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Yes, Salted Egg Yolks are Worth the Month-Long Wait

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More than a month ago, I invited begged you to join me on a "month-long" journey to salted egg yolks. And I never followed up. (For the three of you who cared, I'm sorry.)

Crispy Fried Pumpkin with Salted Egg Yolk
Crispy Fried Pumpkin with Salted Egg Yolk

And, truthfully, the journey started way more than a month ago, during the summer, when I took a trip to The Bao in the East Village for the purpose of eating soup dumplings only to learn that none of the soup dumplings were vegetarian—a silly flub, I admit. My attention quickly pivoted to the pumpkin with salty egg yolk. I was anxious to recreate the dish—eggy in flavor, but not texture; squash-sweet but with a slap of salt; oily in the right way—but found no salted egg yolks that I wouldn't have to mail-order. So I began the simple, centuries-old "project" of making them myself with a little help from the blog Just as Delish.

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I say "project" because it's hardly one at all: Cover the eggs with a salt water solution (make sure they're all submerged), then wait for one month (maybe more, depending on how cool your environment is). Yes, you can add various spices to your brining solution—you'll see recipes that recommend star anise and Szechuan peppercorns—but since YenWhite, having tried them all, deemed them "extraneous (and/or overpowering)," I decided to skip it.

Join Me on My Journey to Salted Egg Yolks
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Join Me on My Journey to Salted Egg Yolks

A month passed quickly, with the jar of eggs keeping me company on my desk at work as the salt recrystallized around the seal. (Am I a scientist yet?) At the end of four weeks, I cracked open an egg, let the cloudy whites fall away, and examined the firm and slightly squishy bright-yellow yolk. Like a bouncy ball.

To recreate the dish from The Bao, I more-or-less followed a recipe from the site Eat What Tonight: Coat thin pumpkin slivers in cornstarch, fry them, then toss them in a sauce of garlic, chile, curry leaves, and the mashed egg yolks.

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Crispy Fried Pumpkin with Salted Egg Yolk
Crispy Fried Pumpkin with Salted Egg Yolk

So was it worth the wait? A firm yes, I'd say. During a time of year when it's easy in this part of the world to enjoy (or berate) pumpkin in the form of lattes and cookies and quick breads and stews, this dish is a reminder of how savory and fresh-tasting (yes, even with the frying) it can be. And despite the name "salted egg yolks," the yolks themselves are less salty than they are, well, richly eggy—the flavor of a hard-boiled egg yolk but with none of the chalky texture (that I personally despise). If you do want the full salt experience, hard-boil one of the eggs and take a taste of the whites.

And yes, you can buy salted egg yolks (which will normally be duck rather than chicken eggs) in a Chinese grocery store and make this dish tonight. But, before you do, a gift idea: Give a friend a jar of brining eggs to a friend with the promise that you'll make fried pumpkin with salty egg yolk for dinner in a month's time. It's a jar your friend can keep, plus a dinner date on the books.

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Crispy Fried Pumpkin with Salted Egg Yolk

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Serves 4

For the salted egg yolks:

  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns (optional)
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
  • 12 eggs

For the fried pumpkin:

  • 250 grams sugar pumpkin, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 Thai bird's eye chile, minced
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves (about 10)
  • 5 salted egg yolks (from above), mashed with a fork

Tell us: Would you wait a month for salted egg yolks?