What can I say… eggs are one of the ingredients that I am most familiar with. As I mentioned before, when I was little, I never liked red meat, nor chicken, duck… you name it.
The only thing (along with vegetables) that helped me get the proteins I needed were eggs (as eggs contain lots of protein, as well as many nutritious, like folic acid, vitamins, calcium. etc.) My parents, auntie and grandma tried all different ways of cooking eggs for me, so that I wouldn’t get bored of it — very spoiled. :))
Eggs in Northern Chinese Cooking
Anyway … chicken egg is one of the most popular ingredients in Northern Chinese cuisine, not to mention being used in the coating, or mixing into the fillings for helping holding things together.
Eggs in Northeast cuisine can be boiled, steamed, stir-fried, pickled or preserved, in soup, or even for drinking. They act as one of the main ingredient for home cooking, but not in fancy restaurants though.
Although the most commonly used are chicken eggs, duck eggs are often on the dinning table, but usually served pickled (salty); occasionally, goose eggs are used as well. Quail eggs are often used for medical purposes (I know a recipe that uses quail eggs to alleviate allergies). I used to have very bad allergies, even my own tears or strong winds could trigger them; my parents got this ‘legendary recipe’ – eating quail eggs — then I was cured. — But I cannot explain the medical theory behind it, just eased my suffering. :))
Eggs are normally boiled as in the West. But in Northeast China, eating boiled egg can go with different dips, for example, soy sauce dip, salt and pepper dip. I have never be able to have just a plain boiled egg since I was little, so whenever my mum packed me some boiled eggs for a school trip or something, she always had to prepare a sachet of salt, or a small container of soy sauce.
There is another most common way of preparing boiled eggs: tea eggs, which are boiled along with red tea leaves and other seasoning. It has very strong tea influence, slightly salty. (Recipe is on the way — I consider it is one of the best invention, then I did not have to carry salt or soy sauce with me). :)
I don’t really know if it is same in the other regions in China, but steamed eggs are super super popular in Northeast, especially for people with stomach problems, or for kids just off the milk, starting having ‘real food’. It is also a good idea for breakfast.
It is to beat eggs well, and steam it — very easy.
Stir fried eggs
Now I am talking… the real thing.:)))) Stir-frying egg can be prepared just by itself, or stir-fry with other ingredients. In fact, my first ever cooking lesson was my dad taught me how to stir fry eggs, Northeast stir-frying egg is slightly different to western scrambled eggs — no milk added. It comes out as a bit ‘dryer’ then scrambled eggs.
‘Egg fried rice’ is popular way of stir fry eggs, it can be found almost in all Chinese restaurants and takeaways here. But if you are in the restaurants in Northeast of China, plain egg fried rice is normally not in the menu, you have to specify, then they can cook for you individually.
But eggs stir fried with different ingredients is very common ‘homey’ dish in Northeast. For example, stir fry eggs with tomato, stir fry eggs with green peppers, or with cucumbers, with onions, with garlic chives… are all the very simple and common dishes. (See the recipe for stir fry eggs with black fungus for example. All the other ‘recipes’ will be here, well, not really recipes I guess, more like suggested ideas.)
The only thing is when egg fired with these ingredients, it is given a ‘fancy’ name — Mu Xu (as in the beard of wood– you can imagine). For example, egg fried beef is called ‘Mu Xu Rou’, as ‘the wood’s beard with meat’. ha…
This way of combination is always a very simple dinner solution, especially when I run out of ideas of cooking. :)) But in Cantonese dishes, apart from eggs with tomato (or egg Fuyong), the rest of the combination is not their style. Once I cooked eggs with green peppers, all the other Cantonese friends (most of them were chefs) looked at me and the ‘wok’ strangely.
The thing that is almost ‘forbidden’ to combine is eggs with potatoes. The legend says that it could cause poison. I used to be very careful following this rule, since my grandma and my auntie mentioned all the time. But after I tried Spanish omelet, it all changed — traditional Spanish tortilla became my favorite!! My caring in-laws always cook potato tortilla for me whenever I am there — but they have to tell me not too eat too much –otherwise it will be too much calories intake… :)) — I am trying to make up all those years (this combination) I missed. :)))
Another common way of preparing eggs. Remember I mentioned that my dad used to make me lunch? One fried egg was always included. It is very similar to the Western way, but Chinese fried egg need to cook it longer time, until both sides of the surface of gets golden colour or in the soup until the white get firm, and completely wraps the york. It is a very traditional way, and has a very pretty name ‘Hebao dan’ to describe the egg looks like the lotus’ bud — wrapping the york inside.
Do you remember I said that Northeast soup are usually ‘clear’ soup? Egg as main ingredient or with other things makes very common soup in Northeast cuisine. Just preparing the soup base first, then pour in whisked eggs. In the nicely made egg soup, eggs are like silk floating in the bowl.
In the past, when winter came, most of the families started preparing pickled eggs. There are many different methods of preparing it. My mum used Chinese rice wine and non-fine sea salt to prepare them, and kept them in a sealed jar for a few weeks before it gets ready for eating. But again, it is that ‘salty’ type pickles.
The best prepared ones are regarded those have a bit ‘oil’ spilling out from the york. Nowadays, they are sold in most of the Chinese supermarkets here.
‘Drinking’ the egg is not very common at all. But it is considered having some ‘special’ medial purpose. It is very simple — prepare a glass of just boiled water, then break an egg into it, whisk a little, then drink. Strangely, there is not stinky smell or anything of the eggs in the liquid.
Sorry, talked too much now. Hope it is useful, and all the egg recipes will be shown here. :))