The Great Egg Shortage

If you hadn't heard already, we're having something of a chicken-and-egg crisis in these parts, thanks to our ever-vigilant government pulling the plug on imports of these items from Malaysia after a couple of cases of bird flu up north. So eggs are scarce and/or expensive and chicken only marginally less so. To wit:

  • Wahj got laughed at point-blank when he tried to order egg prata at Jalan Kayu a few weeks ago.
  • We had olua (oyster omelette) a couple of weeks ago and the egg portion was so measly that the oysters were readily visible for a change.
  • I squealed with delight earlier this week when the Malay food stall in the work cafeteria had hard-boiled eggs drenched in chilli, and waved my finger at them excitedly till the bemused stallholder scooped one into my packet of food.
  • umami notes the tacky behaviour of a young couple at a local buffet who shamelessly ate their way through 16 eggs (among other food) last week.
Amidst all this excitement, I noticed last week that our neighbourhood provision shop has started selling Instant Eggs made by the local Seng Choon Farm. These aren't, as you might imagine, powdered eggs but actual fake eggs in shrinkwrapped packaging. Behold:

Instant Eggs!
Originally uploaded by Tym.

Seeing as I was starving by the time I posted my previous entry, yet wanted to save my stomach for dinner with the parentals, plus I didn't have anything else to blog about today that wasn't purely self-involved and/or work-related --- I decided to see what these Instant Eggs were all about.

$1.40 later, I was the proud owner of two Instant Eggs. The label on the shrinkwrap identified the ingredients as egg, soy sauce and "spices of non-animal origin". So they're dubious, but not that dubious.

This is what they look like when they've been liberated from the shrinkwrap:

Out of the shrinkwrap
Originally uploaded by Tym.

Admittedly, they're not the most enticing eggs I've ever seen. More importantly, I think they defy the usual line of questioning: "Animal, vegetable or mineral?" Yes, they look like they're still shrinkwrapped, but there are no other plastic bits to cut away ---unless you figure that, if it's a fake egg, the whole thing is probably plastic.

I like my eggs quartered when I'm having them with instant noodles, so quartered they were:

Inside and outside
Originally uploaded by Tym.

Note the large "yolk" and the consistent soy sauce colouring throughout the "egg". I suppose that's meant to reassure the would-be Asian consumer that s/he hasn't been gypped.

Finally, the eating. No pictures this time --- not because it's particularly horrible, but because it was a rather flat experience, anti-climactic, like the first time I took a swig of Newater and thought, this is what all the fuss is about? Like most faux foods, an Instant Egg tastes too clean, too bland, too empty. It had the consistency of an overboiled egg --- not bouncy enough when bit into -- and completely failed to replicate the crumbly texture of a real hard-boiled egg yolk. Pretty tasteless, too, despite the promising deep brown of the soy sauce exterior.

The verdict: I guess Seng Choon Farm was targeting people who miss eggs badly enough to want to see something egg-like in their food, even if it doesn't add anything taste-wise to the meal --- perhaps the same market as that for mediocre Chinese vegetarian food, which looks like char siew pork but doesn't even have a taste of its own.

The irony: While egg prices at my local provision shop shot up to $5.20 a dozen (up from the usual $1.20-$1.30) for local eggs this past month, they seem to have stabilised at $4.00 a dozen for now. So for the price of my two Instant Eggs today, I could've had four real ones. To be honest, the thought did cross my mind while I was at the store, plus we do have two eggs in the fridge that pre-date the chicken-and-egg ban --- but then, what would I have blogged about?


At 9/25/2004 3:12 pm , Blogger SilverBullet said...

Those shrink-wrapped eggs look alot like the Taiwanese cha2 dan1 and lead bullet eggs that they sell at 7 11 and night markets.

I want prata!!!! I know what you mean about measly egg portions here though... Have noticed a distinct downsizing of eggs in $3 bowls of laksa and the like.

At 9/26/2004 1:14 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

The novelty is worth the price.

At 9/26/2004 6:59 am , Blogger NARDAC said...

oh my god...those eggs look so real!!! makes me wanna bite my computer screen. anyways, are other kinds of eggs banned, like duck's or quails's or ostrich???

At 9/26/2004 10:49 am , Blogger Ondine said...

At Cold Storage, PACE eggs were $6.50 for 12! My eyes bugged.

At 9/27/2004 12:58 am , Blogger Terz said...

Hmm, for Instant Replacements, they cost more than the real ones... You should have just coughed up the $5.20 for 12 REAL eggs... Those things you ate look vile.

At 9/27/2004 10:43 am , Blogger Tym said...

Well, they didn't taste vile...

Anyway, today I have restored balance to my fridge by purchasing 10 real Seng Choon Farm eggs for the comparatively unprincely sum of $4.00. One of the eggs must've been left on the tanning bed too long because it's way darker than the others. ("One of these things is not like the other, one of these things...")

At 10/01/2004 5:05 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are taiwanese 'tie dan" metal eggs. And they're made of real eggs, simmered for hours in soya sauce and spices until it's dehydrated and then shrink wrapped in plastic.


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