Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Really, It's Gourmet: 1000 Year Old Egg

This installment of “Really, It’s Gourmet” will acquaint you with a traditional Chinese delicacy that has been around since the Ming Dynasty about 500 years ago.

The Century Egg , also known as preserved egg, hundred-year egg, thousand-year egg, and thousand-year-old egg, is a Chinese culinary ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice straw for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. After the process is completed, the yolk becomes a dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odor of sulfur and ammonia, while the white becomes a dark brown, transparent jelly with little flavor or taste. Doesn’t that sound yummy boys and girls? Sulfur and ammonia, I’m sorry, is that the description for food or the public restrooms on Fisherman’s Warf?

As putrid as this may sound to most people, even today this method of preserving eggs is widely practiced. Modern understanding of the chemistry behind the formation of century eggs has led to many simplifications in the recipe. For instance soaking the eggs in brine of salt and for 10 days followed by several weeks of aging while wrapped in plastic is said to achieve the same effect as the traditional method.

There are many ways to eat Century Eggs; on their own as a side dish. As an hors d'oeuvre, the Cantonese wrap chunks of this egg with slices of pickled ginger root. The most popular seems to be to cut them up into tiny cubes and cook them with rice porridge to create Century egg and Lean Pork congee. A popular street food in Hong Kong consists of whole century eggs coated in fish meal, breaded, and deep-fried. Here in the US a popular way to eat 1000 year old egg is to have it force fed to you because you lost a bet!

There are many strange and wonderful gourmet dishes prepared around the world, some we simply embrace and other we must say “Really, It’s Gourmet”!

Recipe: Century egg and Lean Pork Congee

2 century eggs
8oz lean pork
8 cups of plain rice porridge
1 tbsp sliced ginger
1 tbsp chopped spring onion
1 sprig of cilantro

pinch of pepper
1 1/3 tbsp salt
dash of
sesame oil


  1. Remove the shell of the century egg and cut into small cubes
  2. Marinate the lean pork with 1 tbsp of salt
  3. Cook 8 cups of plain rice porridge
  4. Add the century egg, lean pork, ginger and the seasonings
  5. Cook a further 5 minutes

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