Thousand Year Egg: Is it Edible?

Alex Rushmer of Just Cook It! Blog wrote an eye-popping account on eating the Asian delicacy (read: gross!) thousand year egg or century egg for breakfast:

What we know as the white is not white at all. It is a translucent brown colour reminiscent of recycled glass. The yolk, far from being an appetising yellow, is grey. And hard. Depending on how old the egg in question is, the smell can be no more than a tickle of ammonia to an eye-wateringly sulphurous tang. Century eggs tend to be milder whereas the millennial counterparts really are a force to be reckoned with. Governments in need of an alternative fuel source need look no further than these potent little ova.

They are made by wrapping regular eggs (that taste so very good fried or poached or boiled or scrambled) in a mixture of salt, lime, mud, clay and straw and then leaving them. For ages. Occasionally they are even buried in the ground for several months before they are deemed edible. And here they were staring me plainly in the face, at breakfast.

Now, even though I'm Chinese and have eaten my share of weird food, I have to say that I've never had century egg and after reading Alex's account, probably never will: Link

I've eaten Thousand Year Eggs many times. The author of the blog post is being... well, melodramatic.

They're actually pretty good. Yes, the color is weird the first time you try it... The texture is definitely different. Thing is, it's fermented food, so you're not meant to eat a lot of it at once. In small bits in congee, they're actually very flavorful and they do NOT taste of sulfur or rotten egg, as the blog author implies.

The best way to eat it is chopped to small pieces, on soft white tofu, and Chinese vinegar, with some garlic and cilantro. It's simply heavenly.
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I agree with the commentor above, the author of that blog post is being INCREDIBLY melodramatic.

Century egg is amazing in congee. It does not taste or smell rotten, sulfurous, or foul in any way. The texture is odd, and if you have food color issues, seeing it as purple or brown can throw you for a loop.

It's just fermented food. Like any other fermented food.
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Whaaat? You're Chinese and haven't had preserved eggs before? When I was a kid my mom would cook them in rice porridge (congee) with pork or would serve it alongside chilled tofu with soy sauce and sesame oil. I wouldn't really call it a delicacy. That implies some sort of exoticism. It's not something that's used in a lot of dishes, but I'd say it's a pretty common food. You can get half a dozen at your local Asian grocer for maybe two or three bucks. A good western comparison is capers. Capers, like preserved eggs, have a strong flavor, are often used as a garnish, and they aren't for everyone.

Also, while the eggs definitely have a strong flavor, I wouldn't characterize it as ammonia-like. When I think ammonia, I think chem lab and urine, which I assure the culinarily curious among us, these do NOT taste like. The yolks aren't really hard either; they have the consistency of regular soft-boiled egg. Try some! You might be surprised. If your local dim sum place serves congee, they probably have the preserved egg/pork kind I mentioned.
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Its a preserved food like Sausages etc
Its great to eat in porridges
and when used in soups
like 3 egg soup (using a normal egg, salted eggs and Century eggs)
The "egg white" is like Jelly
where as the Yolk is smooth and somewhat sweetish or slightly salty
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I'm still laughing my stomach off when I watched the first episode of Fear Factor: The contestants are grossed out not by the eggs, but by the name and description of it. Fear is mental!
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i always thought it was some soft of colouring or dye they used... hmm... based on my experience, it is like eating jelly, no?
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I just got back from china. The thousand year old eggs are certainly a curiosity. They form little snowflake-like crystals on the backs of them. They're really pretty looking, like amber or something. The taste is... unusual, but not unpleasant. Trust me there are MUCH stranger foods in China. Smelly Tofu, for instance, can be smelt miles away. Not a pleasant food for foreigners.
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@CalvinTheArchitect: They're not using dyes... This is a duck egg, so it has a different color from a chicken egg even before fermentation. The "white" is jelly-like, possibly holds together less than normal jelly. The yolk is what freaks out some people: it's very creamy. When you're used to it, it's a pretty nice texture.

Kit: Stinky Tofu is definitely less, ah, Westerner-friendly... I dunno, though, I got used to it, and ended up loving it. Maybe it's because I'm French Canadian and I'm used to smelly French cheese... Stinky Tofu is just that, fermented protein.

Anyway, in Hangzhou, my spouse and I used to walk around playing 'Is it stinky tofu or an open-air toilet?' The smell is that bad. But the taste is fine... With some spicy sauce, I find it to be quite a treat.
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I gotta agree with Kit on the Smelly Tofu comment. Smells up to high heaven a mile away...and is fermented also. I love them though. Every time I go home to Taiwan I get a bowl right out of the street vendors.

I've noticed that these "weird food" reviews always have one thing in common: They tend to eat just one sample preparation from one source and call it the definitive opinion.

Heck, if I got food poisoning the first time I tried a Subway sandwich I'd start to think it was horrible all the time too...
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Gotta say, for anyone who has watched Andrew Zimmern on Food open and neutral mind will allow a whole world of culinary possibilities! Plus, not liking something just because you aren't supposed to isn't a valid excuse to bash it. Huitlacoche looks disgusting, but it's a common food in Central America. If a whole half-continent can find someway to make it work, I owe it to myself to give it a try!
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aww common, thousand year eggs are fab! (a little ginger thinly sliced and soy, perhaps a dash of sesame oil keep it simple) on rice or tofu is delish... dont knock it till you try it... its very aromatic and nothing like sulfur and rot... theres alot less yummy things like silkworm larvae, (altho huhu grub from new Zealand ain't all bad, like a crunchy salty peanut butter) i think its one of those must do before you die things... and much like marmite/vegemite, it really is an acquired taste, but you never know you might just like it!
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The proper Chinese name for pre­served eggs is Songhua or Songhua Dan (pine-flower eggs)— so called because, when shelled, these solidified but semi­transparent eggs show flowery patterns like pine needles inside. The more and the prettier the patterns, the higher is the qual­ity of the egg. and its DUCK EGG... YUM!
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You're Chinese and you never had that?!


I've been eating that stuff since I was a little kid, especially with porridge and pork. YUM!
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Sounds gross. And they must've been for the rich, originally. If you were hungry, would you bury your egg and sit around waiting for it to... uh... ripen?

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For those of you who've never tried century eggs, you're missing out big! It's a common chinese food, really, we chop em up to pieces in porridge or we can steam it up with regular chicken or salted duck eggs (tasty)!! Of course, the simplest and best way to taste it is with thin ginger slices, and dash on em some sesame oil, simply scrumptious! Just don't be afraid and swallow it too fast; keep it in your mouth a bit, and let the taste linger, you will notice the yolk feels like it's melting, and it's very aromatic, great food!
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My family used to enjoy these. So many memories... WE used to buy them covered in wood chips or something. Anyway, they're pretty common and, I agree, there is nothing yucky about it.
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for 'gross' factor, this has nothing on balut:

again, although it doesn't look pretty is also very tasty
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Hi guys - OK, OK I admit it: There was some slight exaggeration there for comedic purposes but they are pretty disgusting. I have a fairly adventurous palate and these really weren't to my taste.
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Whaaat? You’re Chinese and haven’t had preserved eggs before?

That's because I don't like congee! I like salted duck eggs, but I can't say I've ever tried preserved or fermented egg like the century egg.
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You don't have to eat thousand year egg with congee. The actual egg looks really weird, and possibly disgusting, and it doesn't taste like egg, but it doesn't taste completely gag-reflex-kicking either.
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Where have you been these thousand years? (bad joke, sry)

Anyway, you get used to it once its over some congee and thin, fatless meat. It might be funky to the taste, but it's impressive nonetheless.
In fact, I love eating it, even though the process sounds disgusting.
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I absolutely love these century eggs! Despite the slight smell of sulphur or ammonia, the yolk tastes slightly nutty, salty, and like some kinds of cheeses and mushrooms, while the white tastes like a milder version. The texture of the white (or black, ha ha) is soft and jelly-ish while the yolk is creamy, slightly solid and liquid -- a little like 4/5 cooked yolks on sunny-side ups.

It's not made in 1000 years -- it's ridiculous to think so, seriously -- how many century eggs could people a millenium ago bury? Anyway, it's merely made from highly alkaline materials including sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide and other naturally occuring alkalis. I made this in high school when I was in 15 with a bunch of chemicals. The whites couldn't solidify though, while the yolk was the right appearance.

Other urban myths include that it was made from horse urine, but it isn't. Horse urine doesn't contain enough alkalis. It's the smell of the chemical reaction between the sulphur in the eggs and the alkaline solution which produces the 'urine' smell.

It is also named Pi Dan (literally "skin egg") or in Cantonese dialect, Pei Dan. Song Hua Dan is another name for it.
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I have a friend who would beg to differ with those who say these "aren't so bad".

He videotaped himself eating one for a blog he writes. It's a riot. And does not look very appetizing.
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These things are delicious!!!

How are you chinese if you haven't had these?

The writer clearly doesn't know anything about these things:
1) They're not nearly that bad
2) He doesn't describe the taste
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I LOVE them!!!
They're not THAT bad if you're used to the taste,
I mean like, I've eaten some pretty odd things in my life,
but fermented duck eggs is the LEAST of my worries!
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