Hualien, The Farewell
Hualien pre- & post-randomness.
Feast. Egg-daikon cake (lúo buō gāo, 蘿蔔糕). Squid on a stick, Fried thousand year egg, Chinese burritos, meat jerky, and a hooligan vegetable farewell.
Quick rewind. Waiting around at the Zi Shan MRT station, ready to depart for Hualien.
There were the remnants of a Lantern festival near Zi Shan which sported a mini-open-air market. Rock and I perused the eats, and took notice to squid on a stick as well as fried thousand year egg. Quite interesting. The grilled squid on a stick was marinated in the house “secret sauce” and continually basted and brushed until ready.
The thousand year egg, with it’s bluish-green translucence, was slightly off-putting, not only because of the sulfuric smell but because it looked (and smelled) rotten. Harold Mcgee quotes in his book, “On Food and Cooking,” that these eggs take on a “decrepit appearance: the shell is encrusted with mud, the white a transparent, brown jelly, and the yolk a semisolid, somber jade…the flavor is eggy in the extreme, salty, stonily alkaline, with strong accents of sulfur and ammonia.” Generally not too pleasant.
Two things are required to make thousand year eggs.
- Something very alkaline (lye, sodium carbonate).
Eggs too, of course.
- Make a paste or solution with the two non-egg ingredients above.
- Encase/submerge the eggs.
What goes on.
- Salt disrupts protein structure.
- High alkalinity raises the egg’s pH level.
- An accumulation of negative charges causes charge repulsion and subsequently, protein denaturation.
- Proteins then bond together. We observe a “solid, yet transparent gel.”
- High alkalinity increases reactions between egg albumen and free glucose = brown egg white.
- Increased alkalinity degrades phospholipids/turns proteins into sulfides/ammonia produced= green eggs but no ham.
Jargon aside, someone apparently thought, “Hey. Let’s fry this stuff. I bet it tastes great.” They were right.
Our second day in Hualien involved a great deal of scootering south of where we were. Breakfast was again found within a kilometer from where we were staying. The original plan was actually to find the “deep fried scallion pancake” place (remember these locations don’t really have names; they’re known for what they sell). Only problem was that we couldn’t find the damn place. Super slow Google mapping and marching up and down the same street a couple times only revealed some dead-weedy-looking alleys, some “such amateur tourists” looks, and what seemed to be a nightclub that replaced the original restaurant. Oh well. We stepped next door to another breakfast place and ate our share of Taiwanese goodies. This time, the highlight was egg-daikon cake. I did a previous post about how turnip/daikon cake was made- the only difference this time around was that they added an omelette over it.
Riding the train from Hualien back to Taipei made me feel like I was train hopping, since we didn’t have assigned seats, so we ended up behind several rows of seats in front a train garbage can. This was the camping spot where we sat, sprawled out, just chillin’, chatting, being hooligans, and eating fern-like vegetables. Cool.
Mcgee, Harold. On Food and Cooking. Scribner (epub). 2004. 196-197.