Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Favorite Childhood Dish, Loud and Proud: Steamed Pork With Salted Duck Egg

Coming from where I come from--a podunk little suburb about 25 miles outside of San Francisco--growing up Chinese-American back in the 70’s and 80’s was tough work. As one of a small handful of ethnic minority kids in my grade school classes, I was always guaranteed that anything I did that was remotely culturally diverse was a free pass for taunts, teases and hurt feelings. Had I known then what I know today, those Slant-Eye-Ching-Chong-China insults would’ve been met with the finger and a resounding “Fuck You” from that little Chinese girl with the bowl cut. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that self-confident back then and resorted to taking the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude in order to avoid being the laughing stock of my school.

I watched shows like the Brady Bunch to figure out how a stereotypical American family lives. Easy enough, right? Everyone calls each other "dear", they eat roast beef for dinner every night and they like to go camping. It would be my job to convince my classmates that these kinds of things were what my family liked to do too.

So when my 6th grade class was studying nutrition and had a homework assignment to keep a food diary and categorize those things into the four food groups, I was determined to replace stir-fried pork intestines and pickled mustard greens with pot roast and potatoes. I didn't think anyone in my class would understand that at my house, we ate from the vegetable, meat, and bread/grain groups as well as the offal group, the soy group and the various-preserved-foodstuffs group.

It was a total shame because my embarrassment and cowardice led me to leave some of my all time favorite dishes off of this food diary. What's worse, my parents somehow got a hold of this project and were crushed that I'd rather show people that I ate meatloaf instead of my favorite dish that they'd prepared with so much love: steamed pork with salted duck egg, or hahm dahn jzing jee yook.

I've been kicking myself in the ass for that food diary incident for as long as I can remember. How could I have been so stupid as to lie about something that made me feel so good? Knowing that it was my favorite dish, my parents always let me have the first scoop, and I strategically dug my spoon into the center every time so as to get some of the salty, velvety egg yolk. I'd plop the spoonful of this porky, eggy Cantonese village dish onto a steaming mound of rice, mix it all up, and start shoveling the stuff into my mouth. My parents would also purposely leave a little bit of the hahm dahn jzing jee yook in the dish because they knew I liked to dump the last bit of rice from the rice pot into it and scrape up every last juicy pork and egg bit.

I therefore made it my goal to make sure I knew how to make this dish for my own children. Even though my son is a little too young to be eating such a sodium and cholesterol bomb right now (hey, I never said this dish was healthy), it's comforting to know that I can one day make this dish for him the same way that my parents made it for me. And being that he's mostlikey going to be growing up in the Chinese-heavy San Gabriel Valley, I don't think he'll have a problem putting steamed pork with salted duck egg on his own food diary.

The basic recipe follows; sorry I don't really use exact measurements. Do like I do--trial and error until the taste and texture is to your liking. You'll be surprised at how super-simple it is!

Steamed Pork With Salted Duck Egg/Hahm Dahn Jzing Jee Yook

Ingredients:
-A large handful (about 1/2 lb?) of ground pork butt preferably chopped by hand for a coarser texture
-Sesame oil
-Soy sauce
-Shaoxing rice wine
-Cornstarch
-1 large chicken egg, beaten
-1 uncooked salted duck egg (available at Chinese markets such as 99 Ranch)

Put a swig each of sesame oil, soy sauce and wine onto the ground pork. Sprinkle with a little bit of cornstarch. Mix it all together with your hands.

Add the chicken egg and mix again with your hands.

Separate the salted duck egg--the big bulbous orangey-yellow yolk will remain intact.

Combine the salted duck egg white with the pork & chicken egg mixture and mix thoroughly with your hands.

Pour the mixture into a shallow dish and put the salted duck egg yolk in the center of the mixture.

Steam for approximately 20 minutes or until the pork is no longer pink.

Serve with steamed rice and enjoy!

Note to parents: I recently started cooking an alternate, lower-sodium version of this for my toddler. I simply omitted the salted duck egg and added an additional beaten chicken egg. It won't have that subtle salted flavor that the duck egg lends to the dish, but at least my kid can enjoy something similar now. It still has that wonderful aroma of steamed pork and sesame oil and the custardy texture of the steamed egg. He's already been eating it at daycare and loving it--he makes mama so proud!

15 comments:

stuffycheaks said...

OMG that looks great and I JUST made a variation of this yesterday. I'm gonna post it on my blog shortly. My pics don't look half as artistic as yours..

Reid said...

I love this topped with a heaping mound of green onion or at times with some minced ginger. We often eat this with a mix of mustard and shoyu.

joanh said...

mmmm....

Ravenous Couple said...

Vietnamese also has a similar dish and we throw in lots of dill. We totally hear ya about growing up with those ching chong comments growing up in the midwest!

weezermonkey said...

I loved this story.

When I was in third grade, I was waiting in the milk line. The big kid handing out milk was giving regular milk to white kids and chocolate milk to black kids. When he got to me, he said, "We don't have no yellow milk."

I told him, "You mean you don't have any yellow milk." Then I got my own orange juice.

Not exactly a "fuck you," but I made him feel dumb for about two seconds.

SinoSoul said...

Crux of this story: R&C wanted to be White during the 6th grade. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (I just wanted to know how to roll up my pants correctly).

Btw, love this dish. And love how Stuffy Cheaks always did a steamed pork dish recipe on the same day. Bacon ain't got ISHT on steamed ground pork.

slowrider said...

So this is similar to a dish that is getting hard to come by at Cantonese places....Hom Yu.....I love that stuff!
Chinese Garden in Montebello has it and there is a place in Gardena.....can't think of many others...oh Paul's Kitchen in DTLA.
Thanks for this recipe.

Tomer said...

> assignment to keep a food diary
> and categorize those things into
> the four food

I use a program called Food And Exercise Diary (WeightlossSoftware.Com). It has a medical diary, food diary, and moods and feelings diary. So I can see relations between my foods, medication and moods. So the FED lets me figure out what is causing problems, and what works.

Kung Food Panda said...

Not just 70's and 80's, even during the 90's those ching chong chong crap was used in my redneck of a town. Too bad I was outnumbered 3000:1, otherwise I'd Kung Fu their asses. LOL

Anyways, I love this stuff. Chinese
"meatloaf." It's great stuff! I would love to get some right now!

Gastronomer said...

Beautiful post, Pammie! Even down in SD I had to eat my cha gio during snack time in secret. It makes me feel good knowing that your son will not have any qualms talking about the funky stuff that he's fed at home.

e d b m said...

Pam, great posting, the pics look great. I'll never forget the way my dad makes this once every 2 weeks. Such a peasant dish but one that has probably kept a lot of Chinese families alive and kicking haha. have a great halloween.

e d b m said...

I might have to do a posting on the pickled cabbage (sheun choi) that comes in the brown earthen pot for $3.99. know what i'm talking about??

Peabody said...

Woah, late to this party - but...

I love a little bit of finely chopped Chinese Sausage (Lop Cheung) as an alternative or in addition to the Ham Dan (Salted Egg).
When I lived in Singapore Salted Fish was a very popular option for Steamed Pork Cake (Ju Yuk Beng).

You can still order this in a few old Vancouver Chinatown restaurants.

Excellent Post!

Darrell said...

Yumm! One of my family favs as well. My mom did the preserved veggies version so I don't recall ever having it with the salted egg, but I just put it on my menu for an upcoming 2012 Chinese New Year dinner event with the LA Foodies and Asian Foodies. If you are not already a member of one or both groups, you should check them out at www.LAFoodies.org and www.AsianFoodies.info

ErinMichelle said...

I am so happy to find this recipe! I am a white, Irish American who grew up (since I was 4, now 28) with my Mom and stepfather Ed who is chinese American and my brothers who are half Chinese half Irish. When, I was younger we would go to Chinatown in Philadelphia every Sunday to have dinner with Eds family, this was a staple at every meal and is my all time favorite dish, well that and gai lan with oyster sauce and sing gua soup. I have been trying to replicate this dish for years just by taste since we never had a recipe and it just never came out quite right. I can't wait to try this tonight!

I'm sorry you grew up with such nasty people, it breaks my heart. Life wouldn't be the same without Ed and my brothers. I am proud of where I come from and of my family.

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