Cantonese Tomato Beef With Egg

March 22, 2014

in Cook What You Like, Main Dishes

Cantonese Tomato Beef Egg

The cool thing about the Chinese language is that they have names for relatives so you know who belongs on which side of the family.  This way, there’s no question which family member they’re talking about.  In the Cantonese dialect, “Poh” is maternal grandmother and “Ma” is paternal grandmother; both require an “Ah” preceding (such as “Ah-Poh”).  If you address your paternal grandmother without the “Ah”, you probably just called her a horse.  You may be washing the dinner dishes, by yourself, for most of the night.

My niece Janelle grew up on her late maternal grandma’s Cantonese cooking, and was longing for her Poh-Poh’s Tomato Beef with Egg served atop a small hill of steamed rice.  “I’ll check with my mom,” I offered.  It’s been awhile since Mom’s made this for her family.

When I asked Mom for the recipe, she looks straight at me and replies, “It’s so easy to cook.  No one needs a recipe to make it.”

Ok, Mom. Spill the goods.

Mom’s unwritten recipes don’t include quantities or cooking times as she, along with cooks in her generation cook with their eyes.  Our two-minute conversation (a blend of Cantonese and American) goes something like this:

“Slice up beef or pork, season with salt and pepper, some cornstarch, and mix together.”

I ask, “what kind of beef?  Flank steak?”

“Doesn’t have to be flank steak, can be any cut that’s tender. Sliced it thin.”

Tomato Beef Egg Ingredients

“Saute it in hot oil, cooking the beef to about 80%.  Remove from pan.  Stream more oil into the sauté pan, add the smashed cloves of garlic (don’t forget the garlic) and a couple slices of fresh ginger and cook in the oil a little to release the aromatics, then add the tomatoes.  If you like, you can add some yellow onion.  When tomatoes are soft add ketchup and a little sugar for the tomatoes, pour the beef in, stir around, make a well in the middle and add egg.”

I ask, “scramble the eggs first?”

“You can.  Serve it over rice.”

I ask, “how much sugar?”

“If you like it a little sweeter, add more sugar.  Some people like it a little saltier so finish with a few drops of soy sauce.  For additional richness, drizzle with sesame seed oil.  You’ll know.  Serve it over rice. ”

Tomato Beef Egg FinishingSo, now you’ll know.

Recipe: Cantonese Tomato Beef  With Egg

Too many ripe tomatoes?  This is a fast and delicious way to make good use of them.  Beef is traditional; pork or chicken can be used interchangeably; or skip the meat and make this vegetarian.  Add more eggs to suit your taste.


  • 1/2 lb. lean beef (flank steak, etc.)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • splash of Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry, (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons cooking oil (canola, vegetable, peanut), divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed with side of  French chef knife or cleaver and rough chop
  • 2 thin slices ginger
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes, about 2 medium sized, cut each tomato into 6-8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar plus more to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato ketchup
  • 2 large eggs, scrambled
  • soy sauce, sesame seed oil, sliced green onions to taste


1.  Thinly slice beef 1/4 inch thick across the grain into approximate 1 inch by 2 inch pieces.  In a small bowl, generously season sliced beef with salt and pepper, sprinkle on cornstarch, add cooking wine if using; mix well.  In a large frying or sauté pan, heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium high heat until simmering. Sauté beef until it’s 80% done.  Place sauteed beef into a clean bowl and set aside.

2.  Into the same pan (unwashed), add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and heat over medium high heat until oil shimmers.  Add smashed garlic and ginger coins; sauté for 15-20 seconds.  Add sliced yellow onion if using and cook until the ends of the onions slices are limp.  Stir in cut tomatoes, sprinkle with sugar and add ketchup, and cook until tomatoes start to break down. Heat may need to be increased as tomatoes release their liquid.  Incorporate any brown bits at the bottom of the skillet into the mixture.  Spread out mixture in pan and make a shallow well in the middle.  Gently pour on scrambled eggs, let cook for about 15 seconds and then gently stir eggs to mix.

3.  When the eggs are cooked, taste and make adjustments adding more sugar or soy sauce if needed.  If desired, drizzle with a teaspoon of sesame seed oil; mix in.  Garnish with sliced green onions.

Makes 3-4 servings.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

D. Jean Sloan March 16, 2017 at 11:04 AM

I have tried a dish like this, except it was more stew like and was served over a poached egg. It was really good.


Gin Yang March 16, 2017 at 9:38 PM

As a stew – yum! Ssomething about the combination of flavors that’s so delicious, isn’t there?


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