If you’re a Filipino or have gone to the Philippines before, chances are you’d know of itlog na maalat, or salted duck egg. A Chinese preserve delicacy called xiándàn (鹹蛋 / 咸蛋), it is a duck egg made salty by being soaked in brine, packed in charcoal, or the local Pateros method (ant- or termite-processed clay soil, table salt, and water) – and thus very appealing to popular Filipino cuisine, which seems to prefer the taste of saltiness over the others (I know this, because I also love lechon kawali, crispy pata, and sisig among others).
The photo above is that of a conventional itlog na maalat. Notice anything? That’s right, the color of the shell – have you seen any ducks in the Philippines that produce eggs that color? I doubt. Well, anyway, it’s dyed, and it’s a traditional practice that the eggs are dyed in a hue of red, such as maroon or fuchsia, to distinguish them from non-salted duck eggs. (Hey, we need to watch our cholesterol, too!)
Unfortunately, the dye can spell problems for us. While some salted duck eggs out there use food coloring, others, especially from southern China, are dyed with a substance called Sudan Red IV (see here also). Which is carcinogenic.
In short, TOXIC.
And thanks to that wonderful scientific principle called osmosis (which is the reason why the egg is salty without cracking it open during production), the dyes actually permeate the meat inside. Yes, you eat toxins every time you eat itlog na maalat. (Not to mention the stain your hands get.) Kind of gives you the urge to think twice now before reaching for another egg, no?
Even if not all salted duck eggs follow this practice, eating food coloring is not eating naturally. Now that there are ways to eat itlog na maalat with natural ingredients only, it would certainly be better to eat the all-natural way. Fortunately, there is a solution that is simple, inexpensive, healthy, and socially responsible: The Golden Egg.
The Golden Egg is a wonder of social innovation. Headquartered at and operated from the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan, The Golden Egg is most known for its eponymous flagship products, golden eggs. No, these aren’t eggs made of real gold – if they were, well, that’d be a different story altogether. The secret ingredient: turmeric.
Known as yellow ginger and widely used in South Asian curry cuisine, turmeric is a health champion owing to the presence of a lot of antioxidants called curcuminoids, curcumin being its most active ingredient. Although clinical research is still ongoing, turmeric has been traditionally used as a health booster. It benefits the liver, but it can also help prevent arthritis by reducing inflammation and swelling. The same happens to the brain, where turmeric helps lessen plaque build-up – and thus oxygen deprivation – meaning it can help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
What’s more, turmeric is grown here in the Philippines. The Enchanted Farm has done a good job in taking this opportunity to put two and two together and create a healthy and tasty – it is! – alternative to the usual red eggs. Not just that, the business model benefits and empowers families in the Farm, thereby raising their standards of living and opening more opportunities for them and their children. The product line has since expanded to include duck meat (hence the rebranding The Golden Duck), but the Golden Eggs are still their beloved baby (no pun intended).
As a camp facilitator in the Farm three years ago, I was exposed to how the Golden Eggs are produced. The Pateros method is used for 15 days, then the eggs are washed and cooked, then finally dyed gold with the turmeric. The photo below shows the first stage, the Pateros method.
If you’re a fan of salted duck eggs, I suggest you start switching to The Golden Egg as soon as possible. You’d be doing your body and the Philippines a real favor by eating deliciously, naturally, healthfully, and responsibly. I’d only wish it were more widely distributed, but then, we all have to start somewhere and take it one step at a time.
Now that I write this, I myself am craving for some…
The Golden Egg is available in the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm, the Enchanted Farm Café, and ECHOstore (Salcedo branch).