Century Eggs 皮蛋

Posted By | Posted On Mar 07, 2013

Century eggs or Pidan are also known as thousand year old eggs, hundred year old eggs, or simply as preserved eggs, are made by preserving duck eggs in a mixture of clay, wood ash, quick lime, salt and rice hulls for several weeks to several months. During this process, the yolk changes into a dark greenish gray, while the white becomes a dark brown-black translucent color. The texture of the yolk becomes cheese-like, while the white resembles aspic. The alkaline material in the egg gradually raises the pH, which breaks down some of the complex flavorless proteins and fats into smaller more flavorful compounds. The yolk gives off the aroma of sulfur and ammonia, while the now darkened egg white as little or no smell.

Preserving duck eggs was originally done out of necessity. Chinese raised ducks, but preferred to eat hen eggs fresh, so they came up with a method to preserve the duck eggs for another use. The process for curing the eggs dates back 600 years to the Ming Dynasty, and was thought to have originated in Hunan.

Century Eggs are eaten sliced, with a bit of slivered ginger and toasted sesame oil. Alternately, they can be wrapped in pickled ginger and eaten on a skewer; eaten with chilled silken tofu with slivered scallions, spring ginger, soy sauce or oyster sauce and sesame oil;  or with black vinegar, mint and hot chilies. Simplest of all,  they are added to rice congee for breakfast.

Somewhat reminiscent of blue cheese, century eggs are an acquired taste, but they do grow on you.

They can be purchased by the package at Sun Sun Company located at 8 Oxford Street in Chinatown, or in any well-stocked Asian market.

written by Jim Becker, Chinatown Guide

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