Century eggs, also known as pidan in Chinese, preserved eggs, or thousand-year eggs, have been a part of Chinese cuisine for centuries. Despite its names suggesting otherwise, Century eggs are not aged for a hundred or a thousand years. These names reflect the extensive process used to make them and their resulting unique flavor.
The history of Century eggs dates back to the Ming Dynasty. The story goes that a homeowner discovered naturally preserved eggs in a puddle of lime used for construction. Upon tasting, the homeowner found the eggs delicious, sparking the birth of this unique preservation method. Today, Century eggs are a staple in many East and Southeast Asian cuisines, including Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines.
🔬What are Century Eggs & what are they made of?
Century eggs are a type of preserved egg product famous in China. They’re made by preserving chicken, duck, or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months.
This unique preservation process transforms the egg’s color and texture, resulting in a dark green, jelly-like egg white and creamy, dark yolk with a strong odor. Despite their unusual appearance, they’re considered a delicacy and prized for their unique flavors.
👅 What do Century Eggs taste like?
When it comes to flavor, Century eggs are truly in a league of their own. They have a complex, unique taste that’s not comparable to your average chicken egg. The egg white transforms into a dark, translucent, jelly-like substance with a salty taste.
The yolk, on the other hand, becomes creamy with a strong, pungent flavor, similar to a ripe cheese. Its taste has umami and slightly sulphurous tones, which can be surprising for the uninitiated but becomes more enjoyable with familiarity.
💡 What are Century Eggs Good For?
Century eggs are not just an interesting culinary experiment; they have a range of uses in cooking that help bring depth and complexity to dishes. Here are some suggestions:
- Appetizer: Century eggs can be served as an appetizer, simply sliced and served with pickled ginger or soy sauce.
- Porridge: They are commonly diced and mixed into rice porridge (congee) to add flavor and texture.
- Salads: Sliced Century eggs can be added to salads for a unique twist.
- Tofu dishes: They are a great addition to tofu dishes, providing a contrast in texture and flavor.
- Sauces: Century egg yolks can be mashed and used to thicken sauces, giving them a rich and complex flavor.
- Soups: They can be diced and added to soups, contributing a depth of flavor.
- Rice dishes: Try dicing them and mixing with rice for a tasty and unique dish.
🥘 What are Century Eggs Used For?
🥚 Century Egg and Pickled Ginger
This is a popular appetizer in China, balancing the unique flavor of Century eggs with the tangy freshness of pickled ginger. The combination creates an intriguing and addictive harmony of tastes.
🍜 Century Egg and Cold Noodles
Century eggs are also used as a topping for cold noodle dishes. The noodles are typically tossed in a tangy sauce, and the sliced Century eggs provide a creamy, umami-rich counterpoint.
🥦 Century Egg and Vegetable Stir-fry
Chopped Century eggs can be added to various stir-fry dishes. The eggs are cooked alongside a mix of vegetables, soy sauce, and spices, adding a distinct flavor that enhances the dish.
🥪 Century Egg Sandwich
A unique take on the classic egg sandwich! Instead of regular boiled eggs, slices of Century eggs are layered with mayo, lettuce, and tomatoes. Their complex flavor adds an exotic twist to the sandwich.
🍛 Century Egg Fried Rice
This dish involves fried rice that’s studded with chopped Century eggs, vegetables, and sometimes shrimp or chicken. The Century eggs impart a deep umami flavor to the rice, making it a satisfying meal on its own.
🍲 Century Egg and Beancurd Soup
A comforting soup where diced Century eggs are simmered with beancurd (tofu) and vegetables. The Century eggs give the soup a creamy, hearty dimension that’s truly delightful.
🥗 Century Egg and Seaweed Salad
This unique salad involves thin slices of Century eggs mixed with marinated seaweed, cucumber, and a tangy dressing. The result is a salad that’s packed with different textures and tantalizing flavors.
🍱 Century Egg Sushi
Believe it or not, Century eggs have even made their way into sushi! The eggs are sliced and served atop sushi rice, often with a sprinkle of finely chopped chives or a drizzle of sweet soy sauce.
🍮 Century Egg Custard
This is a unique recipe where the Century egg is combined with egg custard. The resulting dish has a smooth, creamy texture with the distinctive flavor of the Century egg coming through.
🥔 Century Egg Potato Salad
A twist on the classic potato salad, this version includes diced Century eggs. The potatoes and eggs are mixed with mayonnaise and mustard, creating a salad with a unique depth of flavor.
Each of these dishes offers a different way to experience the unique flavor and texture of Century eggs, making them an intriguing ingredient to explore in a variety of culinary contexts.