This afternoon, Roxanne didn’t want to go to the bank by herself to deposit a check because she partied too hard last night. After our successful trip to the ATM, she realized she was hungry, but many different voices in her head fought over what she should eat. “I want something simple, like eggs over rice,” the victorious voice announced.
I figured a Hong Kong style cafe would have it. Happy Express on Allen Street just below Canal has a large selection of comfort foods. After scanning through the “over rice” section, she settled on “tomato and egg on rice.” I’ve never seen it before. It must be something specific to Hong Kong, I thought.
As soon as I posted the picture of it on Instagram Story, I received a bunch of messages from Instagrammers, mostly Chinese, saying their moms used to make it for them, and that it’s one of the most popular home-cooked meals in China. How did I not know about this?
Sometimes when I go to a Chinese restaurant, I see the staff eating at the table in the back. I would walk by them pretending to go to the bathroom to check out what they are eating.
Each of us has two faces; one we present to the world and the other we keep to ourselves. It seems that this also applies to culture. Even though there are now many Japanese restaurants offering home-style cooking, some dishes commonly cooked at home in Japan are still unknown to most Americans.
It’s somewhat like the Freudian concept of the unconscious operating at the cultural level. Tomato and egg over rice slipped out from the Chinese unconscious to the public through this small cafe serving mostly Chinese people. Nobody is consciously trying to repress it, but it still influences their behavior.
I asked the Instagrammers who messaged me how they make it. Everyone had a slight variation, but the basic idea is to cook the egg and tomatoes separately and combine them later. Some add minced shallots, garlic, a touch of sugar, soy sauce, and/or scallions. @nitromilk told me to add coconut amino acids. I didn’t know what it was, but I ran out to get it. It tastes like sweet soy sauce. I added it to the one I made tonight.
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