I was reading about spring soups this week, and when I saw an image of this egg drop soup with ginger, chiles and spring peas, I thought it looked pretty awesome. But I didn’t have any ginger, chiles or spring peas, nor did I have the chicken broth and radishes that are also included in the recipe. No matter-those were just minor details. I was suddenly in the mood for egg drop soup, so I made some with what I had on hand.
This is a great dish that can be made on a moment’s notice in a matter of minutes. It is a substantial and comforting soup that provides protein without a lot of fat, and it is fun to cook-pouring the beaten eggs into the swirling broth makes such pretty patterns in the pot! It also doesn’t require a recipe, as you can make just one serving or much more, using some basic proportions and your own embellishments.
Variations on egg drop soup go by many names, depending on where you are in the world. It is known as egg flower soup in China, stracciatella in Italy, le tourin in France and avgolemono in Greece. A version in Austria (eierflockensuppe) is made by mixing the egg with flour so that it forms little dumplings when poured into the broth.
There are really only two requirements for egg drop soup: a flavorful liquid and an egg. The liquid is usually chicken broth or stock, but you can also try beef or vegetable stock (if you make some from scraps, you’re essentially conjuring this soup from little more than an egg and water!). Figure on somewhere around a cup or two of stock and one egg per serving of soup. The rest you can just fill in using whatever you can dig out of your refrigerator, find in the pantry or have growing out in the yard.
Of course, the better your ingredients, the more satisfying your results will be. Use the best stock and eggs you can find. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Some other flavors and textures you might want to add at this point are soy sauce, ginger, fish sauce, garlic, sliced chilies, grated cheese, bread crumbs, farina, asparagus, snow peas, snap peas, greens, bean sprouts, frozen peas or corn, mushrooms, meat, tofu, miso, lemongrass, shredded carrots or spices (such as nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and bay leaf).
If you want pasta or rice in your soup and it needs time to simmer, add it at this point so that it can cook to the proper texture. You want the eggs to be one of the last ingredients you add to the soup, but you might want to hold off adding anything to the pot that is very tender (like fresh spinach or chives) until the broth is fully heated and the starches properly softened.
Some recipes call for a bit of cornstarch (up to a tablespoon per quart of liquid) to firm up the broth, but they also warn not to add it too soon or it won’t hold its thickness. Regardless, if you use it, combine the cornstarch with an equal amount of broth or water before adding it to the pot so that it doesn’t get lumpy.
While the broth mixture is heating up, beat one egg for each serving. Some recipes out there call for whole eggs, and others don’t use all the yolks. That’s entirely up to your tastes and nutritional needs. I tend to make small batches of this soup, as it’s best when fresh, so I usually use just an egg or two anyway.
Turn the heat under the pot to low, mix the broth lightly, and slowly pour the beaten eggs into the soup while still stirring. Keep swirling until the egg tendrils set into curds, about two or three minutes. While the soup finishes cooking, you can taste and add last-minute flavors such as salt, sesame oil, vinegar or a splash of lemon juice.
Once it’s all set, scoop the soup into bowls and garnish with some scallions, cilantro, fresh chives, thinly sliced radishes, a splash of hot sauce and/or Parmesan cheese. Season with freshly ground pepper and serve. Also, check your time, since it’s likely that you went from start to soup in as little as 15 minutes. Now that’s fast food!
Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.