Century eggs, also known as hundred-year or thousand-year eggs, are a Chinese delicacy made by preserving eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls for several weeks to several months. The result is this dark, jelly-like monstrosity that smells as bad as it looks. But does it taste as bad as it looks and smells?
I bought these preserved duck eggs from the local Chinese supermarket. They look alright in the shell, and when I bought the eggs, I thought it was no big deal. I’ve eaten them since I was a child, usually in small pieces stirred into my rice porridge. I can’t say I love century eggs, but it never struck me as weird or scary food. Then this morning when I cracked one open, I realised I had never actually had a close look at one before. THE SMELL.
Cracking the egg
As soon as I crack the shell, I notice the smell. Ammonia? Sulfur? An unholy mixture of both! I continue peeling off the rest of the shell. The egg feels squishy. Then I see the strange “branches” in the jelly. What is that?! I still don’t know, but it’s oddly mesmerising (though not necessarily appetising). I hold the egg near my nose to check whether the smell has subsided a little. That was a mistake.
Alright, time to cut it open. The yolk has turned green, and the entire thing looks rotten. Even though I’ve eaten it many times before, I’m reluctant to bite into it. It’s the smell, it’s the strange branches in the jelly that I had never noticed before. For the sake of amusement, I let Frank (our former picky eater) eat the egg. He flinches from the smell, but is willing to give it a go:
“The egg white tastes like a boiled egg, but way more eggy. Same goes for the yolk: tastes just like a boiled egg, but the flavour is much more intense. I don’t get why you would eat this, the smell isn’t worth it. I’d eat it with rice porridge though, no problem.”
I had a bite as well, and I agree that it tastes like an intensely flavoured boiled egg. So intense, the taste is still in my mouth an hour later. It’s not bad, but it definitely is an acquired taste. Oh well, at least my cat thinks it’s delicious.