Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Burmese Century Egg Salad (Recipe)

Century Egg Salad

Some people don't like century eggs. Those people are wrong.

Whenever I visit Burma, I try to consume five times my bodyweight in food - that’s just the way I roll (sometimes literally, on the way back from Heathrow). Give me a break, I only make it out there every couple of years, so I need to make it last. This means I eat out (and in) about 12 times a day and succeed in putting on at least two dress sizes.



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I’m completely spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out - there are 135 ethnic groups in Burma each with varying cuisines. I’m a mixed bag myself - I worked out the other day that I’m 38% Shan, 32% Bamar, 13% Intha and 17% Chinese. I used a spreadsheet and everything.



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I guess it’s the Chinese in me that drives me to visit Shway Bè in Mandalay (that and the magnificent mascot - see above), for Shway Bè is ostensibly a Chinese restaurant, though most of the food has a Burmese twist.

And when we’re there, we always order the roast duck (Shway Bè means “Golden Duck”) and we always order the Century Egg Salad.

For those who are unfamiliar with century eggs, I’ll let Wikipedia be your guide:

Century egg, also known as preserved egg, hundred-year egg, thousand-year egg, thousand-year-old egg, and millennium egg, is a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. Through the process, the yolk becomes a dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odour of sulphur and ammonia, while the white becomes a dark brown, transparent jelly with little flavour.
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Now, although century eggs aka pi dan are quintessential Chinese food, in Burma the century egg is a slightly different beast. Our eggs aren’t dark brown - they’re a beautiful golden amber. 

And the yolk isn’t grey or green, but instead a deep ochre (I’ve even brought these handsome treats back from Burma before - DEFRA said it’s ok). 

They taste more or less the same as the Chinese version, but without the hellish whiff - they’re altogether a more elegant egg.
 
Golden Century Egg Salad by Robert Steiner
Burmese Century Eggs (copyright Robert Steiner)
And this century egg salad is definitely a Burmese invention, using classic Burmese salad ingredients. You can eat it by itself, but it’s much better with a bowl of steaming rice and some roast duck on the side.

Yes, it’s a recipe. Remember those? I used to do them - I’ve just been lazy.

Really lazy. 

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Burmese Style Century Egg Salad
  • 4 century eggs
  • 2 large, firm tomatoes or 8 firm cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large white onion or 6 shallots
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • Handful of coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice/quarter of a squeezed lemon
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 teeny pinch of MSG (if you can't eat MSG, use a smidge of Marigold Bouillon)
  • 1 tsp peanut oil or other flavourless vegetable oil
Peel the eggs and then scald them with boiling water to get rid of the sulphurous smell. Next immediately rinse them in cold water, slice into segments and place in a bowl to one side.

Slice the onions as finely as possible and then soak in cold water to let the slivers crisp up.

If using large tomatoes, slice thinly; if using cherry tomatoes, slice into segments.

Shred the chillies and the coriander, leaving some coriander sprigs whole for garnish.

Drain the onions (squeeze excess water out with kitchen towel if necessary) and add to the eggs.
Add the tomatoes, chillies and coriander; chuck in the oil, fish sauce, lemon juice and MSG and toss thoroughly. 

Garnish with reserved coriander leaves and serve immediately.

It's lovely, honest.
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31 comments:

  1. I love century eggs, but I do need to be in the mood for them. My mother once made me eat one (complete with hellish whiff) when I was monstrously hungover. It almost made a reappearance.

    Lovely looking salad.

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  2. Meems I love your enthusiasm for your country and its cuisine but I hope your disparaging of the inferior Chinese century egg won't spark some sort of diplomatic incident!

    I now know what a century egg looks like, even what it smells like...I'm *almost* tempted to find out what it tastes like!

    ALMOST.

    x

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  3. @Lizzie - What, whole? That's insanity. Ta x

    @Hugh Wright - I just said they don't stink as much. That's just a fact :)

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  4. MiMi, thank you for a bright spot in today's reading, even though the egg* is 100% Burmese and looks 100% inedible! I love the tags (egg + meat-free!) and also your dedication to eating in the cause of the blog! 12 times in one day - wow!

    *Amazing how apposite the word verification is sometimes: "dedneste" indeed!

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  5. "a dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odour of sulphur and ammonia" - I'm sold.

    Actually the salad does look and sound kinda nice - a healthy introduction to century egg addiction.

    One quick question - what sort of chilli are we talking, an elegant slender tapering hottish one, or a short pug-nosed blow-your-socks of scud of a chilli?

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  6. @chumbles - Thanks chumbles! No, I wasn't thinking about my blog when I was eating 12 times a day - just of myself :p

    @The Grubworm - It IS nice, it is!

    Chilli heat is entirely up to you - I personally throw in about five scuds, but that's me.

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  7. I do like a century egg and this salad looks a nice way to serve them. have to admit to only having eaten the Chinese version though, I must get out more.

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  8. I love your use of MSG too, I tend to use chicken powder instead (purely for the MSG in it) but tend to keep it a secret on the blog.

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  9. @Joshua

    Next time I get some Burmese ones, I'll bring them back for you.

    Here, this is what they look like.

    As for MSG - we have no secrets here :)

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  10. I have been reading quite a lot of your blog. Not so much into TV series recaps but I like everything else.. I really dig your sense of humour. Keep more (Burmese) recipes coming!

    I do miss Burmese century egg salad sometimes although it's not my favourite salad :). I personally like to sprinkle deep-fried crispy shallots and crushed peanuts on it but that might be too busy for some people. MSG is easy and makes everything taste better but it makes me so effing thirsty and I always end up spending half the day going to the toilet. You can always substitute good quality shrimp floss (preferably golden shrimps). Anyone who hates shrimp, a good quality shrimp floss should not taste shrimpy at all.

    I once found "Medicated Egg" :) in the English menu of a burmese restaurant. I think they translated directly from "say bae u" instead of using more understandable word:"Century Egg". I thought that was really funny.

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  11. Meemalee the eggs sound fabulous and that salad looks lovely. I must try century eggs soon.

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  12. @Lin - Thank you - yes, my blog is a bit all over the place, isn't it? I guess whatever takes my fancy ends up on here - but will try to post more recipes! Yes, a sprinkling of bazuhn jowk (dried shrimps) is always a good idea

    I love the term "say be u" - I'm fond of the translation "medicinal egg" ;)

    @George@CulinaryTravels - Oh, you definitely should! You can find it served with tofu at Lei Wei Xiang.

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  13. MiMi you are wrong in the head, you'll never get me to eat a preserved egg even if you have done apose with donald ducks drunk brother!

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  14. Hmmm, interesting. I think I would try this but would want someone (like you) to prepare it for me. Really liking the Burmese stuff and very interesting about all influences from other places too.

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  15. I'm fascinated by these eggs. Not fascinated enough to eat one unfortunately. I know, I know. My bad. *hangs head* The Burmese eggs do look less frightening - if pressed, I'd go for them.

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  16. @TheFastestIndian

    Get to the back of the queue!

    @Suzler

    It's ok Suz *pats shoulder*

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  17. To make these eggs, you can soak them in horse's urine for 2 weeks :)That's how they use to make them.

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  18. @Dangerous Variable

    I can't tell if you're kidding or not. I'm not sure I want to find out - ignorance is bliss...

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  19. Never had Burmese ones but used eat a great century egg yum in Thailand and they might have closer to the Burmese sort 'cos they weren't really stanky. This salad looks like it could be pretty close, delicious.

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  20. @sasasunakku

    Oh that sounds likely, as Thai yums are very similar to Burmese salads - though we don't use sugar :)

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  21. Century eggs? Preserved, 100 year old, funky, stinky, rotten eggs?

    Seriously?

    I'll have to try one of these

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  22. @FoodUrchin

    I'll give you one for experimentation.

    It's full of OO-MAAA-MEEE, dontcha know.

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  23. Oh! You are still posting! I thought you'd gone quiet, but it was just a problem with the RSS!

    Don't suppose there's any chance Mum's House can source Burmese century eggs?

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  24. I love this one. Looks a bit scary but worth a try.

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  25. @kake - I am indeed posting :)

    Mum's House do sell century eggs as "preserved duck eggs" but they come from China. You could always ask if they'll get hold of some for you.

    @tobias cooks" - Thank you! It does look scary but it's worth it :)

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  26. Can you get a recipe for Burmese century eggs. want to make some. what is different to make them golden.

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  27. @Ed - Hi Ed - I've no idea what makes them a different colour. I would expect that they're not preserved for as long - hence less of a stink as well. I will investigate for you!

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  28. have you the recipe already? ive had some during a congee party a couple of years ago and its very attractive presentation makes me want to use it in other dishes. Unfortunately i cant find any in the local shops and i was wondering if i cam make them from scratch myself.

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  29. Now I´ll have to try Century Eggs for the first time in my life - I´ll let you know if I survived it ...
    Shalom
    Hermann

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!