When my Dad was a little boy, his family kept some chickens — and I don’t mean in the freezer. They actually fed them, tended to them, and had a coop or some sort of housing provision for those birds. My Dad used to recount how he would often lie in wait until a hen got up from its roost, so he could take their eggs and run. Even when he was little, eggs were my Dad’s favorite things to eat. He used to say that it is one of the three types of food that he said he could not resist (the other two being noodles and sausages). Seriously, he would take eggs any way he could have them.
And indeed there are so many ways to have eggs! Few foods are as versatile. I remember watching an episode of Master Chef wherein each of the contestants had to prepare a single egg in the best way they could. It was fascinating, and enlightening, and, gosh, mouth-watering.
I don’t think I have the same level of passion as my Dad for this most ubiquitous staple, but I do have quite a fondness for it. It’s my go-to comfort food, or at least occupies a prominent place in my arsenal of go-to comfort-foods. So for this post, I thought I’d share a few interesting, savory, and perhaps strange ways in which to enjoy eggs.
The world of Asian cuisine interprets and integrates eggs in many exciting ways, using and combining textures, flavors and techniques. The Japanese tamagoyaki, for example, is like an omelet, but not really. It’s got a little sweet, a little sour, a little savory, and it’s made in many crepe-like layers that are rolled together and squeezed to form a log, and then sliced into pieces.
The Chinese prepare and enjoy hard-boiled eggs in pretty much the same way that Westerners do, but they also have eggs that are, not hard-boiled not in water, but hard-cured in lye and salt and husks for weeks and/or months at a time (not actual centuries though). That’s hardcore! Although it looks staggeringly different from the hard-boiled egg, flavor-wise the century egg still tastes quite mild, with only a subtle hit of alkalinity. I think it still needs a bit of salt when it is taken by itself, but not when it’s a topping in congee or noodles.
There’s also the salted egg — which looks pretty normal, but with a brighter orange yolk. This one is salty, and the white feels firmer, less gelatinous, and the yolk is denser too, with more fatty. Salted eggs probably originate from China, and is widely enjoyed in Filipino dining tables, where it is diced up and served with tomatoes, onions, and grilled eggplant. One would find the yolk of the salted egg in a Chinese mooncake, where it symbolizes, well, the moon. I like to take the yolk and cook it with some milk and onions, then puree it into a lovely sauce that is poured over pan-fried fish.
There are also many Chinese soups and noodle soups on wherein an egg is cracked open and whisked in mere seconds before serving. The egg cooks in the residual heat, and it instantly adds texture and richness to the dish.
Soy sauce may sound like a strange condiment to put on poached eggs, but oh my, it works! And when there’s a cup of ”aggressive” coffee to go with it, and some toast loaded up with kaya, a sweet, creamy coconut spread — it’s sheer bliss. I haven’t had this in quite a while, so I’ve been dreaming of this quite a bit.
Lastly, there’s the most peculiar balut, an Asian favorite which strikes fear in the most adventurous eaters, even Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern. Technically, it’s an embryo, not an egg. It’s an acquired taste, to say the least, but one that many Asians enjoy. Filipinos have it with a pinch of salt, and perhaps a hit of spiced vinegar, while Cambodians eat it with lime juice and pepper, Vietnamese too, but sometimes with the addition of some mint leaves.