I despised cilantro for the longest time. Blame the Taiwanese street vendors – they put it on everything. Taiwanese beef noodle? Cilantro it. Oyster vermicelli? Cilantro it. Sticky rice cakes? Why not, let’s cilantro the heck out of it! Thank God for Typhoons Saola and Tembin, which saved me my misery when I was there in 2012.
Yeah, no. When there’s something good, you don’t just put it on everything, bacon being the rare exception.
Growing up, honey avocado milkshakes were a weekend brunch treat that Ma would blitz up as my brother and I covered our ears and dashed to plop down on our own respective chairs at the table. That must have been around the year 2000, when they were still as alien to most kitchens as Shuvuuia eggs.
If I were born today, I’m pretty sure I would despise avocados as well. Now a cliché symbol of upscale minimalism much like the chair-stand iPhone shots of artisan latte art, it’s become more and more of a thoughtless commodity procured simply to serve as a vessel of vaunting for the consumer.
Restaurants are surfing this wave as well. Everywhere I go I see plain, untreated avocados – void of any culinary innovation – sold as legitimate menu items priced at upwards of $3. Avocado smeared on piece of multi-grain toast, $8. I don’t know about you, but I go to Costco for my avos.
Don’t get me wrong, I love avocados, which is exactly why the mindless consumption of these green eggs makes me cringe. Here’s something original to try. And no, avocados here are not an afterthought.
“Vanity of vanities,”
says the Preacher,
“Vanity of vanities!
All is vanity.”
Black sesame oil is different from the more commonly found and used toasted sesame oil. It has a distinct bitterness laced with molasses and black tea, making it particularly compatible with ginger, poultry, and rice-derived alcohols. It plays triple-duty here, first to crisp up the ginger chips, then to fry the duck eggs, and finally, it becomes the sauce for the rice. The avocado lends a creamy texture which complements the nutty flavour from the black sesame oil and mellows the punch of the ginger. And the savouriness of the duck egg combined with the mirin soy reduction practically creates an oozing volcano of umami. For under 10 ingredients, it really doesn’t get more epic than this bowl.
Ingredients for the Duck Egg Donburi with Avocado, Soy Caramel, and Ginger Chips:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp honey
splash of water, about 2 tbsp
1/3 c black sesame oil
1 small knob of ginger, sliced as thinly as possible along the grain
2 local duck eggs, or free range chicken eggs
1 small ripe avocado, thinly sliced
3 cups steamed sushi-grade white rice
toasted white sesame seeds, optional
To make the sweet soy reduction, bring the soy sauce, mirin, honey, and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Let it reduce by a third and becomes a thin glaze consistency. Remove from the heat and reserve.
Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a wok until a piece of ginger dropped in bubbles vigourously. Fry the ginger slices, in batches so the oil temperature stays relatively constant until crisp. You’ll know when they quiet down because that means they’re fully dehydrated. Drain the ginger on a plate lined with paper towel.
Tip out most of the oil into 2 large bowls (which will be used directly to serve). Use the remaining oil to fry the eggs, sunny side up. Watch the whites around the yolk – the eggs are done as soon as the whites become opaque because the yolk will become part of the sauce to coat the rice.
Divide the hot rice among the bowls. Arrange the avocado and egg to cover the rice, drizzle with the sweet soy reduction, and finish with the ginger chips and sesame seeds, if using.
To eat, take two spoons and hack the heck out of those bowls to mix together everything. Then spoon in. You’re welcome.