(CNN) — “Would you want salted duck egg with that?” requested the cook dinner.
I used to be on a visit to Yangzhou in China’s Jiangsu province and had popped right into a small eatery for a chunk of breakfast, ordering congee and a facet of pickled greens.
Earlier than I might reply, the cook dinner disappeared into the kitchen, then reemerged holding a grayish-green egg balanced on a plate.
“Positive,” I nodded.
Plain congee, in any case, pairs finest with bitter or pungent condiments that pack a whole lot of punch. And in my expertise, the sharp taste of salted duck eggs — cured in brine to provide salty whites and wealthy, creamy yolks — could possibly be much more stimulating than a cup of joe.
When the meal arrived, I sliced the egg open, able to spoon out the fatty yolk.
However as the 2 halves of the egg teetered on the plate, I instinctively did a double take. Not one, however two oozy, bright-orange yolks rested of their egg-white cradles.
Amazed, I waved the cook dinner over to indicate him this rarity.
He chuckled, then defined that many of the salted duck eggs of their kitchen contained two yolks. They’d been introduced over from a county located inside Yangzhou, referred to as Gaoyou. There, one thing most locations would take into account a uncommon and random anomaly is in considerable provide.
Salted duck eggs: A gastronomic specialty
The phenomenon of double yolks happens in as much as 10% of the eggs laid by Gaoyou geese.
Courtesy Sharyne Moy Tu
It seems that Gaoyou’s geographic place makes it ripe for the manufacturing of salted duck eggs.
The county is located in a area with plentiful waterways, similar to Gaoyou Lake (the province’s third largest freshwater lake), which for hundreds of years has enabled the native waterfowl trade to thrive.
However that is not the one manner wherein the pure setting virtually predestined Gaoyou’s eventual declare to fame. Salt, which is important for curing the duck eggs, is bountiful within the space.
Northern Jiangsu province’s salt marshes, which are actually a part of a biosphere reserve the place guests can go birdwatching and climbing, have been as soon as primarily recognized for being a significant supply of China’s salt.
“That was the epicenter of the salt trade,” explains Miranda Brown, a professor of Chinese language research on the College of Michigan. “You might have the lake for the duck, after which you might have the salt trade actually subsequent door.”
A employee at Jiangsu Gaoyou Duck Co. Ltd makes use of a lightweight to seek for double-yolk eggs.
Li Bo/Xinhua/Sipa USA
Within the metropolis of Yancheng (actually which means “Salt Metropolis”) not removed from Gaoyou, an enormous community of crisscrossing waterways connects the coastal salt marshes to the Grand Canal, an enormous artifical river that allowed salt producers to make a good-looking revenue promoting to the remainder of the nation.
“Salt retailers have been wealthy and had very nice tastes,” says Brown. “They threw lavish banquets that will final all day and pull collectively probably the most beautiful meals.”
What rich folks ate was usually thought of a benchmark for what constituted nice eating, and writers and poets who rubbed shoulders with the prosperous retailers would pen treatises concerning the meals.
Within the late 18th century, the Qing-Dynasty scholar and gastronome Yuan Mei wrote in “Recipes from the Backyard of Contentment” (translated in 2017 by Sean J.S. Chen): “Salted eggs from Gaoyou are superb, with deep reddish yolks loaded with oil.”
Such references helped cement salted duck eggs as a gastronomic specialty of Gaoyou, entwined with the realm’s very identification.
That affiliation continues to run deep right now; in keeping with the Chinese language search engine Baidu, choirs in Gaoyou recurrently carry out a people track referred to as “数鸭蛋” (Shǔ Yā Dàn, which accurately interprets as “Counting Duck Eggs”) that celebrates the native specialty.
This type of culinary regionalism was and nonetheless is widespread all through China, with totally different areas turning into related to explicit meals merchandise.
In accordance with Brown, the tendency for these correlations stems largely from the nation’s huge measurement and various topography, which “results in totally different culinary prospects. That turns into a manner that individuals begin to establish locations and areas and even folks — by the meals which are finest grown in these areas.”
For instance, pu-erh tea from the mountains of southwest China’s Yunnan province is revered throughout China, whereas Internal Mongolia Autonomous Area’s huge pastures, ultimate for sheep herding, produce a lot of the nation’s mutton.
Gaoyou’s waterways are a preferred vacationer attraction.
Meng Delong/Xinhua/Getty Photographs
In related style, Gaoyou grew to become acknowledged for environmental circumstances that favored salted duck eggs.
“Someplace alongside the road, Gaoyou’s duck farmers should have realized that it will be even higher for enterprise to breed the geese to provide extra double yolks,” says Meng Wen, the cook dinner who first launched me to double-yolk salted duck eggs in Yangzhou.
Farmers favored that individuals thought of double yolks a logo of excellent fortune as a result of they have been so unusual. Furthermore, twice the yolk additionally meant twice the nutrient content material.
To extend the frequency of the double-yolk eggs, breeders artificially choose geese for the genetic anomaly.
Two yolks are higher than one
These days, the phenomenon of double yolks, which might ordinarily make uncommon and random appearances, happens in round 2 to 10% of the eggs laid by Gaoyou geese, in keeping with the 2011 research.
Offered all throughout China these days, Gaoyou’s double-yolk salted duck eggs are labeled as such — and infrequently promote for a number of occasions extra money than their single-yolk counterparts do.
Gaoyou’s double-yolk eggs promote for a number of occasions extra money than their single-yolk counterparts do.
Strolling by the markets and grocery retailers of Yangzhou, I observed that eggs with double the yellow enormously outnumbered the same old selection — so beloved are the oily yolks for his or her lusciousness.
To profit from my proximity to Gaoyou, I ordered a double-yolk egg every time I dined at a teahouse in Yangzhou. I’d emulate what I noticed different diners doing — stabbing the eggs with a chopstick to permit the greasy yolk to expire.
Most individuals who’ve tried salted duck eggs, myself included, would in all probability argue that the yolk is certainly the perfect half, its creamy and wealthy taste superior to that of the a lot brinier whites.
Yan explains that “some folks do not eat that a lot of the egg white half.” Hu, too, says: “I am not likely into the white half. It is actually salty. The yolk is absolutely creamy and really easy.”
Nevertheless, I later study that Yuan Mei would have opposed our preferential remedy of the yolk.
In “Recipes from the Backyard of Contentment,” he breaks down what he insists is the correct strategy to get pleasure from salted duck eggs: “Place the entire egg on a plate, reduce it in half, and serve the shell, yolk, and whites all collectively. One mustn’t take away the whites and reserve solely the yolk as a result of the flavors can be incomplete.”
I understand that this is smart. In any case, farmers wouldn’t have gone to the difficulty of breeding double-yolk eggs if serving two yolks by themselves on a plate would have been enough.
Within the case of those eggs, the entire is bigger than the sum of its elements — however for salted egg lovers, it would not harm to have further of the perfect half.
High picture: Geese swim within the water at a breeding base in Gaoyou, China. (Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Getty Photographs)