One of my favourite comfort foods is “khao tom”, aka congee/rice porridge. It is a simple dish (recipe on its way – hold your horses, tiger!), but you can add to the base recipe as you please, making it a perfect choice for a nourishing home meal and get well remedy.
The deliciously soft and starchy aromatic rice brew is essentially jasmine rice cooked in a lot of water until it is a wet porridge-like consistency. It is often eaten for breakfast or as a light meal, hot, and flavoured with a sprinkling of salt/pepper, soy sauce, chili oil, finely chopped spring onions and coriander, perhaps some pork floss, tears of meat (usually poultry), and/or a sweet/savoury vegetable/meat stirfry – my favourite is “khua puck bong” (stirfry Ipomoea aquatica). Yum-o!
Another great side dish to have with a bowl of khao tom is sliced/diced “khai ped kem”, aka salted duck eggs. 1 Salted duck eggs (the ones I’m referring to at least) is of Chinese origin, and not your typical Lao dish, although it is eaten by Lao people (g’day!). This is the first non-Lao recipe presented in this blog, and I hope it exemplifies the diversity of food that I enjoy eating and would like to share with you, not always traditional Lao food.
“Kai ped kem” is readily available at many good Asian grocers (along with its close relative – century duck eggs). However, after having made padaek recently, I’ve been a little pickle/preserve obsessed, and I simply had to try and make these saline delights myself. Besides, food just tastes better when it’s homemade (with love), and it’s so much fun to do too. Also, there are no nasty preservatives added (except for the copious amount of salt in this recipe), and you know exactly what’s put in it. 2
Preserving eggs in brine is an old recipe, and as per usual there are different ways to do it. In its simplest form, the recipe for salted duck eggs are: duck eggs, salt and water. The addition of spices and Shaoxing rice wine in the following recipe help elevate the appearance and flavour of the cooked duck eggs, giving them an intense yet delicate taste more superior to basic salted eggs.
The Shaoxing rice wine in particular, transforms the egg yolk into an oily rich orange/red globe full of creamy egg goodiness. I have adapted the following recipe from Christine’s Recipes, where you’ll find more delicious and inspiring Asian/Western recipes. Thanks Christine!
- 12 fresh duck eggs (or chicken eggs)
- 1 cup of sea salt (or rock salt)
- 2 star anise
- 2 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp of Shaoxing rice wine
- 4 cups of water
- First, gently wash and clean the duck eggs and dry them.
- Carefully place the washed eggs into a large glass jar.
- To make the brine solution - in a saucepan, add 4 cups of water, 1 cup of sea salt, star anise (I actually used 4), and 2 teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorns - bring the mixture to the boil. Once the salt is completely dissolved, turn off the heat and allow the brine solution to cool down. Once the solution is completely cooled, add one generous Tablespoon of Shaoxing wine and stir well.
- Gently pour the cool brine solution into the glass jar to completely cover all of the eggs.
- Because of the high salt content in the brine, the eggs at the top will float to the surface. To prevent this, place a small zip-lock sandwich bag filled with some water into the jar, on top of the eggs, to help keep the eggs fully submerged.
- Place the lid back on the jar and clip-lock/seal.
- Store the jar in a cool kitchen cupboard for about 30-40 days.
- After 30 days, remove one egg to cook and taste to see if it is salty enough. Cook the egg(s) by boiling them in water for about 20 minutes. If you’re happy with the intensity/flavour of the eggs, drain them and wipe dry. They can be stored in an egg carton in the fridge for a few weeks, ready for your next khao tom/congee.
Sichuan is also spelt Szechwan and Szechuan.
Shaoxing is also spelt Shaohsing.
What you’ll need:
I am a little concerned with the dark colour of the brine solution compared to Christine’s example. I believe that the colour of the brine is derived from the spices and the generous amount of Shaoxing wine that I added to it. Hopefully, the colour of the brine will not affect the colour of the egg white too much when the eggs are cooked. I’ll let you know in 30 days time.
Did you know?
- Shaoxing rice wine is made from fermented brown glutinous rice and is considered second only to soy sauce in importance, in Chinese cuisine. It contains about 17-18% alcohol, and can be drunk as a beverage. 3
- Duck eggs are considered superior to chicken eggs with the same taste and richer/smoother consistency. Duck eggs have twice the nutritional value of chicken eggs and stay fresher longer due to their thicker shell. Duck eggs are richer with more “albumen” (egg white), making cakes and pastries fluffier and richer. Duck eggs also have more omega 3 fatty acids (something you can actually see in the cooked salted duck eggs). Omega 3 is thought to improve everything from brain health to healthy skin. 4
- Muscovy ducks are less noisy than usual domestic ducks, and sometimes marketed as a “quackless” duck. They aren’t completely silent, but they don’t actually quack (except in cases of extreme stress!). 5
- Adding baking soda in the water when hard-boiling eggs can help make a fresh egg easier to peel. 6
- Not to be confused with “tom kem”, which is a flavoursome traditional Lao sweet/savoury meat (usually pork hocks/trotters) stew with boiled eggs. ↩
- On the cards for future pickling endeavours, include pickled onions, pickled gherkins, Lao pickled cabbage (“som puck garlum-be”), pickled Thai eggplants (“dorng mark khua”), and pickled plums (“dorng mark plum”) too. ↩
- Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org, http://www.vietworldkitchen.com. ↩
- Reference: http://www.localharvest.org. ↩
- Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org. ↩
- Reference: http://www.finecooking.com. ↩