Salted egg is a popular delicacy across Asia. Raw duck eggs are steeped in salt water for a month and the yolk changes its consistency. It is SUPER easy to make and the dishes created with it is AMAZING. The egg or yolk is often used in stir-frying to enhance the flavor of a dish, in pastry(like moon cake) to create a new depth of flavor, or steamed and eaten with plain congee. It may sound weird, but it’s highly addictive!
To be honest, when I was little I didn’t appreciate this salty egg at all. I thought it was weird and the egg is just so salty, I didn’t understand why anyone would enjoy that. Then I found out that I’d been eating it the wrong way the whole time. I learned to love these salted eggs in pastries, the combination of sweet and that crumbly, creamy, flavorful saltiness tastes like heaven. Rice dumpling with a salted yolk in the center is in my mind, Michelin star worthy. Salted duck egg somehow takes plain and simple dishes to a whole new level, turning things I usually don’t care for into something I love.
Sean is SOLD on the salted eggs. Ever since he tasted the salted egg in a bitter melon stir-fry(a popular Taiwanese dish), he was hooked! Anything with salted eggs in it, he has to try it. One of his favorite dishes is Pumpkin Stir-fry with Salted Egg.
Asians(mostly Chinese and southeast Asians) are obsessed with this delicacy, right before we boarded the plane heading to the US, we found a new flavor at the airport’s Burger King: Salted egg burger. Salted egg yolk was infused into the sauce that goes on to the burger, and it was good! Talking about east meets west, salted egg potato chips has also been sighted but I haven’t got a chance to try it yet. I heard it’s highly addictive and life-changing.
The yolk of the salted duck egg is where the essence is. It’s creamy, oily, salty but super flavorful. When eaten with congee, people often scoop out the yolk and eat only the yolk. That’s why most salted eggs are made with duck eggs instead of chicken eggs.
The yolk of a duck egg is not only bigger but also has a higher fat content, which makes the yolk extra creamy and flavorful. In Asia, the salted egg yolk is often a vibrant orange color, and that’s mainly because of the food the ducks are fed. You may not get the same bright orange yolk if you’re making these salted eggs with locally raised duck eggs.
But if you can’t find duck eggs anywhere, it’s totally fine to substitute with chicken eggs.
Other names for Salted Egg dishes and deciphering Chinese Menu
The way these eggs are used is like adding soy sauce or a spice mix to enhance a flavor of a dish.
When cooking, the yolk gives a grainy texture when fried, thus when food is coated with this beautiful flavorful golden sauce, it’s often called “golden sand”(金沙, jin1sha1).
Chinese menus can be hard to read sometimes since it is often about the beauty of the words. The names of a dish can be really abstract, it’s painting a picture for your imagination but not really telling you what the dish is. But more often it’s a combination of a side ingredient or a cooking method with a main ingredient. For example:
- 金沙南瓜(Pumpkin Stir-fry with Salted Egg, jin1sha1nan2gua1): 金沙= golden sand/ salted egg; 南瓜= pumpkin(or squash).
- 宮保雞丁(Kung Pao Chicken, gong1bao3ji1ding1): 宮保= dried Chili; 雞丁= chicken cubes.
- 三杯雞(Three Cup Chicken, san1bei1ji1): 三杯= Three cups, a cooking method; 雞= Chicken.
Where to get duck eggs?
I’ve had a lot of luck getting duck eggs at the local farmers’ markets. I found duck eggs at a small farmers market close to Seattle, and at Rochester Downtown Farmers Market. I’ve seen them at my local Asian food store as well and know that some farmers are trying to turn duck eggs into a norm by distributing them to supermarkets. You may have to get to the farmers market early to secure yourself some duck eggs, I heard they go fast!
If you have a farm(or just have too many eggs), this is a great way to preserve your eggs!
Simple Rules for Making Salted Egg
To sum it up in one sentence: Duck eggs are soaked in saturated brine for 1 month (or 2).
To create a saturated brine, the proportion of liquid to salt is 4:1. Alcohol is added to help the yolk release more oil and enhance the flavor.
Sometimes spices are added to make a “5-spice” salted egg but it is optional. I find it tasty as it is without any spices added to it.
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- 1 Dozen Duck Eggs Sub with chicken eggs
- 4 C Water
- 1 C Salt
- 1/4 C Rice Wine or replace with Vodka
- 2 Wide Mouth 1Qt Jars
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1/2 tsp Ground White Pepper
- 1" Stick Cinnamon
- 6 Cloves
- Clean the eggs with a clean cloth in running water, pat the eggs dry.
- Carefully place the eggs in the jars. Each quart jars should be able to fit 6 eggs. If not, you can use a bigger jar and add more brine (water to salt: 4:1).
- Separate the spices(if using) into two portions and add them to the jars.
- Bring 4C water and 1C Salt to a boil and dissolve all the salt. Let cool.
- Add 1/4C rice wine or vodka to the cooled brine.
- Pour the brine over the eggs, make sure that all the eggs are submerged in the brine. You may need to add a rock or something heavy on top to keep the eggs in the brine.
- Store the jars in a dark cabinet for 1~2 months. Depending on the size of the eggs. I stored mine for 5 weeks and they weren't completely penetrated. 1 month should be enough for chicken eggs; may need longer for duck eggs, about 6 weeks to 8 weeks.
Cooking and storing the eggs
- If used for stir-frying/ eating with congee:Steam the eggs for 10 minutes, let cool and keep in the fridge. They are good for 6 months!
- If using the yolk for pastry:Crack the eggs open and take the yolk out, keep in a container and freeze them till ready to use.The raw egg whites can be used in mixing with ground pork/beef for meatloaves, bun and dumpling fillings or vegetable stir-fry.Keep the egg whites in the fridge if you can't finish it all at once.
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