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What Is a Century Egg?

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What Is a Century Egg?
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It holds the title of being one of the strangest foods in the world. Some find it alluring while others can't phatom tasting it: we are referring to none other than the century egg.

What is a century egg?

Also known as thousand-year-old egg , a century egg is a Chinese delicacy. It is a duck egg (rarely hen or quail eggs are also used) that undergoes a very particular fermentation process.

The egg is submerged in a mixture of water, salt, coal, and calcium oxide for one hundred days.

In this period the shell is dissolved (totally or in large part) by the saline solution, the albumen (the white part of the egg) turns into an amber and gelatinous mass, while the yolk takes on a dark green coloring that resembles mold.

The result is an egg with a sharp flavour, which some may not find appetising but, nonetheless, is worth trying at least once.

CENTURY EGG: ORIGINS

Photo: Flickr.com/LeeLeFever

The century egg is part of the Chinese gastronomic tradition. The origins of this food are uncertain even if, without a doubt, its preparation technique has been known for over five centuries.

Once, in order to prepare these eggs, tea was infused with quicklime, ash, salt, and ashes from wood. The obtained paste was used to cover the egg shell completely. The eggs were then covered with rice husks and would 'ripen' over time. 

Nowadays, the technique is simpler and faster thanks to modern chemical knowledge (today a mix of salt, coal, and calcium oxide is used).

CENTURY EGG: TIPS IN THE KITCHEN

The century egg can be served as an appetiser or aperitif; it is often consumed alone. Alternatively, its intense flavour may be ideal for enriching a soup or accompanying salads and fermented vegetables.

For a very special occasion you can try making this exquisite thousand-year-old-egg recipe (pictured above) from Michelin-starred chef Corey Lee from San Francisco's Benu restaurant.

Click here for Chef Lee's thousand-year-old quail egg recipe.

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