I wish I can tell you why this dish is called the Three Emperor Egg. With no records can be found on internet, I only can assume that this dish is named after the three Emperors in the Chinese legend, dated back 4000-6000 years ago.
In fact, even the legend itself has lost in translation after so many generations, and most records can only confirmed two of the emperors are - Fu Yi who is the father of Chinese language and the inventor of ba gua (feng shui diagram); and Sheng Nong who is the father of medicine and agriculture. However, the last emperor is rather vague with no solid history records, so we will leave it at that.
But why the three emperor? It is because the only three key ingredients in this dish are Chicken Egg, Salted Duck Egg, and Century Egg. It is also because yolk has the same pronunciation as Emperor in Chinese language. Hence, whenever these three type of eggs are being used together in cooking will be referred as the three Emperor.
And The Three Emperor Egg - is simply the most basic steamed dish using all three type of eggs together.
I am sure a lot of you have heard of century egg which has dark brown jelly-like egg white and a green pasty yolk inside. It is made by preserving duck eggs for weeks up to months in brine of salt, calcium hydroxide and sodium carbonate. Sometimes they even use lead (II) Oxide to speed up the curing process, which is poisonous. People are advised not to consume century egg in regular basis, it is preserved fermented egg after all which probably not very good for your health.
As for the preserved salted duck egg, it is simply by soaking the duck eggs in brine. The egg white will have a sharp salty taste, cheese-like texture; while the yolk is less salty but with a very coarse gritty texture. The yolk is oftenly used to make mooncakes.
Don't let those scientifically preserved eggs put you off, this dish is actually very simple to make and yet delicious (even the Pom is liking it). Having said that, some skills and patience are very important to perfect this dish. There were so many trials and errors after so many attempts and I finally have perfected the recipe for this dish.
The steamed egg should be custard like, smooth, velvety and bouncy. And the secret to achieve such texture is patience, steam the eggs for a long period of time on very low heat. Otherwise the eggs will cooked too fast, resulting a coarse solid texture with trapped air bubbles.
Perhaps the ingredients of this dish are not that important; it is the skills, patience and attentions to detail that makes it the most fascinating art form. The three emperor egg - what an appropriate name!
3 - 4 normal chicken eggs
1 century egg, diced roughly
1 salted duck egg, mashed the egg white only (discard the yolk)
½ cup of water
1 pinch of white pepper powder
1. fill a large pot with water about 1/3 full and bring to boil. (feel free to use your own method for steaming with steamer basket, wok etc)
1. beat all the chicken eggs and water together in a bowl. (the water will make the steamed egg smoother and lighter)
2. add century egg, duck egg, white pepper and stir well. And it is ready for the steaming process.
3. Never let the bowl touches the water or the base of the pot, or else it will cook unevenly. In my case, put a porcelain ramekin or bowl at the center of the pot, then sit the bowl with egg mixture on top of it.
4. now turn off the heat, cover the pot with a lid and let it steam for 30 minutes. (because I used a bowl instead of shallow dish, so it takes longer. Usually a shallow dish is preferred so it cooked quicker and better presentation with the eggs half emerged on the surface)
5. after 30 mins, remove the lid and bring the water to boil again.
6. once again, turn off the heat, cover the lid and steam it for a futher 15 mins.
7. check whether it is ready by shaking the bowl. If the egg is wobbly but firm then it is ready. If not, steam it further on another 15 mins interval until it is ready.
8. To serve, drizzle a bit of sesame oil and a good dash of soy sauce. Sprinkle some fried shallots (or fresh chopped spring onions)
9. Serve immediately when it's still hot.