If you love fried chicken and all it’s variations, you’re going to love this absolutely addictive salted egg yolk fried chicken. It’s crunchy, juicy, and full of savory umami flavors.
You’re probably thinking one of two thoughts right now:
1. Yasssssss, salted egg yolk anything, give it to me!!
2. What the heck is salted egg yolk?
What is salted egg yolk?
For the uninitiated, salted egg yolk is the yolk from a salted duck egg. Salted duck eggs are a super popular Chinese ingredient. They’re made by soaking duck eggs in a salt brine, which help preserve and creative flavor. Essentially they’re cured duck eggs. When the duck eggs are brined, they get a salty (duh) aroma with a firm gelatinous egg white and a perfectly round firm golden orange yolk. You can buy them at the Asian grocery store both already cooked (they’ve been steamed or boiled) and uncooked.
Usually the eggs are served with congee, added to stir fries, and steamed dishes. Maybe you’ve seen them in mooncakes? Since they’re so golden and round, they’re the symbolic full moon inside lotus paste and red bean mooncakes.
What does salted egg yolk taste like?
They’ve been called parmesan-like and while I get the comparison, they don’t taste anything like parmesan. They’re rich and punchy, with a salty-sweet savoriness that is hard to describe. When cooked (usually steamed) they take on a slight graininess, almost like the crystals in a really good cheese, which is probably why the parmesan comparison is floating around.
Why use salted egg yolk?
Just like parmesan, salted egg yolks are incredibly versatile. You can simply grate cooked egg yolks on to pasta, toast, or anything else you want to add a bit of oomph too. It can be added to a sauce for an extra unctuous oozy cream, and added to stir fries for extra umami.
Salted egg yolks are also beloved as a sweet ingredient too – you’ll find them molten and golden in liu sha bao (egg custard buns), croissants, cookies, bread, ice cream, french toast, macaron, you name it, it’s probably been salted egg yolk-ed.
Salted egg yolks are intensely beloved in Asian, especially Singapore. There’s been a glut of salted egg yolk foods and while some people think it’s a trend, it’s one that’s not going anywhere soon. It’s nice that such a traditional ingredient (it was first mentioned in writing in the 6th century) is still so beloved.
Salted egg yolk fried chicken
Alright, now we can get to the meat of it – this salted egg yolk fried chicken is essentially crispy deep fried chicken nuggets that have been tossed in a savory-sweet salted egg yolk sauce. Sunshiny orange salted egg yolks are steamed, mashed then cooked into a deliciously rich and creamy and crumbly salted egg yolk sauce that hugs and coats every nook and cranny of the crispy fried chicken bits. If you’ve never had salted egg yolk fried chicken you’re in for a treat. It’s SO GOOD, especially the little salted egg yolk nubbins.
Ingredients for crispy salted egg yolk fried chicken
- Chicken. It’s best to use chicken thighs – they’re juicy and take a bit longer to cook compared to breasts which have the tendency to dry out when deep fried. Cut the chicken into evenly sized pieces so everything cooks at the same rate.
- Egg white. We’re going to use egg whites (just regular chicken egg white) to make a batter for deep-frying. Egg whites are classically used in Chinese cooking alongside cornstarch for a technique referred to as “velveting.” Velveting makes the meat more tender and creates a crispy deep-fry batter.
- Soy sauce. Just a touch of soy sauce for umami in the marinade.
- Shaoxing wine. Shaoxing wine adds that classic aroma found in all good Chinese cooking. If you don’t have any, you can omit it, but it really adds an extra layer of flavor.
- Cornstarch. This is what we’re using for the batter as well as a dry coat for the chicken before it gets deep-fried. Cornstarch doesn’t have any gluten in it which will make your fried chicken bits extra crispy and golden.
- Oil. Use a high-smoke point oil for deep frying. We almost always buy safflower or grapeseed oil.
- Salted egg yolks. You can buy these at your local Asian grocery store in the section where the regular eggs are. Try to find the ones that are “raw.” If you get the raw ones, crack one open and separate out the yolks – you can gently rinse them under cold running water – before steaming to cook completely. If they only have the cooked salted egg yolks, you can just crumble away the whites, making sure that you only have the yolks for the sauce.
- Butter. This is the backbone of the salted egg yolk sauce and gives it fluidity and viscosity. I always buy unsalted butter so I can control the salt levels.
- Thai chilies. This is an optional ingredient but if you like spice this will add an extra layer of deliciousness! If you’re spice adverse, you can still add the chilies, just be sure to de-seed them first. Or you can skip them entirely.
- Sugar. Add a pinch or so of sugar to balance out the savoriness of the salted egg yolks. You don’t have to add sugar but I find that salty-sweet combination irresistible.
- Curry leaves. Curry leaves are fried and added to this dish to add extra aroma and crunch. If you can’t find curry leaves, use Thai basil, which is what I did!
How to make salted egg yolk fried chicken
Prep the salted egg yolks. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. If your salted eggs are raw, simply separate the way you would a normal egg. Once you have just the yolk, steam it in a dish over high heat for 10 minutes. It should be firm and cooked through. If your salted egg yolks come from the store cooked, try to remove a much as the whites as possible. Once the yolks are cooked, crumble with a fork until very fine and set aside.
Prep the chicken. Cut the chicken up into even bite sized pieces. In a bowl, whisk the egg whites with a bit of cornstarch until light and frothy then add the chicken pieces, soy sauce, and shaoxing wine. This is going to marinate for about 15 minutes.
Fry the chicken. While the chicken is marinating, heat up your oil in a heavy deep pot and set up a wire rack over a baking tray or plate. When the oil is hot, toss the chicken into cornstarch then add to the hot oil and cook until golden and crispy. Remove and let rest on the wire rack.
- Make the sauce. In a pan, melt some butter over very low heat. When it’s all melted, add the crumbled salted egg yolks and stir. The butter and egg yolks will bubble up. Stir in some chopped chilis (if using), a pinch of sugar, and some curry or Thai basil leaves. Add in the fried chicken and toss to coat. Time to eat!
Please let me know if you give this fried chicken a try! I really think it will change your life :)
Salted Egg Yolk Fried Chicken Recipe
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 egg white see note
- 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- High heat oil for deep frying
- 4 salted egg yolks
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1-2 Thai bird’s eye chili deseeded and finely chopped, optional
- 1-2 tsp sugar
- 10-15 curry leaves or Thai basil
4. Scoop the chicken out of the marinade and toss in the remaining cornstarch. Use a pair of tongs to gently add the chicken to the hot oil in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook until golden brown, crispy, and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes, flipping as needed. Drain the chicken on your prepared rack and keep warm in the oven.