Gaoyou: The Chinese county famed for double-yolk duck eggs

(CNN) — “Would you like salted duck egg with that?” questioned the cook dinner.

I was on a journey to Yangzhou in China’s Jiangsu province and had popped into a little eatery for a chunk of breakfast, purchasing congee and a side of pickled veggies.

Right before I could respond, the cook dinner disappeared into the kitchen area, then reemerged holding a grayish-green egg balanced on a plate.

“Absolutely sure,” I nodded.

Basic congee, following all, pairs finest with sour or pungent condiments that pack a great deal of punch. And in my working experience, the sharp flavor of salted duck eggs — treated in brine to generate salty whites and prosperous, creamy yolks — could be even extra stimulating than a cup of joe.

When the food arrived, I sliced the egg open up, all set to spoon out the fatty yolk.

But as the two halves of the egg teetered on the plate, I instinctively did a double consider. Not 1, but two oozy, brilliant-orange yolks rested in their egg-white cradles.

Surprised, I waved the prepare dinner about to present him this rarity.

He chuckled, then defined that most of the salted duck eggs in their kitchen contained two yolks. They’d been brought about from a county positioned in Yangzhou, called Gaoyou. There, anything most locations would consider a unusual and random anomaly is in abundant provide.

Salted duck eggs: A gastronomic specialty

The phenomenon of double yolks occurs in up to 10% of the eggs laid by Gaoyou ducks.

Courtesy Sharyne Moy Tu

“When we speak about double-yolk eggs, we feel of Gaoyou,” suggests David Yan, a Jiangsu indigenous and Wild China vacation information. “This county is primarily renowned for these eggs, and has acquired a status.”

It turns out that Gaoyou’s geographic posture tends to make it ripe for the creation of salted duck eggs.

The county is situated in a area with plentiful waterways, this kind of as Gaoyou Lake (the province’s third most significant freshwater lake), which for centuries has enabled the nearby waterfowl sector to thrive.

But that is not the only way in which the purely natural surroundings basically predestined Gaoyou’s eventual declare to fame. Salt, which is vital for curing the duck eggs, is bountiful in the location.

Northern Jiangsu province’s salt marshes, which are now section of a biosphere reserve where by visitors can go birdwatching and climbing, ended up after mainly recognized for staying a main resource of China’s salt.

“That was the epicenter of the salt marketplace,” describes Miranda Brown, a professor of Chinese research at the University of Michigan. “You have the lake for the duck, and then you have the salt market practically next doorway.”

A worker at Jiangsu Gaoyou Duck Co. Ltd uses a light to search for double-yolk eggs.

A worker at Jiangsu Gaoyou Duck Co. Ltd takes advantage of a gentle to research for double-yolk eggs.

Li Bo/Xinhua/Sipa Usa

In the town of Yancheng (actually indicating “Salt Metropolis”) not much from Gaoyou, a wide network of crisscrossing waterways connects the coastal salt marshes to the Grand Canal, a large artifical river that authorized salt producers to make a handsome revenue selling to the relaxation of the state.

“Salt merchants were abundant and had pretty good tastes,” suggests Brown. “They threw lavish banquets that would final all working day and pull collectively the most beautiful foods.”

What wealthy folks ate was usually regarded a benchmark for what constituted good eating, and writers and poets who rubbed shoulders with the affluent merchants would pen treatises about the food items.

In the late 18th century, the Qing-Dynasty scholar and gastronome Yuan Mei wrote in “Recipes from the Yard of Contentment” (translated in 2017 by Sean J.S. Chen): “Salted eggs from Gaoyou are really good, with deep reddish yolks loaded with oil.”

Such references assisted cement salted duck eggs as a gastronomic specialty of Gaoyou, entwined with the area’s very identity.

That affiliation continues to operate deep currently according to the Chinese look for engine Baidu, choirs in Gaoyou often execute a folks tune named “数鸭蛋” (Shǔ Yā Dàn, which literally interprets as “Counting Duck Eggs”) that celebrates the neighborhood specialty.

This form of culinary regionalism was and even now is typical all over China, with distinct regions getting connected with specific food items solutions.

According to Brown, the tendency for these correlations stems largely from the country’s broad dimensions and diverse topography, which “potential customers to diverse culinary prospects. That gets to be a way that folks get started to recognize sites and regions and even men and women — by the foodstuff that are ideal grown in those parts.”

For case in point, pu-erh tea from the mountains of southwest China’s Yunnan province is revered across China, while Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region’s broad pastures, great for sheep herding, produce a great deal of the country’s mutton.

Gaoyou's waterways are a popular tourist attraction.

Gaoyou’s waterways are a well-known tourist attraction.

Meng Delong/Xinhua/Getty Photographs

In similar style, Gaoyou became regarded for environmental problems that favored salted duck eggs.

“Someplace alongside the line, Gaoyou’s duck farmers need to have realized that it would be even far better for company to breed the ducks to generate more double yolks,” says Meng Wen, the cook dinner who 1st launched me to double-yolk salted duck eggs in Yangzhou.

Farmers appreciated that persons deemed double yolks a symbol of great fortune because they had been so uncommon. Furthermore, two times the yolk also intended two times the nutrient information.

To improve the frequency of the double-yolk eggs, breeders artificially pick out ducks for the genetic anomaly.

In a 2011 paper examining the health and fitness of Gaoyou’s double-yolk eggs, scientists say: “Usually, a double-yolk egg will not even endure to hatch. If it does hatch, the inadequate ducks are severely deformed, connected to a person yet another… Having said that, due to the fact these ducks have been subjected to artificial relatively than pure assortment for generations, the defect has spread in the population.”

Two yolks are far better than one particular

Today, the phenomenon of double yolks, which would ordinarily make exceptional and random appearances, takes place in all-around 2 to 10% of the eggs laid by Gaoyou ducks, in accordance to the 2011 analyze.

“They put all the duck eggs in a room about a gentle to see no matter whether it really is a one-yolk a person or a double-yolk a person, before they essentially salt the egg,” describes Hu Ruixi, co-founder of food items tour organization Lost Plate.

Offered all throughout China these days, Gaoyou’s double-yolk salted duck eggs are labeled as these kinds of — and usually sell for a number of situations far more money than their one-yolk counterparts do.

Gaoyou's double-yolk eggs sell for several times more money than their single-yolk counterparts do.

Gaoyou’s double-yolk eggs market for quite a few moments far more revenue than their one-yolk counterparts do.

Imaginechina Confined/Alamy

Strolling by way of the marketplaces and grocery stores of Yangzhou, I seen that eggs with double the yellow significantly outnumbered the standard wide variety — so beloved are the oily yolks for their lusciousness.

To make the most of my proximity to Gaoyou, I requested a double-yolk egg every time I dined at a teahouse in Yangzhou. I would emulate what I observed other diners accomplishing — stabbing the eggs with a chopstick to permit the greasy yolk to run out.

Most folks who have attempted salted duck eggs, myself bundled, would possibly argue that the yolk is certainly the ideal aspect, its creamy and wealthy flavor excellent to that of the considerably brinier whites.

Yan points out that “some men and women do not try to eat that significantly of the egg white portion.” Hu, way too, says: “I’m not truly into the white aspect. It is genuinely salty. The yolk is really creamy and very easy.”

On the other hand, I later on understand that Yuan Mei would have opposed our preferential treatment method of the yolk.

In “Recipes from the Backyard of Contentment,” he breaks down what he insists is the proper way to enjoy salted duck eggs: “Spot the complete egg on a plate, cut it in 50 percent, and serve the shell, yolk, and whites all with each other. A person need to not eliminate the whites and reserve only the yolk simply because the flavors would be incomplete.”

I know that this helps make feeling. After all, farmers would not have gone to the trouble of breeding double-yolk eggs if serving two yolks by on their own on a plate would have been adequate.

In the situation of these eggs, the whole is higher than the sum of its areas — but for salted egg fans, it won’t hurt to have excess of the greatest section.

Top impression: Ducks swim in the drinking water at a breeding base in Gaoyou, China. (Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Getty Photos)

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