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How To - Other Produce
Eggs or Dan
Eggs are plentiful and quite diverse in China, as can be witnessed in any wet market or supermarket. Chicken eggs come in many forms and some may have been treated in some way. Some are also used in medical preparations, whilst others are far better to fry. Let's begin with standard chicken eggs:

Chicken eggs are called 'gai dan' in Cantonese, gai meaning chicken, and dan egg.
Chicken eggs are normally sold loose and you can pick your own. Supermarkets also offer prepacked egg trays and intimate good quality, although this is not necessarily so.

When purchasing in a wet market you will find stalls that only sell eggs, and I mean a massive range of eggs! Most will have a small weird rack with light bulbs beneath - these are used to check the eggs and you are welcome to inspect every one before buying. The light does show if the egg is liquid inside, as there is nothing worse than cooking the rare fertilised one!

Brown Eggs are best for most English style cooking. Yolks tend to have a good deep yellow colour because nearly all are free range. The shells crack with a good sharp blow and are perfect for frying.

White Eggs are preferred by most Chinese and are a tad more expensive. Whilst still free range they come from different chicken species and have a lighter coloured yolk. Whilst they are fine I do not use them for cooking as their shells have a habit of disintegrating when cracked, with the virtual guarantee the yolk will be punctured = useless for 'sunny side up'.

Special white eggs cost slightly more again and come from special chickens. These are the highest quality, are extremely light beige in colour, and are supposed to have medicinal properties. The yolks are a vibrant light yellow. These can be used as normal, but again I find their shells cause problems when used for frying.

These eggs are used when making a traditional Chinese remedy to combat occasional dizziness or light-headedness. They are cooked for several hours in a sealed salt vessel and eaten as boiled eggs (after shelling). The full recipe is given in our associated medicinal section
Image: Bantum, quail and chicken eggs - Click to Enlarge

Image: Chicken Eggs - Click to Enlarge

Image: Eggs with traditional medicinal properties - Click to Enlarge
Pei Dan or 100-year-old eggs may be an acquired taste although I really like them. When made traditionally they are buried in compost and left in the ground for about 3 months. Nowadays most eggs are treated commercially to reproduce this effect.

When sold in a wet market they often have a slightly blue shell colouration similar to the large duck eggs. If they are not cleaned, then they come covered in what looks like manure and straw.

They are often used in Cantonese cooking and especially when preparing 'Sik Juk' or rice porridge, or tossed with Chinese cress in a sliced ginger and garlic base using a lot of water.

Recipe: You can try this at home using cress, lemon cress, or even watercress. Toss a handful of greens into a wok with a pint of water, add a couple of ounces of whole garlic and sliced ginger, add a shelled and broken up pei dan - cook for 3 minutes and serve.

Bantum eggs are from a species of small chicken called a Bantum. I know these from home on the farm in England, but they may be new to you? They are one of the cheapest eggs sold in China, basically because they are pretty small. They can be white through to brown, just like the eggs of their larger cousins. Use as you would any ordinary egg, but reduce cooking times accordingly. These can be useful for presentation where, say in a side salad you want to you want to match the size of cherry tomatoes to that of whole eggs or olives.

Pre-laid eggs. Before we finish with chicken eggs one Chinese delicacy is to serve eggs that have not yet been laid. When gutting a chicken the chef will always keep most of the internals, and this includes the egg sack - which looks like a string of yolks attached to a piece of gut and growing smaller in size.
You can boil these or add to a stew. They take a few minutes to cook through and are eaten as is. They taste just like egg yolks - which is hardly surprising!

Prep chef's also retain the pre-formed eggs found inside the carcass. One may have a soft shell, but several will be small eggs with a thin shell. These can all be cooked in the normal manner and eaten as usual. Certain vendors at wet markets will sell these and the yolk sacs, although you may have to wait or place an order. Normally these vendors sell live chickens and also offer a plucking and chopping service.
Image: Chicken internals showing egg sac and unlaid egg
Other Eggs:

Quail Eggs or 'juik dan' are small mottled yellow / brown as pictured right. They are common in wet markets and regarded as a delicacy.

These eggs are normally sold boiled and ready to eat, but can be bought uncooked.

They are pleasant to eat and almost the same flavour and texture as hen eggs.
Image: Quail Eggs - Click to Enlarge
Duck Eggs are also quite common in larger wet markets, especially in country areas where ducks are reared for market. These eggs are slightly larger than a standard chicken egg, and just like in UK have a white or very pale blue shell. Duck eggs do have a slightly stronger taste, so they are not as popular as the types above.

Goose Eggs can be ordered or occasionally bought from local farms that rear geese for market. These eggs are noticeably larger and have a mild but distinctive flavour. They are not commonly eaten in China outside of local communities.

Other Eggs are sometimes available but tend to be seasonal or associated with the farming of specialised fowl. These may find their way into a rural wet market at times but do not count on it.
This information is as supplied by ourselves, and ably supported by our friends and various internet portals.
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