seconds, being careful not to break the tofu pieces. Sprinkle with the reserved scallion greens and chopped cilantro (if using). Divide the mixture evenly over bowls of steamed rice and serve immediately.
If you can’t find firm silken tofu, soft tofu will work as well.