When reader Millet, of Davao, mentioned a really simple sauce of butter and salted egg yolk for crabs a few posts ago, I was instantly intrigued. One of the crew was heading to the markets that morning in Cebu, so I asked him to purchase some crab, but failing that, some nice prawns instead. I knew we had butter and salted red eggs in the pantry, so I was hoping to see what this incredibly unusual pairing of ingredients was about. A little googling yielded this recipe and another two versions described here. I guess there are two versions of this delicacy… a wet one with a sauce of butter, cream/milk, salted egg yolks, onions, ginger, curry leaf, shaoxing rice wine, etc. The sauce is poured over quickly fried crab (or in my experiment, prawns)… and a dry version that looked like battered crab, with presumably the salted egg yolks worked into the batter. I figured we would try the wet version first, but I have to say, we were missing several of the ingredients… :(
First heat up a wok with a copious amount of pork lard, the remains of a recent batch of chicharon. Take two gorgeous kilos of tiger prawns and remove their sharp thing-ey on their heads and their whiskers, and dry them off really well with paper towels. If you want to fuss, you can carefully slice the shells and “de-vein” the shrimp, then toss with lots of cornstarch seasoned with salt and pepper and shake off any excess. Deep fry in batches in hot lard, they will only take a minute or two at most to cook all the way through. Do not overcook or the shrimp flesh will get noticeably tougher.
Transfer the fried prawns onto two serving platters. Remove all but say a tablespoon of lard from the wok or kawali and saute a chopped onion and lots of chopped garlic for about a minute until just softening. Add 500-750 grams of butter, I know, a wicked lot, and you could have used a kilo even if you wanted lots of sauce, and let this melt down…
…then add say 6-7 egg yolks from salted eggs. Here I made a serious error. In a rush, I asked a sous-chef to peel the salted eggs and give me only the yolks, but he left a film of egg white around the yolk. Do NOT include ANY white whatsoever, it changes the mouthfeel and texture of the dish. It doesn’t render it inedible, but I think the sauce would be a notch or two better without any whites whatsoever. I mashed the yolks with a fork, added them to the butter and used a whisk to mix this all up. As Millet said, a rather magical foam rises from the butter and whatever the reaction is between the salted yolk and butter, it certainly seems like a bit of wizard alchemy at work…
I added a dash of Xiaoshing rice wine for flavor, some ground white pepper, and rued that we weren’t more prepared, with a bit of say heavy cream or the critical flavoring agent, curry leaves, but this was just the first attempt. We poured the sauce over the prawns and served them immediately. They were slam dunk delicious!!! So incredibly easy, and yet so distinctly unique. And yes, I can see this working very well with crabs deep fried in lard as well!
A few suggestions if you are going to try this at home. Use crabs rather than prawns if you can. If prawns, de-vein them , for aesthetics and more importantly, so the sauce can permeate the shells. Salt and pepper the cornstarch mixture very generously. You want the prawns to be a little salty and spicy before you add the sauce. Use larger and more flavorful salted DUCK eggs, not chicken eggs. Make double the sauce you think you need… it disappears rather quickly. And if like us, we took the remaining sauce on the bottom of the two serving platters, added some white rice and mixed it all up with little bits of shrimp and shrimp brains — WOW, SARAP TALAGA! And Millet, a new derivative dish is born… “Marketman’s Salted Egg Yolk Crab Fried Rice” — the sauce, rice and already peeled crab meat. Yum, totally decadent and totally delicious. Credit for idea to you, of course. But I wonder if folks would pay the premium price for this at the restaurants. :) Thanks for introducing this dish to me and all of the readers of the blog!