Thursday, 4 December 2008

Steamed three eggs with pork 三蛋蒸猪肉

Salted egg with pork (咸蛋猪肉) a dish that I grew up eating at home. My mum used to make this with just salted eggs, regular eggs and minced pork. She later added century egg for a touch of extra colour and flavour and it became Steamed Three Eggs with Pork (三蛋蒸猪肉). Steamed egg dishes are quite common in Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine. Chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg) comes to mind, which I adore for the silky smooth texture and delicate flavours. This steamed egg and pork dish is a lot more robust with savoury pork at the bottom and silky egg on top, along with bits of golden salted egg yolk and onyx-like century egg pieces scattered about.

Both salted eggs and century eggs are forms of preserved or preserved eggs. They are made from duck eggs, with salted eggs being soaked in brine, and century eggs being immersed in mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice straw. (It is a myth that century eggs are made by soaking them in horse urine.) The photo below shows a regular chicken egg in the foreground, followed by a white salted egg and a century egg with a blue-grey tint.

Three types of eggs

Clockwise from the top, there is a regular chicken egg, salted egg and century egg. Uncooked salted eggs have watery whites and a firm yolk that is golden orange in colour. Century eggs require no additional preparation after the shell is cracked and peeled (like a hardboiled egg). The yolk is dark green and may be slightly creamy in the centre (they may be sold as 'firm centres' 硬心 or 'soft centres' 软心) and the white is a dark brown transparent jelly.

Eggs three ways

The Wikipedia articles linked above do a good job describing the various uses of salted eggs and century eggs in different types of Chinese cuisine. If you have not tried any of it, I would encourage you to do so, perhaps with a Chinese friend, although both ingredients are definitely an acquired taste. My British husband has taken to them after trying them, but then he is fairly adventurous in his food (which is great for us!). For those of you who are familiar with salted and century eggs, I hope you will give my mum's recipe a go and see what you think. Actually I would also be interested in how many other people grew up with this dish or similar versions.

Ingredients (serves 2-3 as a side dish):

250g minced pork
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Dash of white pepper
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornflour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 salted egg, yolk separated and chopped
1 century egg, cut into small pieces
450ml water

1. Mix together the minced pork with light soy sauce, sugar, pepper, sesame oil and cornflour. Spread it across the bottom of a glass or other heat proof dish.

Minced pork as base

2. Mix the beaten eggs, salt egg whites and water together and pour over the minced pork. The dish can now be cooked in a large steamer, either those powered by electricity or on the stove on top of a pan of boiling water. The traditional home-cooking method, as I have done, is to do it in a wok with a metal trivet on which to place the dish.

Wok as a steamer

3. Place the trivet in the wok, add about an inch (depending on the height of your trivet) of hot water. Don't let the water touch the base of the dish. Place the dish on the trivet, cover with a lid and put it on high heat. After 1 minute, turn the heat down to medium.

Ready for steaming

4. After 15 minutes, remove the lid (be careful of hot steam) and scatter the chopped up pieces of salted egg yolk and century egg on top of the egg mixture. Adding these later make sure that they stay on top to create a multi coloured jewel-like effect. Put the lid back on a steam on medium heat for a further 5-8 minutes. Serve immediately.

Steamed three eggs with pork

Note: Do not steam this dish at too high a heat or for too long, otherwise the egg layer will become spongey and has a pockmarked appearance. Test the centre of the dish to make sure that the pork is cooked. Actual cooking time will depend on the thickness of your pork layer.

Any leftovers can be kept in a separate lidded container, or just put plastic wrap on top of the dish. It reheats well either in a steamer or 2-3 minutes in the microwave.


didally said...

Oh my! This looks fantastic. I love dishes with these 3 types of eggs. I've been steaming minced pork lately. This is definitely in my to-cook list. Thanks for sharing. =) said...

Nice food photography. I wonder if there is an internet source to find century eggs locally?

Annika said...

Wow. This looks very exotic. I like it when you blog about traditional Chinese food!

noobcook said...

AMAZING!!! I love this!! =D

Hillary said...

Very interesting - I never knew about century eggs! Thanks for the education :)

diva said...

my mum used to make this in a giant bowl and it was so amazing, especially on rainy days. how i wish i could have some of tht now. looks fab!

Nate said...

That is very beautiful. almost reminds me of almond jello with fruit salad.

Little Corner of Mine said...

Delicious! I love the contrast of colors.

Lainie Petersen said...

Agree with the others that this is beautifully photographed. I love the way eggs look to begin with, and the variety here is just lovely. Thanks.

Olivia said...

Yum. I love the century egg. My parents make the same thing, but they don't cook it in layers though; they mix it all together and use less pork.

kale said...

When I was in grade 2, the class put together a cookbook of all the students' favourite recipes for a Mother's Day project. My contribution to the cookbook? My Mom's recipe for salted egg & minced pork. Although I went to a fairly multicultural school in Vancouver, Canada, I'm sure it seemed very strange next to recipes for snickerdoodle cookies & nanaimo bars...

Nilmandra said...

Didally: Glad you like the sounds of it :) It should hit the spot if you are already steaming pork anyway and like the three types of eggs.

Foodphotoblog: Thanks! I don't know about ordering century eggs online though, I've never seen or heard of that. Many Chinese/Asian stores and supermarkets carry century eggs although that's not much help if you don't have access to one. Sorry!

Annika: Thanks, I'm glad you found it interesting :)

Noobcook: Give it a go if you like century and salted eggs! I have seen the salted (or just regular) egg and minced pork version at random 'economic rice' stalls in Singapore.

Diva: Aww it's nice to hear you had that too :) And yes, lovely comfort food on rainy days.

Nate: Thanks, although I must say that I definitely prefer my savoury dish, since I don't like almond jelly! Actually it's the almond essence taste that I object to; I dislike it even in pastries and cakes etc.

Little Corner of Mine: Thanks :) I do like the colours. Much prettier compared to the salted egg and minced pork version, although it's just as tasty.

Lainie Petersen: Thanks for the kind comment :) It took a lot of work to get the yellow light (in my kitchen with no natural light... boo) out of the photos!

Olivia: Your parents' less dense version sounds delicious too. A good idea if I don't have as much pork on hand (I sometimes freeze extras).

Kale: That was so sweet! This is a fairly 'exotic' dish even amongst Chinese people, I think :) Definitely not as common as sweet and sour pork or beef and broccoli in black bean sauce, know what I mean?

Sharon said...

Oh wow, simply delicious! Thanks for sharing such a great recipe!

tigerfish said...

They use 三蛋 to cook with spinach as well. It is very nice.

elsye said...

Nilandra, o just like pudding I love the texture, one slice for me please..:D
delicious !

sugarlens said...

Neat, I will have to try this soon!

gaga said...

I haven't had thousand year old egg in ages. Thanks for reminding me how much I love them.

It's really neat how you were able to incorporate all 3 types into one dish. It looks yummy!

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Love the photo of the 3 eggs lined up for comparison. I've only had century eggs in congee, but this sounds like another great use. I've never been a big fan of salted eggs because they're way to salty to eat on their own, but mixed in with the other eggs and pork, it sounds like it would be really good.

Nilmandra said...

Sharon: You're welcome!

Tigerfish: That's right! I love eating the spinach dish, got to figure out the recipe.

Elsye: Thanks!

Sugarlens: Hope you like it :)

Gaga: 'thousand year old eggs' make it sound really scary, heh.

Marc: Salted egg is seldom eaten on its own, although the older generation like having it with plain porridge/congee or side dish to rice. It was known as poor people's food, to have rice or congee with salted egg, because those are very cheap ingredients. Salted eggs are definitely more expensive here!

Joey said...

OMG! I haven't had this in ages. My mom used to make them. Yum!!! My mom also likes to put a bit of sesame oil and shredded ginger in the meat mixture. Delicious. If I ever make it, i'd have to skip the "weird eggs", as my BF is Chinese, but not Chinese enough. boo on him.

Nilmandra said...

Joey: That's a shame! The dish is still good with just pork and regular eggs but the salted egg adds so much depth of flavour.

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