A century egg, also known as the thousand-year egg, preserved egg, or pidan, is an egg that’s been preserved in a mix of clay, ash, salt, and occasionally quicklime and rice hulls.
Through a process that can take from weeks to months, the egg white gradually becomes a gelatinous and translucent brownish-green while the yolk takes on a dark green to gray coloration that can be disturbing to those unfamiliar.
I’ve had the pleasure of eating these on a few occasions, and while they may appear off-putting, they make for a fun, tasty addition to any Halloween party or just because. Here are six reasons to give them a shot.
1. Hundreds of Years of Tradition
While an exact date is unknown, it’s believed century eggs came about during the Ming Dynasty around half a millennia ago as a way to preserve eggs during times of famine.
2. Please Ignore Their Thai Translation
In Thailand, they go by the name khai yiao ma, which translates to “horse urine egg.” With a strong, pungent sulfuric odor, it was believed they were created by being soaked in horse urine. That is not the case.
3. They’re Not Just Chicken
We tend to assume most eggs we consume come from a chicken, but that’s not how the rest of the world operates. Century eggs can be from chicken, but also duck or quail.
4. Green Eggs And Ginger?
So how do they taste? Like eggs dialed to 11. Both the whites and the yolk are far softer and occasionally runny and yes, if you don’t like the sulfuric smell of average eggs, you probably won’t enjoy these.
But if you don’t mind the smell you’ll be greeted by a flavor that is rich, salty and complex. The eggs are typically served with pickled ginger that do an excellent job of balancing out the flavor.
5. They Make For Beautiful Decorations
Much like snowflakes, no two are alike! Photo: wikipedia.com
Another nickname for these eggs are “pine-patterned eggs,” and that’s for a couple reasons. Sometimes the inside of the egg will develop rings, like a tree, but other times salt crystals can form on the exterior of the egg that appear like snowflakes or pine trees. It’s rather lovely.
6. The Perfect Conversation Piece
Century eggs are both unique, and oddly beautiful, so pick some up, cut them into long, small pieces like a flower, throw some pickled ginger in the middle and put them out for guests.
People will enquire, people will debate, and memories will be made. Who knows, they may even enjoy themselves too.