荷包蛋 (he bao dan), roughly translates to “Pocket Eggs.” Basically they are eggs over easy, served with a quick sauce. Well not quite “over” so much as folded and then fried until the yoke is how you want it. Some like it runny, I shoot for more of a just gelling stage, others might like it solid. This dish is so simple it will probably not impress too many dinner guests (though it might, that probably depends on presentation) it does, however make for a cheap, quick bite to eat. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but eggs are an important and inexpensive source of protein. A chicken can lay lots of eggs, but you can only eat the chicken once. Which is probably why eggs are so extensively used the world over.
In Taiwan you see huge flatbed trucks full of shallow crates packed with eggs. Well maybe not packed so much, in the west we are use to our eggs being packed in neat little rows in paperboard or styrofoam cartons, one neat level on top of the next. In Taiwan the eggs are just put in crates, willy nilly, like great piles of white jelly beans. The crates are neatly stacked on the trucks, but there is no order amongst the eggs. Nor do they really need it, as long as they don’t receive any blunt force trauma eggs are quite structurally sound. As any high school physics teacher is apt to point out.
Back to the dish, this is just one version of 荷包蛋 Pocket Eggs, there are several I’ve come across. As you may have guessed there is more than one way to fry an egg. Basically they are all just a fried egg with an unbroken yoke and some sort of sauce of varying complexity. I just happen to like this simple sweet and sour version. Oh, and just as a side note, this method seems most suited for a round bottom wok. The shape of the wok’s bottom seems to facilitate the shape and folding of the egg. You can use a flat bottom pan, it is just harder to keep the egg from spreading out.
- 4 to 6 eggs
- oil for frying
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 1/2 T. vinegar
- 1/2 T. sugar
- Combine the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Add 1 T. of oil in a wok over medium – medium high heat.
- Crack one egg into the wok, fry sunny side up until about half set. Carefully fold the egg in half. Fry until both sides are lightly browned (flipping once) and the yolk is set to your liking. Remove the egg to a plate. Repeat with the rest of the eggs, adding more oil as needed.
- When all the eggs are done remove most of the excess oil from the wok. Over medium heat add the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar mixture. Simmer for a minute or two and pour over the eggs.