Geologic-Looking Hundred Year Old Egg
Century Eggs, also called Hundred Year Old Eggs, Preserved Eggs and Horse Urine Eggs, are a Chinese delicacy. I am not a fan of using the foods of other cultures for shock value in my own culture. For many the taste of the Century Egg is one of comfort.
The eggs first became popular in the Ming Dynasty, six-hundred years ago in Hunan. As the story goes, a man, whose home was constructed two months prior, returned to find some duck eggs in a pool of slaked lime. Being an adventurous sort of fellow or at the very least an extremely hungry fellow, he decided to taste one. He found them to be, not only edible, but delicious to boot, so he set about to improve upon the recipe. He added salt to the process and began to share them with his contemporaries.
This useful method of preserving eggs in time of plenty greatly helped people during times of want. Although most don't have to eat this way in modern times, many remember the taste fondly. Think of it as the Chinese equivalent to Scottish Haggis or Soul Food chicken livers. These ways of surviving and making-do became tasty. A resourceful chef can make almost any edible yummy. Take the French fairytale Stone Soup and you get the idea. You make do with whatever you have and it is good.
The traditional method of making Century Eggs is as follows:
Infuse 3lbs of tea in boiling water
add 3lbs of quicklime or 7lbs, if the weather is very cold
add 9lbs of sea salt
and finally 7 lbs of oak ash
Wear gloves and blend into a paste. Without gloves, your skin would be eaten away. I'm not sure if this would improve taste, but it would be painful.
The mixture is then smeared onto the eggs, which are then rolled in rice chaff to prevent sticking. The eggs are placed in covered jars or tightly woven baskets. Over the period of three months, the mud hardens and then the eggs are ready to eat.
The modern method is to soak eggs in a brine of salt, calcium hydroxide, which is the chemistry word for slaked lime and sodium carbonate for ten days. The eggs are then sealed in plastic and aged for several more weeks.
Unpeeled Hundred-Year-Old Egg in Hand
When purchasing Century Eggs, it is essential to buy ones that specify that they are lead free, since lead (II) oxide is unscrupulously used in processing by some plants. Zinc can also be used, but it can lead to copper deficiency. Buyer Beware! Read your labels!
I ferried my lovely preserved eggs home the other day and waited till a good friend was over to try one. They look like fossils and it almost seemed a crime to break into the pretty speckled shell.
I rinsed the egg and then cracked into it. I was greeted by the disagreeable odor of egg and ammonia mixed together. This is understandable since the PH in the egg goes from 9 to 12 during the preservation process.
One myth is that horse urine was used in the making of the Century Egg, but that is completely unfounded, since urine does not possess the acidity of lime.
Once, peeled, the brown oval was like a stone, with a distinct white crytalline pattern. It again seemed like a crime to cut into it, but I did.
The Completely Yin Egg
I cut into the egg and found the yoke to be green and pudding-like. I sliced off a bit and ate it. It is distinctly richer than a hard-boiled duck egg and has a slight after-taste of ammonia.
The Eyes of a Hundred-Year-Old Egg
Although I didn't like the flavor and I experienced some gastric upset later in the day, I will try these again in a recipe or with some pickled ginger. Some tastes take getting used to.