I would eat them in a car, or at a bar, or on the way to a star . . . Of course, I am talking about century eggs! But I am getting Seussy because this recipe pairs the pidan with a savory, delicious pork congee. So, indeed, this is Green Eggs and Ham – Chinese Style. For more about this delicious dish and about congee in general, check out my article in today’s issue of Zester Daily.
This interesting dish combines century eggs with sliced beef in a stir fry that is perfectly suitable as a main dish, or as one of many dishes in a multicourse Chinese meal. Most of the flavor in the dish comes from a brief marinade of the beef in mushroom-flavored soy sauce, sesame oil and Shaoxing – a type of rice wine. This is accented by the lightly cooked sliced ginger to produce a fantastic combination of savory, salty, and lightly spicy dish.
The pidan add a gentle, but piquant flavor to the recipe that works extremely well with the sliced beef. Once again, the strong flavor of the eggs is tamed by the other flavors of the recipe to produce a uniquely flavored dish suitable for many meals.
Stir-Fried Beef and Century Eggs
¾ – 1 pound sirloin beef, thinly sliced (¼ inch thick or less) *
3 teaspoons mushroom-flavored soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 teaspoons Shaoxing
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4-5 thousand-year eggs, cut into eighths (coarsely chopped)
2 x 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
2-3 teaspoons sesame seeds, lightly roasted (for garnish)
In a small bowl, mix mushroom soy, rice wine, and sesame oil. Add the beef strips and set aside for about 30 minutes to marinate.
Heat vegetable oil in a wok and when oil just starts to smoke add the meat mixture and marinade and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Then add 1000-year eggs and stir-fry another half minute before adding the ginger. Stir well for another minute, plate, add sesame seeds, and serve.
* To easily make thin, neat slices of beef, place meat in the freezer for about 1/2 hour before slicing.
Variations: This recipe works well with salted eggs, or a combination of pidan and salted eggs. For a Taiwanese twist, use a few iron eggs in place of some pidan, or mix all three egg types for a really interesting dish. A lighter soy can also be used instead of the thicker, mushroom soy. Other rice wines can also be substituted, but the flavor will not be the same as that brought by Shaoxing.
Once again, this is a recipe that is a must try for those a bit shy to the flavor of Century Eggs, because it is a dish that uses, but at the same time, mutes the strong flavor of the eggs. And with a total of 3-4 minutes of cooking and perhaps 15 minutes of prep, what’s not to love about this dish! (Words and photographs by Laura Kelley.)
This recipe takes two unusually flavored foods and combines them in a cold salad or appetizer in a way that makes them delicious. For those of you not familiar with bitter melon, it really is naturally quite bitter. So much as to make your mouth pucker and to wonder why humans began eating this food in the first place. That said, cooks generally make it less bitter by blanching it in boiling water at least once before stir frying or sautéing it with other ingredients. This recipe simply blanches it twice (in two changes of water) and then combines it with the pidan, and a thick, flavorful dressing of sesame paste, soy sauce, strong tea and hoisin sauce or broad-bean paste. The only optional seasoning is a bit of ground white pepper and salt. This combination is then chilled for about an hour and the dish is served chilled or cold, according to one’s tastes.
The sesame gives an earthy flavor to the bitter melon (which is only a little bit bitter after blanching) and the soy provides a bit of salt a lot of savoriness to bring together the bitter melon and the pungent pidan. Within the hoisin is a bit of garlic and vinegar as well as toasted soybeans to work with the sesame paste to make a rich, delicious dressing. As noted above, broad-bean paste can be used in place of hoisin, it all just depends upon what ingredients you have on hand or which flavors move you the most. With no further ado, the recipe:
1000-Year Eggs with Bitter Melon
2 medium bitter melons, pith and seeds removed
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
3 teaspoons light soy sauce
3 teaspoons sesame paste
1 tablespoon hot, strong tea
3, 1000-Year Eggs
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, lightly roasted
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (or to taste) (optional)
¼ teaspoon of salt (or to taste) (optional)
Heat water in two large saucepans for blanching the bitter melon. (Alternatively one can blanch in two changes of water and cool the melon in between by rinsing with cold water). Cut the bitter melon into thin strips (between one-quarter and one-half inch) crosswise. When water has boiled, place the bitter melon slices in the water, cover and return to a boil. Cook for about 3 -4 minutes.
If using the two pot method, after 3-4 minutes has elapsed, transfer the slices to the second pot of boiling water with a slotted spoon or small metal sieve. Cook for another 3 minutes in the second pot and then drain and rinse under cold water. If using the one-pot method, drain the slices into a colander after the first blanching, and rinse with cold water. Refill the pot and return to the stove. Cover and boil water. When water has boiled, blanch the bitter melon slices for a second time, for about 3-4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Peel 1000-Year eggs, roughly dice, and set aside.
In a small bowl or cup, mix hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame paste and hot tea until well combined. Pour over bitter melon slices and mix well. If using, add white pepper and salt. Then add duck eggs and stir well once again. Refrigerate covered for an hour. Plate and garnish with sesame seeds just before serving.
Variations: Works well with broad-bean paste in place of the hoisin sauce. Also, salted eggs can be used in place of 1000-Year Eggs. One can also, easily omit the pepper for an earthy, sesame-scented salad.
This is a great dish for a hot summer’s day. I like to serve it chilled, but not cold to allow the flavors to really shine. It does need to be eaten fairly quickly after being chilled, especially if using white pepper, because this will come to dominate the dish as the eggs and vegetables sit in the dressing.
About Bitter Melon
Bitter melon comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are several small cultivars in South Asia that are small – usually no larger than about 6 or 7 inches long, and that have highly wrinkled skin. These come in varying shades of green, from white to a light lime color, to a deep, almost forest green. The cultivar from China tends to be a light green in color, is much larger than the South Asian cultivars (it can be more than 1 foot long) and has a gently undulating, warty surface. For this recipe, I used two medium Chinese cultivars.
For most Chinese or Taiwanese dishes, one slices the bitter melon lengthwise, removes the pith and the seeds and prepares the green rind with the firmly attached hard, white inner skin on the underside. In addition to coupling bitter melon with 1000-Year Eggs, many recipes cook it with pork, or douchi (fermented black beans). The melons are also used in herbal teas and as a bittering agent for some beers in China and Japan.
One of the many interesting things about bitter melon is that is rich in substances such as charantin, visine, and polypeptide-p that function as insulin-analogs, and it is used as treatment for type-2 diabetes in several forms of traditional medicine. Recent scientific studies, however, are divided as to whether there is a glucose-lowering effect with regular ingestion. Some studies, like the one in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in January 2011 and in the March 2008 issue of Chemistry and Biology found that it significantly lowered blood-glucose levels or increased cellular uptake of glucose (same thing, but two different measurements), while other, earlier studies, showed little positive effect of eating bitter melon.
This is potentially good news that another diet-based treatment option for diabetes may be on the way for some. However, it should serve as a note of caution to those with insulin-dependent diabetes, who should be mindful of eating too-much bitter melon on a regular basis, so that they don’t over-control their illness and induce hypoglycemia. That said, however, an intermittent serving or two will not hurt.
Bitter melon is also high in minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. So, this dish is interesting, delicious, and good for you too! (Words and recipe by Laura Kelley, Photograph of 1000-Year Eggs with Bitter Melon by Laura Kelley; Photographs of South Asian and Chinese Bitter Melon Cultivars from Wikipedia.)
One of the agreeable and delicious ways to enjoy pidan is with eggs. Some recipes use pidan along with salted eggs or salted egg yolks with or without fresh chicken or duck eggs to make custards or other egg dishes. This recipe, however, couples pidan with regular chicken or duck eggs and a bit of shrimp and spring onions for a tasty and mild dish. The set scrambled eggs or omelet made here is finished by slicing it into thin strips and eating the eggs along with rice or noodles as part of a light or multi-course meal.
It can be served with a variety of condiments, from soy sauce to chili oil, pickled ginger, or roasted sesame seeds to allow diners to customize the flavor of the dish to their liking. It also makes a great breakfast or brunch dish that will satisfy a wide variety of family and friends.
Eggs with Shrimp and Pidan
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 -7 medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, and minced
5 chicken or duck eggs
¼ -½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper (white or black)
3 spring onions, minced
1 1000-Year Egg, peeled, rinsed, and coarsely diced
Beat eggs until frothy and beginning to lighten in color. Add salt and pepper, and beat again until well mixed. Add about half of the spring onion pieces and mix in well.
Heat oil in a sauté pan; add shrimp and sauté for one minute. Then remove and set aside in a small bowl.
Reheat sauté pan over medium heat, add beaten egg mixture and when it begins to harden, add the shrimp and the 1000-year eggs. At this point one can scramble the eggs lightly and then let them set into a single solid mass, or one can cook the eggs more like an omelet. If using the omelet method, use a fork or small spatula to pull the eggs away from the side of the pan and then tilt the pan to let the raw egg flow into the gap made with the spatula. Continue until most of the eggs have set. If desired, place under a preheated broiler for a few minutes to firm up the eggs in the center of the pan.
When done remove from heat and loosen the eggs from the pan with a small spatula. When loose, turn out onto a serving plate and garnish with the remaining spring onions. Cut into thin strips and serve with rice and condiments such as soy sauce, chili oil, pickled ginger, and roasted sesame seeds.
For those of you curious about 1000-Year Eggs, but still a bit wary, this dish is for you, because the shrimp and eggs complement the pidan nicely and make the flavor of the eggs very mild. (Words and photo by Laura Kelley).
This is another appetizer or salad presentation of 1000-year eggs. One of the interesting things about this dish is that it can be served hot with the peppers and other vegetables fresh from the wok. Alternatively, you can let it cool for 10-15 minutes for a dish that is only slightly warm. I don’t recommend letting it sit too long though, for risk of the dressing overpowering the rest of the ingredients.
The other interesting thing is that is uses cilantro for flavor instead of spring onions which gives it a lighter, brighter flavor that works very well with both the bell peppers and the pidan.
Although the ingredients for the dressing are similar to those used in the Cold Tofu with Pidan dish, the proportions are different. Here the black vinegar figures more prominently because there is more of it and it is not complemented by sugar, except that from the vegetables themselves. There is also less soy sauce so, once again the herbs and vegetables shine brightly, and without too much salt.
If you are one of those folks who don’t like cilantro, feel free to use spring onions instead. But, I caution you that you are missing out on a great set of flavors here, and one that is a bit unusual as Chinese dishes go.
The Century eggs themselves provide a savory base to the dish and also lend a pungent bite of flavor when you get a piece of a yolk in a mouthful.
Sliced Peppers with Century Eggs
2, 1000-year eggs
1 small-to-medium bunch of cilantro, minced
2 teaspoons peanut or sunflower-seed oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 half red bell pepper, sliced
1 red chili pepper, minced (optional, but good)
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons black vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 -3 teaspoons sesame seeds, lightly roasted
Place a thin layer of minced cilantro at the bottom of the serving bowl or plate to provide a surface for the eggs to sit on so that they don’t slide around after the dressing is poured. Cut each egg into four or six or eight slices and put in serving plate or bowl. Place the rest of the minced cilantro on top of the eggs – reserving just enough to garnish the finished dish.
In a small cup or bowl mix the ingredients for the dressing together until well blended.
Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry the minced garlic for about 1 minute. Add the sliced peppers, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently until the peppers begin to soften.
Place the cooked peppers on top of the cilantro and eggs. Pour in soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil, garnish with remaining cilantro and the roasted sesame seeds and serve.
Again, stay tuned here for more ways to make Century eggs. I’m going to try to post a new recipe every day or two, before moving on to other Silk Road topics. (Words, recipe and photos by Laura Kelley).
One of my favorite ways to enjoy 1000-year eggs is as part of a cold-tofu salad. This presentation of pidan is enjoyed all over China this way as well as in Taiwan, Japan and Korea. It is served as an appetizer or as part of a meal with many dishes eaten at the same time. For western cooks, it is simple to make, exotic, nutritious (full of protein) and welcomes an endless array of variations to suit almost any taste. It also works well as a snack or a light meal
The secret to this fabulous dish is in the dressing. It is salty, savory, sour and a bit sweet all at the same time.
It can be served as a mixed melee as I have done in the photo above, or it can be served Japanese style, like a hiyayakko, where each ingredient is placed separately on a platter and diners can pick only those ingredients that they want.
Cold Tofu with Pidan
8-10 ounces of silken tofu
2 1000-year eggs
1-2 tablespoons shredded bonito
1 large spring onion, minced
1/3 cucumber, peeled and minced (or cut into a small dice)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 red chili pepper (optional, but good)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon black vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar (I use demerara)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Place the tofu in a serving dish or bowl and slice into cubes; keep the cubes together in a single unit. Quarter one of the 1000-year eggs and place around the base of the tofu. Roughly chop the second pidan and set aside. Place shredded bonito on top of the tofu, then place the roughly chopped pidan on top of the bonito.
In a small bowl mix together the spring onion, cucumber, garlic, ginger and chili pepper. When well mixed, place on top of the tofu and other ingredients. In a small cup or bowl combine the ingredients for the dressing and mix until blended. Pour dressing over tofu and serve immediately.
Variations: This dish is really flexible and can be easily changed to suit your tastes. You can substitute pork floss for bonito, or omit the meat flavors altogether for a dish more suitable for vegetarians. If you enjoy the flavor wallop of Chinese pickled mustard, add a tablespoon to the vegetable mix. If you don’t like the sometimes overpowering flavor of sesame oil – use less, or omit completely. If you prefer it more sour use only black vinegar.
Over the next week or two, I hope to post a bunch of recipes for pidan from around Asia. Check back soon for more great food! (Words, recipe, and photos by Laura Kelley).
With temperatures warming up again and summer on its way. Cucumber kimchi is a wonderful, light recipe for picnics, snacks and light meals. Easy to make, unlike many kimchi recipes, cucumbers can be enjoyed right after preparation, or it can be allowed to ferment for a short period before eating it. Read To learn more about kimchi, and also find a great recipe for cucumber kimchi, click HERE for my recent article in Zester Daily.
We harvested the 1000-year eggs and are finally getting around to preparing and eating some of the crop. The color is right, and a few of them have the pine-patterning that their CHinese name suggests on their dark, amber-colored flesh. They taste good, but are MUCH milder than some of the Pidan I’ve had in China. They are also missing the strong ammonia-like scent that accompanies some commercial century eggs I’ve had.
For those of you who are just tuning in to this culinary adventure of mine, check out this post to see how the eggs were transformed. This is how they looked the morning I harvested them:
They didn’t look particularly appetizing at this stage. But swim on, I told myself, the results will be worth it. I cleaned them using a bit of water and some elbow grease, but I had to be very gentle so as to not crack the shells. The shells are rather delicate by the end of the process, because they have been permeated by the chemical brew of tea, salt, ash and lime.
Some of the shells had a bluish tinge to them and some of them were a mottled off-white as shown above. When the first crack revealed a solid amber flesh, I was overjoyed! All of the eggs were transformed, but some were a bit runny in their forest-green centers. After cleaning, I let them dry completely and then placed them in the refrigerator until I could prepare them. I was very pleased with the results:
This is one of the most common ways to serve them – simply as a snack, or appetizer, or part of a large collection of dishes that might also include pickled diakon radish and pickled carrots, some sliced abalone or some and barbequed pork. The presentation pictured here is most like the Cantonese way of eating the eggs – simply wrapped in slices of pickled ginger. Elsewhere around China and Taiwan people enjoy them with tofu or as a flavoring to omelets made with fresh eggs.
My eggs were creamy but still a bit sharp, sort of like the sharpness of a very pungent cheese. So don’t blindly believe all of the macho videos out there that show nervous boys choking them down. The flavor is strong, but enjoyable. In the preparation I made, the ginger works nicely to modulate the flavor of the eggs, and the soy dipping sauce is completely optional in my personal opinion.
Other ways to prepare them that I am set to explore soon include using them to flavor a congee (rice porridge) along with bits of pork (皮蛋瘦肉粥), and perhaps one of the recipes with chilled tofu – so stay tuned for more 1000-year eggs. (All words and photos by Laura Kelley.)
My first post for the great publication, Zester Daily, was released today. Go on over and read all about The Secret to Umami’s Magic by yours truly!
Described by the Spanish in 1492 during the first Columbian voyage to the New World, chili peppers took the Old World by storm. Brought by the Portuguese to their colonies in Africa and India by the end of the 15th Century, chilies were so eagerly adopted by the indigenous peoples of these regions that they became widespread naturalized crops within a couple of decades.
After that, chili peppers were embraced by the Indonesians by the late 1520s and 1530s and in China and Japan by the 1540s.
Interestingly, the adoption of chilies within Europe itself was somewhat slower, with the first real scientific description being made in the 1540s by Fuchs, and the earliest published recipes only appearing in the 17th Century.
While I was working with the early East Indian curry recipe in Domingos Rodrigues’ Arte de Cozhina (1680), I stumbled upon some of these early European chili recipes. Although I am still translating and developing these recipes, I found a real gem of a dish that I’d like to share with you: a delicious 17th Century Portuguese “frittata” with lamb and spices that also packs a wallop of heat because of the chilies it contains.
The original recipe reads:
Pasteis de perna de Carneiro
Metase em uma panela uno perna de Carneiro, meyo arratel de toucinho, duas onças de manteiga, duas cebolas, um golpe de vinagre, adubos inteiro, e uma capelle de todos os cheiro, e pan-se a cozer em agua pouca ; estando jà o Carneiro mais de meyo cozido, tirese fóra, e piquese a parte todo o Carneiro ; e logo em outra parte piquemse os cheiro, e em uma tigela baixa, untada de manteiga se vàpondo cama de Carneiro, cama de toucinho : deitemse logo por cima meya duzia de ovos batidos, e pan-se a córar em lume brando.
Feito isto, façable de fóra parte umas sopas da dita substancia, e depois que estiverem muy aboboradas, virese a tigella, em que se fizerem, sobre o prato, equebrese a tigela, para que a sopa fique inteira ; sobre ella se porà o pastel, e lançindolhe por cima çumo de limaõ, mandesa à mesa.
Tambem se faz de lombos, e vitela, ou da carne que quizerem.
My liberal and functional translation of this is:
Frittata with Lamb
Place a leg of lamb in a pan with the lard from one pound of bacon, two ounces of butter, two onions, a stroke of vinegar, and whole spices. Separately, place the chili peppers to cook in a little water.
When most of the fat has evaporated, take the lamb from the pan and remove the meat from the bone. Chop up the hot peppers and mix them with the meat.
In a shallow bowl, greased with butter, place the chopped lamb [and peppers]. Above this lay down a double layer of bacon. Pour a dozen beaten eggs over this and place in the oven until golden brown but still soft.
This done, now it is time to turn the eggs out of the pan. Place flatbread on top of the pan and cover this with a plate. Turn the pan with the eggs over so that the eggs come out in one piece. Pour lemon juice over the dish and send it to the table.
Also can be made with veal or beef tenderloin.
Written in modern form, the recipe looks like this:
Lamb Frittata with Chili Peppers
2 pounds of lamb cut from the leg, trimmed into bite-size pieces
fat from 1 pound of bacon
4 tablespoons sweet butter, plus a bit more to grease the pie dish
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1.5 tablespoons coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1-2 tablespoons malt vinegar
3-4 dried Habanero peppers (more or less to taste)
6 eggs, whisked until frothy
juice of half a lemon
chopped cilantro for garnish
Dry roast or pan fry the whole spices until lightly colored and set aside to cool. Crack or coarsely grind the roasted spices. Melt the bacon fat and butter over high heat in a large sauté pan and add the lamb, stirring often as the meat colors and cooks. When the lamb starts to brown, remove it from the pan and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium and add the roasted spices. Add the cayenne (if using) and the turmeric, and stir well. Add the sliced onion, stir, lower heat again, and cover to cook for 5-8 minutes. Add the malt vinegar, stir well, and add the lamb back into the pan. Mix well and allow the lamb to cook over medium or medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes until it starts to become tender.
Heat some water to boil in a small sauté pan. Remove from heat and drop the chili peppers into the hot water. Let chilies soak for a minute or two and remove from the pan to drain. Mince chilies, but do not remove the seeds or placenta. Habaneros are powerful little gems and you may wish to wear gloves to handle them. When done, wash hands well with soap and water. Add the chilies to the lamb and onion mixture and mix well. When the lamb is tender, remove from the heat.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a deep-dish pie pan with butter (I used a ceramic pan) and add the lamb and onion mixture. Add the frothed eggs and make sure the eggs envelop the lamb. When oven is hot, place the egg pan into the oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until the eggs are firm and colored golden-brown. Remove pan from oven and rest for a few minutes.
Run a knife gently around the edge of the pan to loosen the eggs and place an 8-10 inch piece of flatbread (I used commercial, Indian naan) on top of the eggs. Place a serving plate on top of the flatbread and invert to remove the eggs from the pan. Sprinkle lemon juice over the eggs, garnish with cilantro and serve. Serve with slices of lemon on the table for diners to add if desired.
The dish itself is more like an Apician patella or an Iranian kuku than like any other modern dish called a “pasteis” which range from codfish cakes to egg-custard desserts, so I feel that it is acceptable to call it a frittata.
About the chilies. The peppers in the recipe are called pimento de cheiro, or aromatic chilies, which Rodrigues abbreviates to chieros. The genus and species that this represents is Capiscum chinense. Generally speaking as a family, these chilies are known as the Chinese lantern chilies and they are the hottest chilies in the world. Varieties include, the Bhut Jolokia, the Hainan Yellow Lantern, the now infamous Trinidad Scorpion, and the easy to find Habenero chili. For this recipe I used the Habanero, for the ease in acquisition, the ability to control the heat in the recipe, and the assumption that chili peppers in the 17th Century were generally more like the Habanero and less like the Trinidad Scorpion with its 2.5 million Scovilles of heat.
As to how I dealt with the “whole spices” direction? This time I didn’t do original research as I did with the curry spices, I started by using a recipe from a modern edition of Arte de Cozhina that includes a few developed recipes that I found on the internet. It looked like an interesting spice mix, but it unfortunately had no context on how or why the spices were chosen. Nevertheless, I tried it, and it was delicious.
I adapted the recipe a bit by chopping the lamb off the bone before cooking, by reducing the number of eggs by half, and by omitting the bacon, because, although I like the flavor, I often find it overpowering. Even with the adaptations, this is still a rich and savory historical dish that may surprise your family and friends with its unusual combinations of flavors. These choices made may result in a spicier dish than the original, because the meat is taken off the bone before it is sautéed, but it really is quite good this way. I was a bit suspicious about the use of lemon juice on the eggs, but in the end, I found that it worked wonderfully.
There are several other recipes in Arte de Cozhina using different types of chili peppers, If those yield dishes as savory and delicious as this one, I will be sure to let you know. Till then, tuck into this great recipe and imagine what might have been like to be a Portuguese sailor or trader in the in the 17th Century . . . experiencing strange and wonderful foreign cultures along the remnants of the Maritime Silk Road. (Words, recipe translation and development by Laura Kelley, Photo of Habanero Chili Peppers from Wikimedia, and Photo of the Lamb Frittata with Chili Peppers by Laura Kelley).