The Essential Techniques for the Peasantry, written for the Chinese home cook 1,500 years ago, includes this instruction for preparing salted eggs: “Soak a duck egg in brine for one month.” Today, xian dan on Asian grocery store shelves are still made this way in a brine of typically one part salt to four parts water. Another way of making salted eggs in the shell is encasing it in a paste of salt and clay, which hardens, creating a skin that protects like plastic but breathes like skin. Treated this way, eggs last unrefrigerated for many months. Wet or dry, the salt slows bacterial growth and draws out moisture through the shell. The salt molecules disrupt the bonds in the proteins of the egg yolk and with time, separate them from the fats, eventually turning the yolks richly oily and dense, and thickening the egg whites. This recipe is not traditional but gets us the eggs where we want them: It’s a piece of cake except for the four-week wait. —Tienlon Ho
- Pour the Shaoxing wine into a small bowl and pour the salt into another. Roll the eggs, one by one, into the wine and then into the salt, so a layer of salt coats the egg.
- Put the salt-covered eggs into a ziptop freezer bag. Press out the air and place the eggs in a plastic container, and cover. Date your eggs and let sit in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks.
- Rinse the eggs and either use or store them. You can hard-boil the eggs to eat with congee or use in Bibingka, or use fresh in Steamed Salted Egg with Pork. Refrigerated, they will keep for a month.
Reprinted from All About Eggs: Everything We Know About the World’s Most Important Food. Copyright © 2017 by Lucky Peach, LLC. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. Photo by Yi Jun Loh