Egg Drop Soup, Eight Ways

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 15 to 30 minutes, depending on variation

The idea of scrambling eggs into a pot of simmering liquid is not unique to Chinese restaurants or even to China. In fact, my starting point is a Colombian dish, enriched with milk and seasoned with cilantro. But if you explore the variations, youв will see how global the notion is and how valuable: Whenever you do it, you transform a humble soup into a more substantial first course or a light meal in a bowl.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 quart vegetable stock or water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups milk

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 scallions, sliced

01 Put the oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add the stock along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the milk and heat until it boils, then lower the heat so that the soup continues bubbling, but not furiously.

02 Add the eggs to the soup in a steady stream, stirring constantly. You want the eggs to scramble, not just thicken the soup, but you don’t want them to clump, so keep stirring until eggs are cooked, just a couple of minutes.

03 Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve, garnished with cilantro and scallions.

Variations

Egg Drop Soup, Mexican Style. With cheese and chile: Add 1 teaspoon ancho or other mild chili powder to the garlic. Delete the milk and increase the quantity of stock to 6 cups. Stir 1/2 cup of crumbled queso fresco or grated cheddar or Jack cheese into the beaten eggs.

Egg Drop Soup, Italian Style. Parmesan makes this superb: After cooking the garlic, add 1/2 cup chopped tomato (canned is fine) to the pan and heat through. Delete the milk and increase the quantity of stock to 6 cups. Stir 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese into the beaten eggs. Substitute basil or parsley leaves for the cilantro; delete the scallions.

Egg Drop Soup with Spinach. More substantial: Increase the olive oil to 2 tablespoons. After cooking the garlic, add 1 pound chopped cooked spinach. Stir 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese into the beaten eggs. Delete the cilantro and scallions. Delete the milk and increase the quantity of stock to 6 cups. Garnish with additional cheese if you like.

Egg Drop Soup with Sea Greens. A lovely Japanese soup, especially with poached egg (see below), or like this: Replace the olive oil with peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, and substitute 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger for the garlic. Delete the milk and instead add 6 cups of dashi to the pan. Toast 2 sheets of nori and slice into thin 1-inch ribbons. Stir into beaten eggs and proceed with the recipe; delete the cilantro.

Curry Egg Drop Soup. Some guts here: Use neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or butter instead of olive oil and increase it to 2 tablespoons. Add 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger and 2 tablespoons of any curry powder to the garlic. Replace the milk with coconut milk, either made from scratch or canned (use 1 can, slightly less than 2 cups, with a little water). Proceed with the recipe.

Poached Egg Soup. A little more work, but so wonderful: Choose any of the variations. Bring the soup to the bubbling point. Instead of scrambling eggs, carefully crack 4 eggs, one at a time, into a small saucer or bowl and slip each into the soup without breaking the yolk. Don’t stir. Cover the pan and cook the eggs until the whites are set. Carefully scoop the poached eggs into bowls and gently ladle in the soup. Top with garnishes—and cheese if you’re using it—and serve.

8 More Ideas for Egg Drop Soup

To make the soup in its sparest form, pare the ingredients down to 6 cups of any stock, salt and freshly ground black pepper, and the eggs. Start by heating the stock to bubbling and proceed with the recipe. Enjoy as is :

  1. Before adding the eggs, add 2 cups cooked brown or white rice to the bubbling stock.
  2. Before adding the eggs, add any leftover cooked potato to the broth, like Crisp Panfried Potatoes (Home Fries), Oven-Roasted Hash Browns, or even chunks of baked potato.
  3. After adding the eggs, stir in 2 cups plain cooked pasta or Asian noodles.
  4. After the eggs cook, stir in 1/2 to 1 cup minced tender and mild but flavorful herbs: chervil, parsley, chives, basil, dill, and/or fennel leaves.
  5. Finish the soup with 2 tablespoons chopped olives or Tapenade.
  6. Put a slice of your favorite toasted bread (buttered or brushed with olive oil if you like) in the bottom of each bowl. Pour the soup on top.
  7. Stir 1/2 cup chopped oven-roasted tomatoes into the soup pot before serving.
  8. Stir in a pat of butter or a tablespoon or two of olive oil just before serving.