Sunday, January 21, 2007

Four Score and One Thousand Years Ago

At first glance, the Chinese "thousand-year-old egg" looks to be a rare archeological find from the Mesozoic Era.

The shell of a thousand-year-old egg has hardened into pale gray patina, and is flecked and studded with coffee-colored splatter stains. Perhaps it is my love for the thousand-year-old oeuf, but to me, the simple decorations on its calcified exterior rivals the ornate artwork on an enameled Faberge.

An
elaborate process is involved in the making of a "thousand-year-old egg." Chicken or duck eggs must be packed in an alkalized pickling plaster of potent black tea leaves, earthen clay, coarse granules of salt, dry lime, and a harmonious blend of pine wood and charcoal ashes. The delicate eggs are cushioned by rice husks and straw, and entombed in an airtight container, where they remain, to age one thousand years, or until fully preserved, and ready to be served in a steaming rice porridge.

Through the preservation process, the egg white congeals into a custard form, and the clear, viscous gel transforms into a glassy, copper-colored jelly, as translucent as broken chards of obsidian, and as dark as steeped black tea.

Similiarly, through the aging procedure, the supple, marigold-yellow yolk metamorphosizes into a milky gray, velvet meringue, delicately colored with greenish overtones. The yolk of a thousand-year-old egg is said to closely emulate the whipped consistency of a
ripened avocado or creamy marscapone cheese, and echos the flavors of a hard-boiled egg, but in a more concentrated package. The eggs emit a panoply of aromas, perhaps the piercing of which is the faint odor of ammonia.

Fortunately, the sheltered consumer can bypass the lengthy "preserving ordeal" and simply purchase the eggs from the local Asian supermarket, where the eggs arrive in industrial, machine-packed pallets and are themselves tightly insulated in diminutive plastic baggies within sterilized styrofoam containers.

You'll either adore it, or detest it, but either way, I hope I have piqued your interest on thousand-year-old eggs. Don't wait one thousand years to try them!

28 comments:

  1. Well where is the porridge? ;-)
    What a tease!

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  2. I dont know what was wrong with my comment box, but im supposed to upgrade my version of blogger neways! :) It was great seeing you too! Happy eatings..

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  3. I think the thousand-year-egg are smelly. I tried them before...

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  4. I agree with Flyingcynthia, I don't like them either, they smell bad as is, but they taste fine when they are served in rice congee. :)

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  5. Yes I really do want to try that.

    I always see it on shows like fear factor, where people suffer to eat them. And I yell at the TV screen (common for people as smart and cool as me) how millions of people ENJOY this type of egg. Oh well.

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  6. We have same passion: eating and cooking!! All of the dishes are tempting!!

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  7. I've never had one straight up, but man are they ever delicious in porridge...like others have noted. Great writeup PE!

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  8. I can only afford 2 week old fresh eggs =/

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  9. Panda loves pi dan. One of Panda's favorites!

    Anon #1 obviously hasn't read any of Elmo's posts. =)

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  10. oh man, im literally salivating. They should make female edible eggs...disgusting but perhaps tasty.

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  11. I have had these in my congee, but never plain. They are good!

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  12. never tried one. they do look mesmerizing, though.

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  13. thousand year old egg aka century egg is really delicious. tastes fantastic in congee, but i prefer to eat it raw with pickled ginger..yum!

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  14. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw those pictures. You've made those 1000 yr old eggs look SO amazing, PE. Those delicacies don't always get the recognition they deserve, but I find them truly wonderful. They bring back many childhood memories for me, and I'm so happy that you are featuring them in such a delicous way!

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  15. Fantastic photos! Even if I never get a real one, at least I've tried your virtual one. Thanks for the insites.

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  16. nice pictures. it's my handle!
    my fav is congee with duck and thousand yr egg- mmm.

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  17. try it crushed in soy sauce and a bit of hot sauce. eat it with white rice...you'd never think something so simple could taste so good! yum!

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  18. I had the best pi dan in Hong Kong made by a famous restaurant called Yung Ji. The center was somewhat grey and still yellow - still soft and liquid inside. It was served with beautifully pickled, pink colored ginger. I really wanted a bowl of porridge with that.

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  19. it's good with soy sauce raw tofu (you know that dish I'm talking about). I've also been known to put avocados in that for the same reason, but Sharon thinks that's weird.

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  20. I tried one today in China (am posting through a proxy) and wanted to like it, but I have a problem with ammoniated flavors/aromas, alas. But you're quite right about the beauty of the food's appearance.

    Found you on Google, linked the photos!

    --amberite

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  21. i ate one of these in a contest and it almost made me puke nasty!

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  22. wow PE, I missed this post, glad you referenced it on your pork flossy post! this is an acquired taste that I'm working on... at first glance, the black and green colors look rotten to me...but your gorgeous pictures make them look almost appetizing and of course your wonderful descriptions give me a better perspective from which to approach them.

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  23. To remove or more or less lessen the ammonia odour, you may add a small quantity of vinegar to your soy sauce. Add a dash of sesame oil too if you like. :)

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  24. I love these things. Good with Chinese vinegar and ginger.

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