One of the best-known and most widely enjoyed Chinese dishes, a simple and flavorful egg drop soup can be upgraded in a multitude of ways.
The use of eggs as both a thickening agent and as a protein source in soups spans continents and goes back to the dawn of animal domestication. China’s classic dan hua tang (literally, “egg flower soup”) is both subtle and solid, and varies widely across that nation’s geographic regions. Recipes from the south thicken the stock using cornstarch whereas northern versions prefer a thinner, more watery base.
At its simplest, the soup consists only of chicken stock and a beaten egg drizzled in after cooking for that curdled “flower” effect. However, the depth of flavor can be improved with a few modest additions, elements well-known in the Asian kitchen. Of course, further modifications are near limitless with various recipes calling for tomato, corn, peas, spinach, tofu and even seafood—but remember, the soft egg flavor should remain the star.
There is a technique to the drizzle of the beaten egg to finish for the desired effect. As many recipes advise, a slow pour into rapidly moving soup yields finer strands of threaded egg but a quick dump followed by a gentle stir will produce more billowy strands reminiscent of the eponymous flower.
Serve as an appetizer with crispy fried wonton strips and a drop of sesame oil, or even chile oil.
Egg Drop Soup
4 c chicken stock
1 green onion
½-in piece of ginger (crushed)
1 T cornstarch
1 t soy sauce
1 Bring the stock to a low simmer over medium heat. Whisk in the cornstarch until incorporated.
2 Add the soy sauce, ginger and a very light pinch of pepper. Simmer, covered for 10-15 min.
3 In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until uniform. Finely chop the onion.
4 Turn off the heat and remove the ginger. Add the onion and drizzle in the beaten eggs, stirring gently to form ribbons as they curdle.