Plan ahead: the magic of salted egg yolks takes four to five weeks to set in (or, seek them out online or at a Chinese market).
But it's worth the wait (or the special order!). During a time of year when it's easy, here 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. The finished dish is eggy in flavor but not texture, squash-sweet but with a slap of salt, and oily in the right way.
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).
salted egg yolks (from above), mashed with a fork
In This Recipe
For the salted egg yolks:
Add the salt and water to a small saucepan and add the star anise and peppercorns, if using. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt dissolves. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Once cool, stir in the Shaoxing.
Rinse and dry the eggs, then place them carefully in a jar with a lid.
Pour the cool solution over the eggs, making sure it covers them completely. In order to prevent the eggs from floating, you'll want to weigh them down. Linda at Malaysian Chinese Kitchen suggests using a ziptop bag filled halfway with water. You'll squish this baggie between the jar opening and the lid so that the eggs stay submerged.
Seal the jar, then put it in a room temperature spot for 4 to 5 weeks. After 4 weeks, crack open an egg and let the whites (which will be cloudy) fall away. If the yolk is bright yellow-orange and firm to the touch, your eggs yolks are ready to use. You can rinse and dry the eggs and keep them in the fridge for 1 month.
For the fried pumpkin:
Toss the sliced pumpkin with the sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the beaten egg and stir so that the pumpkin slices are coated.
Pour the cornstarch into a shallow bowl or onto a plate. Working with a couple of pieces of pumpkin at a time, transfer them to the plate and evenly coat in a thin layer of cornstarch. Repeat until all of the pumpkin is coated.
Heat an inch or two of cooking oil in a frying pan with high sides. Working in batches so that you don't crowd the pan, fry the cornstarch-coated pumpkin until crisp and golden brown. Set on paper towels to drain.
When you've finished making the pumpkin, start the salted egg yolk sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat, then add the garlic, chile, and curry leaves and stir until fragrant, a few minutes. Add the mashed salted egg yolks and the 3 remaining tablespoons of cooking oil. When the egg yolks start to sizzle and foam, reduce the heat to low, add the fried pumpkin, and stir to coat evenly. Remove from the heat and serve warm.
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.