Salted Egg Yolk Recipe: A Step-by-Step How-to


The Moon Competition (also referred to as the Mid-Autumn Competition or Mooncake Competition) is ready for September 29 of this yr, and Chinatowns throughout the globe are festooned with rabbits, moons, and commercials peddling stuffed pastries and happiness. Alongside these Chinese language grocery retailer shows additionally, you will see vacuum packs of salted yolks designed particularly for house cooks like me who stay up for having a delicate blast of umami inside our fresh-from-the-oven mooncakes.

This in fact begs the query, why put salted yolks in pastry? On the floor, it would seem odd, as if somebody have been suggesting we squeeze Roquefort into an eclair. However the truth is it’s extra analogous to the way in which a slice of cheddar works on apple pie by firming down the sweetness and making a higher vary of flavors. It’s because salted yolks are a conventional supply for what in Chinese language is known as “xianwei” and in Japanese, “umami.” Each phrases describe the identical factor: a wealthy, meaty style excessive in glutamates, and the rationale why such meals pretty much as good aged cheese, pasture eggs, ripe August tomatoes, artisanal Chinese language soy sauce, and completely grilled rib-eye steaks have so many loyal followers.

Umami is a comparatively new thought within the West. Till its Japanese title started to be bandied about, umami was an indescribable idea. This isn’t to say that our historical ancestors didn’t know what they have been doing, even when they didn’t have a reputation for it. Garum, or fermented fish sauce, has been discovered within the ruins of Pompeii, for instance, and was apparently kissing cousins with Southeast Asia’s nuoc mam lengthy earlier than the Roman Empire and Vietnam had ever even heard of one another. And China is house to a outstanding vary of sauces and pastes whose main directive has at all times been to amp up the umami in no matter dishes they adorn.

Many dishes in Chinese language delicacies are additionally characterised by taste fireworks that consequence from a mixture of candy and savory, particularly if umami is a part of the equation. Salted egg yolks specifically have for hundreds of years been a go-to ingredient for that deep, fragrant, gently salty suggestion in candy dishes like mooncakes and rice tamales (zongzi). If in case you have not but succumbed to the buttery edge {that a} well-made salted yolk can present, this may be an acquired style. However my recommendation to the uninitiated is to leap in with an open thoughts and a good wider open mouth.

So, what are these yolks, anyway? Merely put, they arrive from eggs which were soaked in salt water for a time frame. The standard course of utilized by each industrial and residential cooks is an easy one: When entire uncooked eggs (nonetheless of their shells) are soaked in heavy brine, the salt sucks out the yolks’ moisture till a chemical transformation activated by the brine lowers their free amino acids. Because the yolk compacts, a substance referred to as succinic acid attracts tacky flavors to the fore. Via this selective conspiracy of amino acids and nucleotides like glutamate and aspartate, gentle uncooked yolks are remodeled into highly effective little umami bombs.

This alteration is obvious as quickly as you crack open a uncooked brined egg: The white will probably be skinny, runny, and nearly violently salty (since that’s the a part of the egg that attracts within the lion’s share of salt), whereas the yolk will probably be as strong as a gummy bear, deeper in colour, and stuffed with crumbly buttery goodness. What was as soon as a gooey sac of round 99 p.c fats has by now been transformed into drier substances containing lipids and proteins. Its pH has been bumped up from about 6.5 to 10, which makes the yolk very acidic and probably contributes to its outstanding taste. (Parmesan cheese, by the way in which, is barely half as acidic.)

And so, when these yolks enter the Chinese language sweets kitchen, they’re referred to as upon to lend taste, distinction, and a marked savory part to pastries. For instance, a plain coconut mooncake tends to be a bit of one-note — chew after chew of sweetened coconut, irrespective of how good, can shortly turn into monotonous, like a macaroon that simply received’t give up — however with a cooked, brined yolk in its middle, the equation instantly adjustments. Steadiness is achieved. The sweetness is toned down. The flavors sparkle. And that mooncake goes from being means too massive to in all probability not sufficiently big.

This ingredient is so beloved that the traditional Taiwanese pastry referred to as danhuangsu, or yolk puffs, is little greater than a celebration of brined yolks wrapped in skinny blankets of contrasting candy bean paste and swaths of puff pastry. The consequence? Flaky, restrained layers of laminated dough round smears of wealthy jam, with the tacky yolks taking over many of the room. It’s so counterintuitive that it really works.

Recipes for uncooked egg yolks cured in beds of salt are all around the web these days, and they’re nice for issues like grating over pasta in lieu of Parmesan. However the outcomes are too dry and too salty for Chinese language pastries. Brined eggs are nonetheless the way in which to go as a result of they provide a heightened savory taste, higher moisture, and a crumblier texture.

The issue is that the standard of uncooked and cooked salted eggs offered in Chinese language supermarkets varies significantly, and that turns shopping for them right into a crapshoot. The excellent news is that brining your personal eggs at house doesn’t take a lot effort, and my up to date recipe under means you get to make use of the perfect eggs you’ll find, and treatment them in a fraction of the time it often takes.

Whoever initially got here up with this intelligent means of fast-tracking brined eggs actually knew their chemistry, for eggshells are primarily composed of calcium carbonate, and a diluted vinegar bathtub bubbles their outer layers away, thereby thinning the shells and making it simpler for the salt to penetrate the eggs. This recipe calls for big rooster eggs, however in case you have entry to contemporary duck eggs, even higher, as a result of they’re extra buttery and have a richer taste.

And so, right here is my recipe for quick-brined eggs that take solely about 10 days to treatment, relatively than the standard month.

Salted Egg Yolk Recipe

Makes 12 yolks


12 massive pasture-raised hen eggs
1¼ cups common, unseasoned white vinegar
1 cup (300 grams) tremendous or coarse sea salt


Step 1: Pour the vinegar and 2½ cups cool water into a big jar. Verify over the eggs to make sure that none are cracked. Gently layer the eggs contained in the jar, after which put one thing within the high to maintain them submerged (I exploit a crumpled plastic strawberry basket). The eggs will sink after which bubble because the vinegar begins to dissolve the calcium of their shells, and also you’ll in all probability see powdered shell sink down towards the underside of the jar as soon as the eggs start to drift. After about 4 hours, discard the vinegar resolution, rinse the eggs very rigorously (these shells are skinny, in spite of everything), and pat them dry. Rinse the jar and strawberry basket when you are at it, too.

Step 2: Whereas the eggs are soaking, place the salt in a big saucepan and add 5 cups boiling water. Deliver the water again to a boil over excessive warmth and stir till all of the salt has dissolved. Cool the salt water right down to room temperature.

Step 3: Place the eggs again within the jar, cowl them with the cooled salt resolution, and once more use the strawberry basket (or another object) to forestall the eggs from floating. Cowl the jar, label it with the date, and set it in a cool place in order that chemistry can work its magic.

Step 4: After 10 days, crack open an egg: The yolk ought to sit up good and perky in your hand, and may really feel gummy relatively than uncooked. But when it doesn’t, proceed to treatment the eggs and examine them once more after one other couple of days. (Duck eggs and extra-large hen eggs will in all probability take a pair further days to brine correctly.) When the firmness of the yolks is to your liking, drain, pat dry, and refrigerate in a closed plastic bag.

Step 5: Most Chinese language pastry recipes name for salted yolks to be baked earlier than they’re added to a filling. This ensures that when diners chew into the pastries, they are going to be met with absolutely cooked yolks that don’t include any lingering fishy aromas, which is particularly vital with duck eggs. The best way to do that is to take away any white matter on the brined yolks, after which rinse and pat them dry. Organize them on a small baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with oil. Sprinkle a bit of Chinese language white liquor (like kaoliang) and even gin over the yolks earlier than baking them at 325 levels for about 10 minutes. Cool earlier than utilizing and refrigerate in a sealed plastic bag. Use inside a few weeks. Or, even higher, begin making some pastry.

Carolyn Phillips is an artist and meals scholar, and the writer of On the Chinese language Desk: A Memoir with Recipes, All Beneath Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China, and The Dim Sum Discipline Information. This text and recipe are excerpts from her upcoming encyclopedic cookbook, The Artwork of Chinese language Baking: Conventional, Fashionable, and Reimagined (W. W. Norton, Spring 2025).

The cover of the cookbook, ‘Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes.’

‘Eater: 100 Important Restaurant Recipes’

Costs taken at time of publishing.

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