Look at that delicious salted egg yolk sauce, the way it gently caressing every nook and cranny. The curry leaves – imparting a welcoming fragrance. Each bite, a delightful explosion for the senses.
Oh sorry where was I?
Poetic waxing and waning aside, this is one snack you need to try and make for yourself! The latest snack craze that's sweeping South East Asia, salted egg chips marry the world's arguably most ubiquitous snack (the humble potato chip) with the rich flavour of salted egg yolk to create an experience that marries salty and fatty, rich and sweet, spicy and crunchy.
Salted eggs are a food item long present in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. You've probably seen salted egg yolks in other things like mooncake (#2EggYolkorBust), salted egg yolk buns, or sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves. A salted egg is typically a duck egg either soaked in brine or wrapped in salted charcoal and left to allow the salt to permeate through the shell, essentially curing the egg. Chicken eggs can also be salted, and back in the Phillippines it's not uncommon to see a street vendor selling them in a large basket, the eggs often dyed a rich red/purple colour (where they're called itlog na maalat).
What you're here for however are salted egg chips, which involves creating a sauce with the egg yolks and butter, plus curry leaves and finely chopped chillies for a hint of spice. This newest food craze allegedly started off in Singapore, where The Golden Duck and Irvins Salted Egg are the largest purveyors of this rich and delicious snack. Apparently this is the kind of thing that is only served during Chinese New Year and special occasions, which is partially explains the price tag – Irvins' retails for S$8 (about $7.60 CAD, a bit on the high side for chips and crunchy things...even kale chips). That hasn't stopped the throng of foodies however from creating such a strong demand that the craze has migrated over to the Philippines, which is how I found out about it (I was gifted a bag and the rest is history). As of writing, there are at least seven different businesses that have popped up in Manila over the last year or so but because of their fairly perishable nature (salted egg chips can't be done up in large industrial batches or you lose out on the freshness), they are often only available for pickup or delivery and haven't gotten city-wide retail distribution.
All that being said, I've yet to actually find anyone who sells salted egg chips in Vancouver (if you do know anyone, hit a homegirl up), which is why I was inspired to try and make them myself! The good news for you is that they are actually dead easy to make and only require a few ingredients. Some will require a trip to your local asian grocery store, but the results are so good you'll be rewarded with a snack that is so good, you'll need to guard it with your life (or really, just have your dog on guard duty).
Let's start off with the salted egg yolks. If you do find salted eggs at your local Asian grocery, they will typically be packaged in styrofoam and are sold either cooked or raw. For this particular iteration, I suggest picking up the cooked version. Or better yet, look for the salted egg yolks on their own – the ones you see in the photo above are Watson brand salted egg yolks, which I found at Great One (on Park Road in Richmond). Since salted eggs typically come in packs of 6, you'll likely want to get two packs - you can have the rest of the salted eggs with a comforting bowl of congee, hacked up with up with tomatoes as a quick salad, or chopped into your next bowl of ramen. You also may have noticed that the egg yolks are happily steaming away in the above picture - if the egg yolks you got were more solid in nature, steaming is necessary in order to soften them up to get them ready for the next step...
Smushing up the egg yolks (for lack of a better word)! At this point you can add any additional seasonings you might like - salt and pepper to taste, a few teaspoons of sugar to balance out the saltiness.
Curry leaves are next! Your best chance of finding curry leaves again, are at an Asian grocery. This will be harder to find but you can sub the more readily available thai basil or skip this all together.
Wash your curry leaves and separate them from the branch. You'll likely only need one branch's worth, and can keep the rest to add to your next curry dish – and like with most fresh herbs, they can be frozen for future use.
Chilli gives it that extra kick that cuts through the richness of the sauce. But because you will be frying the chilli a bit, fresh chillis are preferable. Chilli flakes work just as well though, you'll just need to keep an eye on them so they don't burn.
Sometimes I think butter runs the world, and that if we didn't have oil cartels we'd probably be starting wars over butter... while I don't subscribe to a certain Southern chef's philosophy of adding butter to everything, it doesn't hurt to use it every once in a while. Which is why I will suggest adding less butter than other salted egg chip recipes normally would. Since we're melting the butter, too much will make your chips soggy over time and ain't nobody got time for a soggy chip!
And finally, the other star of the show. I highly suggest getting plain potato chips (kettle cooked or the ridged kind as they tend to be a hardier chip and can stand up to the salted egg sauce without getting too soggy). You could try different chip flavours, but just be mindful that you are adding salted egg yolk, so you'll probably want to cut down on other seasonings if you are getting flavoured chips.
Start off with drying off the curry leaves in a large wok (without any fat) until the leaves curl up a bit – you don't want to do what I did and fried the heck out of them (which ended up burning a few in the process).
Dump in the butter next, and fry the curry leaves a bit. At this point you can also add the chopped up chilli. Allow a bit of time to let all the flavours mingle (I cringed internally when I wrote that but I'm keeping it).
At this point you can add the egg yolks in and watch this delightful mixture boil and bubble. Try not to dip your finger in the sauce right now. Your finger will not be happy.
This is the part where you delicately open your precious bag of chips and proceed to unceremoniously drop them into the delicious yellow lava below. Toss quickly and make sure each chip gets a generous heaping of sauce, use two spatulas if you have to...kinda like tossing a salad. I guess this counts as potato salad?
Turn off the heat and leave your chips to cool before plating (or eating straight out of the wok. Or be me and plate your chips...then try to chase whatever natural light remained around the house. Which in this case meant the window near my kitchen sink. #priorities
Because you've essentially covered the chips in a eggy butter jacket, these won't last very long without going even the slightest bit soggy (even with a hardy chip) – they are best eaten within a week or two. Don't get me wrong though, they'll still be good...but part of the reason you eat potato chips is because of that crunch.
Let me know in the comments if you want to see any other recipes in the blog and how your salted egg chips go!
Salted Egg Chips
- 6-8 salted egg yolks (if buying the whole egg, be sure to separate the egg yolks)
- 1 cup curry leaves, washed (can substitute with thai basil or omit altogether if you can't find the curry leaves)
- 2-3 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped (you can leave the seeds if you want them spicier)
- 75g butter (this is about 1/3 cup. You can increase to 1/2 cup if you have a very large bag of chips, but will need to adjust the amount of egg yolks accordingly)
- Optional seasonings: 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, pinch of pepper
- Mash egg yolks in a bowl. If your egg yolks are on the harder side, steam egg yolks for 10 minutes to soften them up then mash as normal. Add seasonings to the mashed up egg yolks (optional) and set aside.
- Heat up a large wok and add in your curry leaves (if you have them). Fry briefly to dry the leaves.
- Once the curry leaves have curled up slightly, add in the butter. It helps to chop up the butter into smaller pieces beforehand so it melts more uniformly. Fry curry leaves until the aroma is released.
- Add chopped chillies and the mashed up egg yolks to your butter/curry leaves in the wok. Fry until the entire mixture is bubbling on the sides.
- Drop bag of chips into the wok and turn off the heat. Toss the chips around the sauce and ensure each chip is evenly coated - I suggest using two spatulas to do this.
- Leave the chips to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container, where they will last for about a week or two. If eating right away, plate and serve.