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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
- 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
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.
Lovely looking salad.
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!
@Hugh Wright - I just said they don't stink as much. That's just a fact :)
*Amazing how apposite the word verification is sometimes: "dedneste" indeed!
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?
@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.
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 :)
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.
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.
Get to the back of the queue!
It's ok Suz *pats shoulder*
I can't tell if you're kidding or not. I'm not sure I want to find out - ignorance is bliss...
Oh that sounds likely, as Thai yums are very similar to Burmese salads - though we don't use sugar :)
I'll have to try one of these
I'll give you one for experimentation.
It's full of OO-MAAA-MEEE, dontcha know.
Don't suppose there's any chance Mum's House can source Burmese century eggs?
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 :)
How do the Burmese produce the amber-colored eggs? I have successfully made Century Eggs with the traditional Chinese method and am wondering what the chemistry of the Burmese recipe is. I'd love to try to make them - they are so beautiful!