I researched the most popular Chinese dishes and while wontons, dumplings, spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, fried rice, lo mein and General Tso’s Chicken appeared on lists, there is one dish that is served throughout all of China that I couldn’t find on any: eggs and tomatoes.
“It must be on the table,” said my host Joanna Feng. “Every family loves this, but it’s not served in restaurants.”
I’m often asked how I find people for my Cultural Cook-up articles. Well, part of it is that I’ve lived in Westbury for a long time and have gotten to know the community. And often I have help from people I know, such as my husband, who is a professor at Hofstra University. Last semester he was chatting with one of his students, Joanna Feng, who mentioned there was a lot of traffic coming from home. Where do you live, he asked, and when she replied Westbury, he quickly recruited her for an article.
Feng and her boyfriend Jason, both in their mid-20s, are from China, she from Beijing and he from Fu Qing in southern China. They moved to Westbury two years ago. She chose this community because of the proximity to Hofstra and he because of the nearness of the Long Island Rail Road, which takes him to his work as a programmer in Fresh Meadows.
Most Chinese students take American names to make it easier for people here to pronounce. Feng, whose Chinese name is Yue Feng, says her father chose her name because of the meaning of “peace and quiet.” Jason, named Xing Xue, originally chose Jackson after his idol, Michael Jackson, but when a professor told him it was a last name he changed it to Jason. “I shouldn’t have changed it,” he said.
The couple met four years ago at a karaoke party but now say their partying days are behind them. “I used to party like a monster,” she said. They divided Chinese students studying in America into four categories: those who study all the time; those who study and work to earn money for their education (Jason); those who study and also party (Feng); and those who party and don’t study.
At Hofstra, Feng took an interest in the life of the university and became the first Chinese student in student government. “I want to know how Americans do government,” she says. She is a person who likes to take on challenges—“once you have success you have the confidence to face other challenges.” Having received her MBA in IT in June, she is now looking for a job in an investment company. Her dream is to become a professor.
The couple made four dishes—two simple preparations, that included the delicious eggs and tomatoes, and two that were more complex. Jason made the baby bok choy with garlic and soy because that’s the only dish he knows how to make. The other three were prepared by Feng. Feeling the need for something spicy, there was a hot-pot-like creation with two types of sausage, white fish meatballs, beef meatballs and fried tofu. The fourth dish was pork with bone, with, she says, a complicated sauce that takes one and one half hours to cook—a long cooking time for a Chinese dish. “All in my family like it,” she said, “and it’s a dish we would make when friends come.”
Chinese Tomato and Egg Stir Fry
2 middle size tomatoes (cut into
Small pinch of salt (for egg liquid)
1/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1. In a small bowl, crack the eggs and add a small pinch of salt and pepper.
2. Whisk until there is a small layer of fine bubbles and the mixture becomes slightly white.
3. Cut tomato in halves and remove the core and then further cut into small wedges.
4. Heat up oil in wok until really hot, stir egg mixture in. Wait for seconds until the egg liquid firms. Turn off the fire immediately and then break the egg into small pieces. Transfer the egg out and leave the oil in. Add tomato wedges, fry until juicy. Return egg pieces, add salt. Do a quick stir fry to combine well. Serve immediately.