Eggnog in China: You're on Your Own

03 Jan 2008

This post comes a bit late, I realize, but if you’re in China (or elsewhere) and still suffering from holiday season eggnog withdrawal, it just might help you pull through.

In Shanghai, we foreigners generally depend on Carrefour (a French supermarket chain) and City Shop (formerly City Supermarket) for our hoity-toity imported food expat needs. But for some reason, neither ever carries eggnog.

This year, when I complained to JP about the lack of eggnog, he suggested I make my own. I considered the idea, but the whole “raw egg” and “China” aspects scared me off. Then he sent me a recipe for eggnog. I had extra time on Christmas Eve, and I ended up making my own eggnog for a little Christmas party. It tasted OK, and no one got sick. Sounds like success to me!

Of course, I had to modify the eggnog. Here I’m going to post my “eggnog hack.” Originally the eggnog called for:

> 4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pint whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites

Of these ingredients, I skipped the cream and substituted rum for bourbon. I was able to get nutmeg at Carrefour, albeit un-freshly grated (it’s called 肉豆蔻). I found this part of the recipe amusing:

> To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.

Avoid contact with the shell? The eggs come in the shell! OK, I see… the outside of the shell. To be extra safe I even washed my eggs just in case there was some accidental contact.

Now onto the preparation side. Here in China, I don’t own a mixer or a whisk. (OK, come to think of it, I’ve never owned a mixer or a whisk.) That seems problematic when you get to the part of the recipe that tells you to do this:

> Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Chill and serve.

I didn’t know what “soft peaks” were, and I didn’t have a mixer, so I just beat the eggs for a while with a fork. It still turned into eggnog in the end.

Somehow we managed to cheat salmonella this time. Anyone got any home-made eggnog horror stories to scare me out of doing this again?

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. didn’t know what “soft peaks” were

    I did this for a meringue, with a single egg and a whisk. It took me probably 20-25 minutes. Beating the egg white turns it into an airy, fine white foam that leaves little rounded peaks when you pull the mixer out. The transformation was pretty cool. But if I ever had to do it again I’d buy a small mixer. It was hard on the wrists.

  2. Egg whites take on the consistency of (for lack of a better comparison) shaving cream if you beat them for long enough, hence the “stiff peaks”. This is the reason why meringue (which is just whipped egg white and sugar, baked in the oven) can have those crispy pointy bits.

    I can’t see any reason why the inside of a Chinese egg would be any less safe than a foreign egg. Washing the outside was probably a good precaution though. Anyway, Chinese or foreign, they all come out of a chicken’s ass.

    Speaking of egg recipes, does anyone know how to make custard?

  3. John B just told me there’s a rule: never wash an egg. Apparently the eggshell is permeable to water.

    Oops. Somehow I didn’t learn that in all my years of not learning how to cook.

  4. Micah,

    My egg got a little foamy. Didn’t seem hugely different, though.

  5. i don’t think much (any) water gets in through the shell by a regular washing. and if it did, it seems as though it would get caught between the shell and the membrane for a while. when eggs are laid they have a natural preserving coating called a “bloom.” if you wash this off, your eggs will go bad much more quickly. so i think you shouldn’t wash your eggs and then store them but washing them just before you use them is fine. especially if you’re in china and eating them raw.

  6. Randomly delurking–this was my first Christmas in China, so what with being a bit homesick, I too figured I’d try making eggnog. I never did find nutmeg in the big foreign supermarkets, but then in a complete “duh!” moment, I went to the spice vendor in my local market and asked for 肉蔻. Of course she had a big bag of whole nutmegs, and I felt like an idiot for not checking there before… Anyway, just in case you want to use fresh nutmegs next time, they do exist in Chinese cooking, apparently.

    I was too chicken for the raw egg version, though, and made an all-cooked recipe.

  7. Some of my friends here in Tianjin substituted vanilla-flavored “breakfast milk” for eggnog and had a good run with it. As a non-eggnog-drinker, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about.

  8. parasitius Says: January 3, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Where in the world did you find REFRIGERATED eggs? I hit my 3rd year in China before I finally had the guts to buy eggs in this country off the warm store shelves there are stored on along with other dry goods and cereals, etc..

  9. I always wash eggs, no matter what country they’re from. Unrefrigerated eggs last awhile, as long as they’re fresh there’s no problem. In America, your eggs probably come from a poultry farm several hundred miles away, perhaps even more. In China the eggs are probably coming from a farm less than a few hours away.

  10. Okay, I retract what I said about washing eggs. Googling reveals that John B is quite right, washing eggs is a bad idea since the cold water actually causes the egg contents to contract and suck bacteria in through the pores in the shell! Amy, care to share your all-cooked eggnog recipe with us?

    For more info check the FSIS’s fact sheet on eggs. This is what it has to say about Chinese preserved eggs: “The egg is not retained in its original state, but rather converted into an entirely different food, probably by bacterial action.” Don’t worry, it doesn’t say that this is unsafe, in fact it goes on to describe different kinds of thousand-year-old egg.

  11. Where in the world did you find REFRIGERATED eggs?

    You know that in Europe eggs aren’t refrigerated either? In fact, the US is the only country in the world which I’ve seen that…

  12. @ Todd: I’m pretty sure I used the recipe at cookingforengineers.com (then I immediately tested out the eggnog with some rum, so…). But I tempered the eggs first instead of heating it all up together as that recipe says: heat the milk/cream separately, then slowly add a cup or so of hot milk into the still-cold beaten eggs before pouring the eggs back into the pot on the stove. And in my paranoia/inexperience with eggnog, I think I overcooked it a bit. Tasted right, but the texture was a little clumpy, not smooth.

    Also, I’m pretty sure cooked eggnog is a custard, just with too much liquid. I’ve made rice pudding basically the same way. And ice cream (frozen custard!).

  13. The easiest difference between stiff and soft peaks is…
    Stiff peaks: When you lift the whisk out of the mix, pointy tip of the mixture stays put.
    Soft peaks: The pointy tip of the mixture curves or flops over
    This link has some photos:
    http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking/cs/techniques/article/0,13803,438653-438637,00.html

    Hope that helps!

  14. I have never had eggnog before, I think it’s an American thing or at least in the UK we don’t have it, however this year I made my own Christmas pudding. In Tianjin I didn’t think that there was anywhere to buy one and it was so nice, not too difficult just time consuming. Although finding some of the things were a bit tricky here like Cinnamon.

  15. I found this recipe on allrecipes for an eggless eggnog, haven’t tried it, but maybe someone could

    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Eggless-Eggnog/Detail.aspx

  16. If you are really interested in the difference between stiff and soft peaks, custards, whether to cool eggs and such you should definitely get a copy of Harold McGee’s ‘Food & Cooking’ (http://www.amazon.co.uk/McGee-Food-Cooking-Encyclopedia-Kitchen/dp/0340831499/ref=pdbbssr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199618916&sr=8-1 – sorry, can’t add the link myself). Indispensable to any nerd and/or cook (full disclosure: I am only the first).

    And as I think I’ve posted on this blog before: IMHO most of you U.S. Americans are a bunch of incurable misophobes. A few bacteria now and then are not going to kill you.

  17. ew why drink eggnog when you can have a snowball drink

    Mmmmm or swedish glögg ( it’s not gluhwein but close to it)

  18. Tora: Well, Scandinavia must be outside Europe then. If a shop didn’t refrigerate its eggs up here, it would be closed down immediately.

    Talking about cultural differencies… Eggnog isn’t really known in my country, and it certainly has no connection to Christmas. Is eggnog common in the rest of Europe? If not, that might explain why a French supermarket like Carrefour wouldn’t feel the need to stock this in China.

  19. Forgot to mention:

    1) McGee advises to store eggs in the fridge – but not to keep the microbes at bay. The idea is to stop the white from getting too runny. However, he admits (which I knew already from my mom) that boiled eggs are easier to peel when they have been kept some time at room temperature before boiling.

    2) I can confirm that many Europeans (a.o. my mom – see above) are convinced that eggs should be kept out of the fridge.

  20. If there’s enough alcohol (and any proper eggnog is loaded), it will kill off any bacteria.

    No, really. The best egg nogs should be aged at least a month, to allow the alcohol and egg flavors/chemicals to react off each other. The drink doesn’t require refrigeration for that one month. Just be very careful before using any such recipe.

    And if there is a mistake, it will be immediately obvious – either it’s disgusting just to look at, or it’s incredibly delicious.

  21. I sure haven’t seen refrigerated eggs in supermarkets yet. The eggs I buy have a “to be consumed before” date as well as a “keep refrigerated from” date, the latter being about seven days earlier than the former. That always seemed sensible to me. Fresh eggs are always good and don’t need refrigeration. After a certain period of time, the microbes start spreading and then you need to refrigerate it to keep them at bay. Or you simply eat the egg.

  22. wow, you guys in Shanghai are roughing it… Jason’s Marketplace under Taipei101 has great eggnog!

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