Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"They Actually Eat That:" Century Egg.

Is it just me, or has a lot of the "trick" gone out of trick or treating? Even if refused candy, one rarely sees kids TP'ing trees or egging people's houses. The threat just doesn't linger anymore. It almost makes me wonder if there was a ban on dishing out tricks, especially with the fancy types of eggs some richer kids might have...

Yes, that was once an egg. Yes, it's still edible. Yes, according to many people, it tastes like it was cooked in the bowels of Hell itself. Oh wait, no, it's usually found in China, the mosh pit of almost every strange food to Western tastes. Like many other highly-preserved foods (that means you, lutefisk), the century egg probably originated as a way for preserving food in China's poorer days.

Century eggs are duck, chicken, or quail eggs that have been preserved for several weeks, days, or months. They are soaked in an alkaline solution (pH of 9, 12, or more) for a certain period of time (your restaurant may vary). Most of the packaged ones are soaked for about ten days in plastic. Other, more traditional eggs look quite pretty, sporting botanical "pine tree" patterns on their surfaces.


The treatment that these eggs receive unleashes certain proteins into the egg that would otherwise be bound. It has been compared to sulfur in regards to smell. The flavor makes some recoil and others add a little bit of ginger. Different tastes show really easily when it comes to century eggs.

The Chinese love century eggs to death. When a CNN reporter said that the eggs tasted like they had been cooked by the devil, the Chinese were outraged. People even complained that China had grosser things - which is, admittedly, true. They cited pickled tofu and the Chinese version of balut. Checkmate.

Even just looking at YouTube videos shows the controversy surrounding these eggs. Responses range from "GROSS!" to "it's actually quite good" to "you're doing it wrong, Westerners!"Any food that requires gloves to prevent one's skin from corroding in the process of making it sounds dangerous in my book.  I have never personally tried them, but if you want a truly exotic Halloween treat next year, try to find these in Chinatown. They're sure to break the ice.

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