The gamey meat encased a beautifully cooked egg, yolk bursting forth from being cut. The gauntlet was thrown, and pubs all around London came up with their own versions. The Ship hosted a friendly Scotch Egg Challenge for a definitive.
Throughout all this, a vague idea of a Chinese version was nagging at me. I kept swooping from pork with preserved veg, to perhaps five spice? It was all a little half hearted. A dish at The Heron, minced pork with crispy-coated fried century eggs revived the passion; this was to be my eggy base. As luck would have it, @supercharz tweeted a prawn-coated century egg from Hong Kong - hurrah! The plan was made.
Century eggs are so called because legend has it that they were buried in clay for a hundred years to preserve them. These days, they're buried in alkaline clay for between a few weeks to a few months. This results in the egg white turning into a black, clear jelly - the egg yolks are grey-green. Admittedly it's not the most appetising thing to look at, but the flavour is mild and delicate.
The prawn paste is processed until thick and sludgy and smooth in texture, reminiscent of fish balls you can buy in the Chinese supermarket. This is then wrapped around the egg and the whole lot dunked in breadcrumbs and fried. I toyed with the idea of rolling them in sesame seeds, but they burn quite quickly and I wanted a stronger crunch texture.
Served with a drizzle of spring onion, chilli oil and black vinegar, these were pretty special. The eggy centre worked well with the prawn filling, which was bouncy and light.
These probably wouldn't go down to well with your more conservative friends; I had one leftover which I later stir-fried with some chilli bean sauce and broccoli whick worked brilliantly too, if you don't mind a sauce-laden exterior.
Chinese Scotch Eggs
4 century eggs (both the big supermarkets on Gerrard Street sell them)
450gr raw, unshelled prawns
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
3 spring onions
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 egg white + 1 egg
Enough vegetable oil to deep fry
For the sauce -
2 spring onions, sliced diagonally
3 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp chilli oil
Devein the prawns and add to a food processor with the ginger, garlic, white pepper, spring onions, salt, soy sauce, cornflour and egg white. Whizz until smooth.
Peel the century eggs carefully and then add a thin layer, about the thickness of a pound coin to a square of cling film. Wrap the century egg by gathering the corners up and distributing the prawn paste evenly. Wrap and place in the fridge for an hour to chill (this helps it hold its' shape). When ready, roll in the breadcrumbs, then roll in the beaten egg and roll in the breadcrumbs again.
Fry gently for 5 - 6 minutes, until nicely golden all around. I found it a bit tricky to control the temperature in my wok so I fried till golden and then finished it off for 15 minutes in a 200 degree oven.
Century eggs are perhaps more forgiving as the yolks are already set.
Combine the sauce ingredients and serve the egg drizzled with this.