What Are Century Eggs?
A century egg is a duck, chicken, or quail egg that has been preserved in clay, ash, and salt.
This practice dates back to the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) as a way for people to preserve their eggs without refrigeration. By some, they are considered a delicacy.
The name is deceiving because the egg is not 100 years old, but the practice of preserving eggs in this way does date back more than a century.
This Chinese delicacy uses a process that takes a perfectly fine egg and transforms it into an egg that is dark in color, gelatinous, with a dark green, squishy yolk.
They also have a sulfur-like smell due to their high alkaline levels. Also, because they are covered in salt water and lime for at least 100 days, this results in an ammonia-type odor.
This is a dish for those that have a unique palette and can overlook the dark color and strong smell.
Do Century Egg Have Putrid Smell?
Century eggs have a salty taste and a creamy texture. Others say they have a strong mix of flavors and textures. Because of its strong flavor, many recommend that it is eaten with mild foods like tofu.
One thing that tends to be consistent with everyone you talk to that has eaten century eggs, is that they have a rather putrid smell. Because of the smell, many people believe the eggs to be bad or spoiled, but this is not the case.
What Do Century Eggs Look Like?
When made properly, the century egg yolk should be a dark, cheesy consistency and the whites have a consistency of jelly, only much darker in color.
The outside of the shell can often take on a stenciled or fossil type appearance, depending on the type of material that has been used to cure it.
What Texture Do Century Eggs Have
Century eggs have a unique consistency. After the process is complete, the outside becomes almost black.
The whites are now dark in color and have a gel-like consistency. The center yolk can be nearly black or dark green and squishy.
You would probably not even realize you were eating an egg, if you weren’t told. This is definitely a delicacy in many parts of the world, but a taste and texture you probably won’t find in any other food.
Where Did Century Eggs Come From?
Century eggs originated in Hunan, China about six centuries ago. The most popular tale is that they were uncovered by a man from Hunan who was building a home.
A year after it was completed, he found duck eggs that had been covered in lime. For whatever reason, he ate them. Voila! Century eggs.
The man that originally made those duck eggs liked them so much that he decided to amend the duck curing process and added salt to enhance the flavor.
As time went on, many of Chinese descent found by using a similar method, they could take fresh eggs from the spring and summer and “cure” them.
This enabled them to have eggs throughout the fall and winter to feed their families.
Faster Curing Process
The process is much faster and more proficient now with modern conveniences. The process of turning ordinary duck, chicken, or quail eggs now takes about three months in lime, salt, ash, and rice chaff. The result may be surprising at first.
When peeled, the beautiful, pristine, white egg with a yellow center, will now be jelly-like outside and the yolk is dark green and squishy.
Are Century Eggs Dangerous To Eat?
Century eggs are processed with a variety of preservatives like lye and salt. This may sound frightening, especially because century eggs are not cooked before the curing process begins.
Even so, there are no reports indicating that they are dangerous to eat.
Before you consider eating a century egg, you will have to deal with the smell. After all, the egg during the preserving process is much like a science experiment.
You will be taking a duck egg and adding it to a solution containing wood ash, lime, salt, clay, and rice straw.
What is somewhat surprising is that during the curing process, some positive changes take place.
The century egg has more protein and less carbohydrate than fresh eggs. It also retains all the other nutrients found in fresh eggs.
Century eggs are also high in iron, selenium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. So, if you enjoy the taste of century eggs, there should be no fear associated with eating them.
Century eggs can be eaten without any problems. If they are properly made and are free of bacteria or mold, they are safe to eat.
How Do You Eat Century Eggs?
The easiest way to eat century eggs is to crack the shell open and dig in. You can add century eggs to various recipes, including soups and salads.
They can be quartered and picked with ginger, eaten with tofu, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.
Here are some additional ways you can eat a century egg
- Novices should try a cooked century egg first, to see if it is agreeable to their palate.
- In Cantonese cooking, it is popular to use both century eggs and salted duck eggs in certain recipes.
- They are often used in pastries, where the smell and flavor of the eggs are neutralized by the sweetness of the pastry.
- Century eggs are often quartered and served with pickled ginger.
- Century eggs can be added to a tofu salad.
How Should Century Eggs Be Stored?
When you purchase century eggs from an Asian market, they are on the shelf. During the curing and processing, they are kept at room temperature.
They will keep for several months in the pantry; in the refrigerator. They will keep indefinitely.
Keep in mind, for months the eggs have been kept at room temperature as they are processed, so there is no need to keep them refrigerated after you have made or purchased them.
Most people keep them in their pantry, where they can last a significant amount of time.
Can You Freeze Century Eggs?
Century eggs are a preserved delicacy, and can stay just fine unopened, unrefrigerated and unfrozen. If you have left-over-century eggs, they should be put in a plastic bag in a cool, well-ventilated area. Do not freeze them.
How Can You Tell If A Century Egg Is Bad?
Here is an easy way to tell if a century egg has gone bad. Fill up a container with water, if the egg is good it will sink to the bottom of the bowl. If it is spoiled, it will float to the top. It’s that simple.
No one wants to eat a spoiled century egg. This “delicacy” is challenging enough to eat, without the fear that it has gone bad.
Eating a bad century egg can make you sick, just like other food products that have reached their expiration date. This trick is courtesy of MissVickie.com.
Can I Get Century Eggs At My Local Grocery Store
Century eggs are a unique product and will not be available at a traditional grocery store.
To find the priced century eggs, you will need to go to a specialty store or Asian Supermarket. They can sometimes be found in Indian markets as well.
Century eggs appeal to particular tastes, and there is not enough demand for them. So you will probably not find them at a big box supermarket.
Your best bet is to look for them at your local Asian or Indian market. They are typically found on the shelf and not in the refrigerated area.
You may also order them online from specialty stores. They are also often available on Amazon.com.
How To Ripen Century Eggs?
When you purchase century eggs, they are ready to eat, or to be stored in a cool dry place. There is no ripening required.
How To Open Century Eggs?
Century eggs, though they may not look like it, are still eggs. You will peel the shells off, just like you would a hard-boiled egg. The only difference is the shell will be dark in color.
Can You Grow Century Eggs?
Century eggs are usually made using chicken or duck eggs. So you will need to purchase eggs and create century eggs yourself using one of the different curing and processing methods.
You may purchase them at specialty stores, but you cannot grow them.
What Can You Compare Century Eggs To?
Century eggs are in a league all their own. Everything about them is unique.
The way they are cured and processed, the length of time they stay at room temperature, the appearance of the egg when they are ready to be eaten, and the look, smell, and flavor of the mature century egg.
Some have compared the smell of century eggs to an extremely pungent cheese, but even Limberger pales in comparison to century eggs.
Are Century Eggs Good For You?
There are many health benefits to eating century eggs. They are high in protein, have no carbohydrates, and are full of vitamins and minerals.
Here are some additional positive attributes of century eggs
- Great source of iron
- High protein nutrition
- Great source of Vitamin D
- Excellent source of selenium
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases liver function
- Improves vision
Here is a look at the nutritional values of century eggs
|Nutritional Value||Century Eggs|
Vitamins (Percent Meal Value)
|Vitamin A (Retinol Equivalent)||121 μg|
|Vitamin D||3.41 μg|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||1.05 mg|
|Vitamin K||14.3 μg|
|Vitamin B2||0.15 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.01 mg|
|Vitamin B12||0.61 μg|
|Pantothenic Acid||0.52 mg|
How Do You Make Century Eggs?
Now that you have learned about century eggs, you are probably anxious to try them yourself. We have a recipe to make them below. Good luck and Bon Appetit!
Century Eggs: Quick Table
|Century Eggs||14||47 Days 40 Minutes|
|Century Egg And Pork Congee||256||2 Hours 5 Minutes|
|Century Eggs And Fish Fillet Porridge||174||70 Minutes|
|Tofu With Century Egg (Cold Dish)||224||20 Minutes|
This recipe will give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to make your century eggs at home.
You may feel like you are experimenting because of the unique ingredients that you will need to complete the process. But if you are a century egg fan, it is worth the effort.
Preparation Time: 47 Days 40 minutes
Recipes Using Century Eggs
If you are not ready to take a big bite out of a century egg, here are some recipes that use century eggs as an ingredient. This may help you get used to their unique look, smell, and flavor.
Congee is a popular dish in the Asian culture, and this particular Congee recipe is easy to make and slow-cooked until it is creamy.
It uses pork, chicken bouillon, and six-century eggs. You will find the finished dish not only delicious but also beautiful to look at.
No one will leave hungry when Century Egg and Pork Congee are on the menu.
Preparation Time: 2 Hours 5 minutes
Century eggs and porridge are made to go together. This porridge starts with fresh white fish and popular Asian spices, like ginger, sesame oil, and rice. And of course, the star of the show, a century egg.
If you are new to the taste of century eggs, starting with the Century Eggs and Fish Fillet Porridge may be a good introduction to this culinary delicacy… so say some!
Preparation Time: 70 minutes
Tofu is the perfect accompaniment for century eggs because tofu is very mild, while century eggs have such a bold flavor profile.
This recipe is perfect for vegans and those that maintain a gluten-free diet. While the recipe calls for pork, you can substitute it for burdock instead.
The recipe is enough to feed four unless you have some voracious eaters that want more than one portion.
One of the best things about this recipe is that it only takes 20 minutes to prepare. Perfect for a busy workday meal.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Does It Take 100 Years To Make Century Eggs?
No, you can make century eggs in as little as six months, but the average is three months.
In many cases, in ancient India and China, where century eggs gained popularity over 600 years ago, the eggs were left for a year. They would be started at the end of the winter and early spring to be eaten the following fall and winter.
They were a much-needed food source to sustain good health over the cold winters when other crops were unavailable. They probably helped save many people from starvation in those old days.
Are Century Eggs Known By Other Names?
Yes, century eggs have many different names; this can be a bit confusing as some aren’t familiar with all their aliases.
The other names for century eggs include:
- Songhua eggs
- Pine flower eggs
- Pine-pattern eggs
- Preserved eggs
- Hundred-year eggs
- Millennium eggs
What Does A Century Egg Look Like?
After they have completed their processing, they emerge with a black appearance. Some are a different color and take on an almost fossil appearance when they are placed on different surfaces.
When you take the shell off the egg, the former white area is dark and has the consistency of jelly. The inside yolk is dark with a greenish tinge.
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