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
-A large handful (about 1/2 lb?) of ground pork butt preferably chopped by hand for a coarser texture
-Shaoxing rice wine
-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!