May 18, 2024


Hetty Lui McKinnon shares a heartwarming story about her mother’s macaroni soup, a dish steeped in cultural connection and personal history.

A Breakfast Ritual

McKinnon’s mother embodied dedication, starting each day with a bustling kitchen filled with the promise of delicious meals. Breakfast was a vibrant affair, featuring an array of options tailored to each child’s preferences. Macaroni soup, however, held a special place in McKinnon’s heart as the quintessential breakfast of her childhood.

A Taste of Home

This simple soup featured equal parts broth and pasta, enriched with diced ham, shiitake mushrooms, and vegetables. Broth options ranged from leftover chicken bones to convenient bouillon cubes, reflecting her mother’s resourceful cooking style.

A Discovery Across Continents

As an adult, McKinnon’s perception of this dish shifted during a trip to Hong Kong. Here, macaroni soup wasn’t unique to her family; it was a ubiquitous comfort food served in cafes and cha chaan tengs. This realization sparked a deeper understanding of her mother’s culinary heritage.

A Bridge Between Cultures

Macaroni soup became a symbol of connection, not just within her family, but also with other children of immigrants. Variations emerged, reflecting individual preferences and family traditions.

Sharing the Legacy

Despite its simplicity, McKinnon recognizes the emotional weight of this dish. However, sharing the food of her culture, no matter how ordinary, fosters understanding and conversation. Including her mother’s macaroni soup recipe in her book, Tenderheart, serves as a way to preserve Cantonese and Hong Kong heritage, as well as her own family’s history.

Hetty’s Version: A Touch of Luxury

While open to various pasta shapes, McKinnon favors frozen peas for their sweetness and vibrant color. Her twist involves an egg-drop addition, creating a luxurious silky texture that enriches the broth.

A Name Steeped in Meaning

The Cantonese name for macaroni soup, “tung sum fun,” translates to “through heart noodles.” While the literal meaning remains unclear, for McKinnon, this soup embodies the essence of home and heart, a bridge to her mother’s past and a symbol of cultural fusion and personal connection.

Ready to Savor?

The recipe follows, offering step-by-step instructions to recreate this heartwarming dish.

Pea Egg-Drop Macaroni Soup: A Recipe Steeped in History


  • 2 cups elbow macaroni (or other small pasta)
  • 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 ⅓ cups low-sodium vegetable stock or broth
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • Pinch of ground white pepper, plus ¼ teaspoon divided
  • 2 ¼ cups peas, thawed if frozen
  • 2 scallions, thinly chopped
  • Toasted white sesame seeds, Maggi seasoning sauce, and chili oil for garnish (optional)


  1. Cook the Pasta: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni (or your chosen pasta) and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse it with cold water.
  2. Flavor the Broth: Heat the saucepan over medium heat. Add the toasted sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (30-60 seconds). Pour in the vegetable stock (or broth) and increase the heat to medium-high, bringing it to a boil.
  3. Prepare the Egg Drop: While the broth simmers, crack the eggs into a bowl or measuring cup with a spout. Season them with ½ teaspoon salt and a pinch of white pepper. Whisk the eggs well to combine.
  4. Season and Simmer: Once the stock boils, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of white pepper. Return the cooked pasta and peas to the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring the soup back to a boil.
  5. Create the Silky Finish: Slowly drizzle the beaten eggs into the boiling soup while gently stirring. Don’t worry about creating a perfect swirl – the aim is to achieve thin ribbons of cooked egg throughout the broth. Let the soup simmer for 30-60 seconds, allowing the eggs to set completely.
  6. Serve and Enjoy: Ladle the hot soup into bowls and garnish it with chopped scallions. For an extra touch, sprinkle on toasted sesame seeds, a drizzle of Maggi seasoning sauce, or a splash of chili oil (all optional).

Embrace the Memories:

This pea egg-drop macaroni soup is more than just a meal; it’s a journey through heritage and family traditions. As you savor its comforting warmth, remember the stories it holds and the connections it fosters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *