Simmer seasonings along with the broth for more flavor.
I find a bowl of egg drop soup to be one of the most soothing and comforting dishes ever invented. You really only need three base ingredients to make it, two in a pinch. And yet breathing in that steamy broth and savoring the first spoonful of silky egg curd, all my troubles immediately fade away.
If you hadn't already guessed, those key ingredients for egg drop soup are stock, eggs, and a bit of cornstarch to thicken things up. You can nix the cornstarch if that's not your style.
But you can also add in other ingredients of your choosing. I love some fresh ginger, star anise, and a cinnamon stick infused in the broth. If I'm eating this soup for dinner, I'll also add some tofu, mushrooms if I have them, and a handful of greens.
This recipe calls for using a bit of cornstarch in both the broth and in the eggs themselves. This is a trick I picked up from Kenji López-Alt in his recipe for egg drop soup on Serious Eats. He says that the bit of cornstarch in the eggs will inhibit protein bonds and keep the eggs from going rubbery. Since starting to follow this advice, all my egg drop soups have been silky smooth and never over-cooked.
This soup is properly an appetizer. Despite its simplicity, I guarantee that your guests will be overjoyed to see this coming when you walk out of the kitchen. This recipe will make four small cups of soup, but can be easily scaled up if you have more guests at your table. I generally use 1 to 2 cups of broth and one egg per person.
One last parting note: this is not a soup that keeps well. It's best poured straight from the saucepan into the serving bowls and then eaten as soon as it's cool enough to swallow.
Egg Drop Soup
Related: Bao and Beyond: 8 Chinese Favorites
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 for a light dinner
4 cups (32 oz) chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 to 4 large eggs
Salt or soy sauce
Flavoring Extras - Use one or all
1/2" fresh ginger, peeled and cut into rounds
1 stem lemongrass, bruised
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
2 star anise
6-8 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons miso
Soup Extras - Use one or all
1/2 block (7-8 oz) extra-firm tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 bunch baby bok choy, thinly sliced
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
Pour the stock into a saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Put the smaller flavoring extras you're using into a tea ball or spice bag. Add all your flavoring extras to the saucepan with the stock. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Scoop out all the flavoring extras with a slotted spoon. Taste and add salt or soy sauce as needed.
Add any soup extras to the stock and simmer for five minutes. Save some scallions for sprinkling on top of the soup at the end.
Scoop out 1/4 cup or so of the stock and whisk it with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisk this back into the stock and let it simmer for a minute or two until the broth no longer tastes starchy.
Whisk together the eggs in a small bowl with the remaining teaspoon of cornstarch. Make sure your soup is at a bare simmer. Holding a fork over the bowl (see photo), pour the eggs slowly through the tines. Whisk the broth gently with your other hand as you pour. Let the soup stand for a few seconds to finish cooking the eggs.
Serve immediately, topped with thinly sliced scallions.
(Images: Emma Christensen)