In North America, hot and sour soup, wonton soup and egg drop soup are often found on Chinese restaurant menus. I’ve already shared recipes for the first two, so today I thought it was time that egg drop soup was the one being simmered.
In some Chinese cookbooks, egg drop soup is sometimes called egg soup. It’s also sometimes given the more fanciful sounding name egg-flower soup, because of the way the egg added to it wispily forms as it cooks.
Egg drop soup is not complicated to make. In the soup’s simplest form, beaten egg is gently stirred into a nicely seasoned chicken stock. Other ingredients, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, ginger, green onions and sesame oil, also end up in some versions of it, with mine including the latter four ingredients.
You can use good quality store-bought chicken stock to make the soup, or do what I did and buy some chicken bones and make your own stock for it (see recipe below). You can buy chicken bones for soup stock at some grocery stores and at butcher shops.
My recipe for egg drop soup yields two palate-pleasing servings you can enjoy for a light lunch or serve before a Chinese-style dinner. The recipe could be doubled or further expanded if serving a larger group.
Egg Drop Soup
Here’s a homemade version of the popular Chinese restaurant soup rich with strands of cooked egg, fresh ginger, mushrooms and green onions.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: about 10 minutes
Makes: two servings
1 large egg
• small drop sesame oil
• pinch ground turmeric (optional)
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 large shiitake mushrooms, tough stems removed, caps cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 Tbsp thinly sliced green onions
1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 1/4 cups store-bought chicken stock or homemade Chinese-style chicken stock (see recipe below)
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp chicken stock
• salt and ground white pepper, to taste
• Asian-style hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha, to taste (optional)
Place the egg, sesame oil and turmeric, if using, in a bowl and beat until well blended. Set egg aside for now.
Place vegetable oil in a small pot (my pot was six-inches wide and two and half-inches tall) and set over medium, medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the mushrooms and cook and stir until tender, about three to four minutes. Mix in the green onion and ginger and cook 30 seconds more.
Pour in the 2 1/4 cups stock and soy sauce into pot and bring to a gently simmer. Mix in the cornstarch/stock mixture, return to a simmer for 30 seconds, until soup is very lightly thickened by the cornstarch.
Taste and season the soup with salt and pepper. Slowly pour the beaten egg mixture into the soup, gently stirring in a circular motion to create thin strands of cooked egg in it. Divide the soup between two soup bowls and, if desired, serve with the hot chili sauce, for adding to the soup at the table.
Chinese-style Chicken Stock
This method for making chicken stock is one I adapted from a recipe in Martin Yan’s great book, Chinatown Cooking. It will yield the stock you need for the egg drop soup recipe, plus some extra stock you can freeze for another time.
Cooking time: three hours 10 minutes
Makes: seven to eight cups
2 3/4 to 3 pounds (1.25 to 1.36 kilograms) chicken bones
16 cups cold water
3 green onions, cut, widthwise, into 3-inch pieces
6 (1/4-inch) thick slices fresh ginger
• pinch ground white pepper
Set chicken bones in a tall pot (my pot was eight-inches wide and seven-inches tall). Rinse bones well with cold water, and then drain well. Now pour the 16 cups of water into the pot. Set over medium, medium-high heat and bring to a very gentle simmer (small bubbles should break on the surface). Lower heat as needed to maintain that gentle simmer. Simmer stock, uncovered, 90 minutes.
Add green onions, ginger and white pepper to the stock, return to a gentle simmer, and simmer 90 minutes more.
Strain stock and you can use it now. Or, if time allows, cool it to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight. Remove any solidified fat on the stock and it’s ready to use and/or freeze for another time.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.