Coming from the US, if you asked me how many different ways there are to cook an egg, I would come up with the following list:
- hard boiled
- sunny side up
- over easy
Pretty extensive, I think, but by no means exhaustive.
Living in Taiwan for the last 6 months, however, has opened my eyes to a whole new world of egg preparation. And so, I'd like to take a moment to share with you all my egg-citing discoveries.
The first and by far most prevalent egg here in Taiwan is the Tea Egg (茶葉蛋). Tea eggs are eggs which have been hard boiled once, then had their shell slightly cracked, and been further stewed in a salted tea liquid with various other spices. According to the Wikipedia post on Tea Eggs, 7-11 chain stores alone sell 40 MILLION tea eggs per year in Taiwan!!!!
Needless to say, Tea Eggs are very popular here. I'm actually ashamed to say it, but it took me a full 5 and 1/2 months to try a tea egg! Finally a couple weeks ago, on my way to work, I picked one up for a quick snack on the go.
The second egg-option here in Taiwan is the salted duck egg (鹹鴨蛋). Now, unlike the tea egg, this is not a chicken egg, but rather a duck egg (surprise surprise). I have to say, this is my least favorite egg option and I have only eaten it once since I came to Taiwan.
They are basically just salt-cured eggs and they are SOOO damn salty that I really couldn't eat more than one bite of mine.
(as a side note, these are served with a very thin egg-shell firmly and surreptitiously in place... diners beware!)
The third eggcelent egg I've come across here in Taiwan is the Iron Egg (鐵蛋). Iron Eggs are eggs that have been repeatedly stewed in a mix of spices and air-dried. They're a bit like tea-eggs on steroids, except they're not made with tea. They are very dark brown and chewy due to the fact that they've been cooked for such a long time... and I love them.
In my opinion, these eggs are by far the best of all egg options here in Taiwan. They have a sweet-spicy flavor and they're just delightful. They are commonly made from chicken eggs, but one of my new favorite snacks here are iron eggs made from quail eggs.
Quail eggs are pretty tiny, so you can eat 7 in one sitting to equal the calories in one big chicken egg.
Last, but certainly not least are the Thousand Year Eggs (皮蛋). Mmmm.
Despite their appearance, these eggs actually have a much milder flavor than that of the iron eggs, and once you get over their appearance, you'll find that they're delicious.