This salad shows how some poverty and a lot of unpreparedness can result in something so great it’s worth making again and again. There is a point I’d like to make, no, reiterate through the making of this quick main dish salad, but I will save that for a future post on the basic Thai salad dressing.
For now, let’s just make this aesthetically-challenged dish that happens to be one of the most delicious things I have ever improvised.
My friend Jan and I made this when I showed up unannounced (and famished) at her university dorm room years ago. Wanting to make something for us without having to go out and spend money we didn’t have on grocery (and, if memory serves, it was raining outside), Jan and I looked around for anything in the room that was edible.
Our search yielded exactly 3 century eggs (a dorm-friendly food as they require no refrigeration), a small amount of ground pork in the mini-refrigerator, and a shriveled knob of ginger that came with the Northeastern Thai sour sausage she had bought earlier. Then we found a few wedges of lime and some sugar that came with the Pad Thai Jan had bought the day before. We also found a tiny bag of nam pla phrik that came with a box of fried rice from days before too.
This is akin to you in the US trying to make a meal out of the contents of the little soy sauce and chili oil packets you get from a Chinese take-out or those tiny packets of mayo, mustard, and ketchup from a fast-food joint. But, oh, you would not believe what an amazing salad we made that day with all those pathetic odds and ends and a single-burner hot plate.
Note: For those who have never had century eggs, these weird-looking things may scare you. But they’re actually not as bad as they look (much less of an acquired taste than salted duck eggs, in my opinion). The whites have the same texture as prepared Jell-O — perhaps a tad chewier. The yolks are creamy and mild. These eggs don’t taste sour/fermented or salty at all. They’re like hard-boiled eggs with strong tea-like scent.
Century Egg Salad with Pork and Fresh Ginger (ยำไข่เยี่ยวม้า)
Adapted from the salad I made with my friend Jan
1/3 pound ground pork
4 century eggs, peeled and quartered
1 4-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
3 tablespoons fish sauce
5 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3-4 red bird’s eye chilies, slice crosswise thinly
A few cilantro leaves
- Add the pork and about 1/4 cup of water to a small saucepan; put the pan over medium heat. Stir the pork around with a spatula, breaking it up into small pieces, until it’s cooked through. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Arrange the quartered century eggs on a platter, followed by cooked ground pork (which has been drained).
- Sprinkle ginger over it.
- Mix together fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chilies in a bowl. Drizzle the dressing over everything on the platter.
- Garnish with cilantro.
- Serve immediately.