Mud Pies and Bones: Writing and Art

from the Rocky Mountains

Lucy Simpson

Lucy Simpson
Monument, Colorado, United States
December 20
The Cleaner
I am a published poet and exhibited artist living in the shadow of the small, but lovely Mount Herman, a part of the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. I raise children, tend gardens, cook, write, clean, sculpt, read.....................................................................................


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JANUARY 27, 2010 1:04PM

Would You? Could You Eat A Century Egg?

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Geologic Looking Hundred Year Old Egg

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.



Egg in Hand

 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.




Egg Eyes

  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.

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you are brave...or hungry
I can't stand brie because of the ammonia odor, I can't imagine eating one of these
Though these are from my family's culture, I've never been brave enough to eat one. I would be aware of lead contamination as well. Thanks for providing the interesting history and recipes, though. These eggs are usually eaten in tiny quantities with plain rice porridge. Another traditional Chinese means of preserving eggs is by brining them, usually duck eggs. Those are very tasty, and simply look like hard boiled eggs.
-ttfn, I love brie! I didn't like it when I was pregnant with my daughter however.
Hey Linda. Some things fall into the category of the foods our parents or grandparents like. My mother was Irish and I hate corned beef and cabbage.

The preserved eggs, the salty ones, are tasty! I've only had them in moon cakes though. In Seattle, moon cakes are on sale all the year long.

The Icelanders have putrefied shark flesh as a delicacy or curse depending on your perspective. A friend of mine opened up a tin of this on a plane. He wasn't very popular.

I have some congee recipes I may try soon. Seems like a version of pease porridge, a way of mixing leftovers into something nourishing.

Fascinating, especially the "recipe." Don't think I'd eat it, though.

It wasn't as terrible as many claim. I still didn't like it. It is great to meet another Lucy. I am partial to the name, though I wanted to be a Barbara, Diane or Nicole as a child.

Our family eats it by dicing it up and putting it over soft, cold tofu. Over this we put chopped scallions, bonito (Japanese smoked, dried fish) flakes and cilantro. And finally some soy sauce and a little sesame oil drizzled over everything. The mixture of flavors makes this a tasty dish. The Hundred Year Egg is truly transformed into something delicate and subtle which isn't noticeable just by itself. I would not eat a Hundred Year Egg by itself - blech!