There are a multitude of reasons why people blog; why they choose to share a part or parts of their lives with people both known and unknown to them in such a public way. I chose food – I love it and it brings me joy. I turn to it when I am unhappy and am in need of comfort. Retail therapy fails me as, when I am feeling down, nothing appears as shiny, exciting or pretty as it should otherwise be. And I don’t turn to food to eat it – feeling blue makes me lose my appetite – rather I choose to immerse myself in the method and process of it instead.
Just as I choose to tidy and clean when there is major upheaval in my life – to restore order and balance – cooking is a process which also provides control. The year I turned 30 I faced major turning points in my family life and career. I ended up with a lot of time to cook and create and feel like I was contributing something positive to this world which could be appreciated. That was my reward.
And from that love of food came this blog. I can immerse myself in the buying, cooking, eating, photographing and writing of the food which adds a little sparkle when the mundane activities get a little too mundane. I escape into a part of my world which brings me happiness and where it hopefully amounts to some joy for others.
Recently received news marks the end of an era in my life. It was news which was anticipated and which I’ve mulled over the potential follow-on effects of for years, but that doesn’t negate that it was unpleasant news nonetheless. I was scatterbrained and showed only very short spurts of concentration so I turned to this dish which is not a stir-fry, not a stew and not quite a soup.
‘Gold and silver eggs’ is a Chinese dish which is most commonly cooked with the leaves of young, green leafy vegetables such as snow pea sprouts, baby spinach and bok choy sprouts. The ‘gold’ in this dish’s poetic name refers to the hue of the yolk of a salted duck egg ‘haam daan’ (鹹蛋), although the white is also used, while the ‘silver’ refers to preserved duck eggs (aka century eggs) ‘pei daan’ (皮蛋) which are more of an ashy, charcoal colour. The Chinese preserve duck eggs as they are larger and yield larger yolks than chicken eggs. And while chicken eggs are prized for their silky texture, duck eggs are considered tougher and therefore less desirable to consume as is.
I only had baby bok choy to hand so I chopped the stalks into thin sticks and also added a block of tofu we had in our fridge. The tofu made the accompanying broth milky in appearance, but will be clear if you choose not to use it. I completely forgot about the usual inclusion of garlic, but I did say before that I’ve been scatterbrained. Mixed in with a bowl of white rice, this dish was warming, salty, slightly soppy and very, very comforting.
Gold and silver eggs with baby bok choy and tofu (金銀蛋小棠菜豆腐) (serves 2)
· 6 dried shrimp
· 1 salted duck egg (鹹蛋)
· 1 preserved duck egg (皮蛋)
· ½ bunch baby bok choy (小棠菜)
· 300g block of silken or firm tofu (your choice)
· 2 slices of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
· 2 garlic cloves, sliced (optional)
· 1 tbs cooking oil
- Rinse the shrimp and soak in 1 cup cold water while the other ingredients are prepared.
- Crack the salted duck egg into a bowl and use a butter knife to roughly chop up the soft yolk. Peel the preserved duck egg and chop into 1cm cubes. Set aside.
- Wash baby bok choy and chop leaves from stems. Slice stems into thin sticks.
- Gently chop tofu into pieces of a desired size. Set aside.
- Squeeze moisture from soaked shrimp, reserve soaking water, and roughly chop.
- Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat, add shrimp pieces, ginger and garlic (if using) and stir around gently until fragrant. Throw in the baby bok choy, increase heat to high, stir-fry until half cooked and remove from pan.
- Add 1 cup of water to the pan as well as the reserved soaking water from the shrimp. When it comes to the boil, carefully add the salted duck egg and swirl the water to break up the eggwhite into shreds.
- Add tofu and preserved duck egg and allow mixture to boil before returning baby bok choy to the pan. Gently move everything around in the pan to cook, taking care not to break up the tofu too much. Check for taste – some salted duck eggs can be quite salty and you will need to add more water to the pan if this is the case.