Salted duck eggs are packaged in Gaoyou city, East China's Jiangsu province, April 16, 2018. [Photo/IC]
Salted duck eggs, typically salted in brine, is a small dish on Chinese dining table.
The best salted eggs in China must be from Gaoyou, a city of Yangzhou in Jiangsu province. The city is well known for the production of salted duck eggs, especially the double-yolk duck eggs, which are commonly thought to be more nutritious and are usually more expensive.
Gaoyou is famous for its ducks, a speckled species that consistently produces eggs with multiple yolks. It's like having the genes for twins. In fact, breeding ducks and making salted eggs earned Gaoyou an intangible national heritage award. Historical archives say the city's famous eggs were already sent as tribute to the imperial courts during the time of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). He was, of course, a well-known foodie.
He wasn't the first to appreciate them. Another food lover, Song Dynasty (960-1279) poet Su Dongpo, also loved them and often sent for Gaoyou salted eggs when he was governor of nearby Hangzhou.
Making salted eggs
It's actually simple, so if you want to try the recipe, here it is. (But a word of advice: Chicken eggs work well, but the sanitized breeding programs these days mean the yolks have less fat, which means you won't get that oily effect.)
10 duck or chicken eggs
Chinese white spirit or vodka
1 kg of salt (rock or rough sea salt best)
1.5 liters of water
Prepare the eggs by wiping them clean with a damp cloth. Don't be lazy and try to wash the dried dirt off. You don't want to risk contamination if the eggs absorb the water and so you must remember which end of the duck they came from. Sterilize the eggs by wiping the shells with Chinese white spirit or vodka.
Try to dissolve as much salt in the water as you can. Once the brine reaches saturation point, the salt crystals will no longer melt. You can place the brine over a low heat to help the salt dissolve faster.
Prepare a glass pickling jar or a large container with a tight lid. Pour the brine in halfway and slowly place the eggs gently in. Once all the eggs are in, top up the brine until the eggs are covered.
To keep the eggs down, fill a ziplock bag with ice and place on top of the eggs. The ice will melt, but the volume of the water will still keep the eggs submerged.
The next ingredient is patience. Usually, you need to wait at least 20 days to a month, or more if you want them well salted. The proof of a well-salted egg is a perfectly round, hardened yolk when you break the egg into a saucer.
A worker prepares to produce salted duck eggs in Gaoyou city, East China's Jiangsu province, April 16, 2018. [Photo/VCG]
A worker checks on the salted duck eggs under the lights to pick up the double-yolk duck eggs in Gaoyou city, East China's Jiangsu province, April 16, 2018. [Photo/IC]