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Time Traveler’s Century Egg Recipe

A century egg is a delicacy in China. Often known as “thousand-year-old eggs” or “preserved eggs”, this is a culinary dish that involves preserving a chicken, duck, or quail egg. 

Despite the name, century eggs don’t take a century to be preserved. Instead, the preservation process can take several weeks to months depending on the method. 

When wandering down the streets of Hong Kong, you’re likely to see this unique culinary dish being sold by street vendors. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, here is a recipe to make a century egg!

What are century eggs?

Century eggs are usually a duck, quail, or chicken egg that has been preserved in a unique mixture of clay, rice hulls, ash, salt, and quicklime for several weeks to months.

During this preservation process, the yolk turns dark gray or green, and the egg white turns into a brown color with a jelly consistency. 

It is said that century eggs are salty on the outside, with a creamy texture on the inside. These eggs aren’t for the faint of heart, as the mixture of chemical compounds create a strong, pungent flavor. 

History of century eggs

Century eggs originated in Hunan, China, around six centuries ago during the Ming dynasty. There are a couple of stories about the origins of this unique culinary dish.

One of them is that a man found duck eggs at the construction of his home that had been covered in slaked lime for two months. He enjoyed the taste – especially when he added salt to them. 

Another is that a man left eggs at the bottom of a garden which belonged to a woman he wanted to court. She never found the until she uncovered them from an ash pit several months later. Supposedly, she ate them anyway, and enjoyed the flavor. 

Century egg health benefits

For the most part, century eggs have the same nutritional benefits as fresh eggs. However, due to the preservation process, century eggs have a higher protein content and lower carbohydrate content than fresh eggs. 

Like fresh eggs, century eggs are a good source of vitamins A, B, B12, and D. They are also high in iron and phosphorus. 

As for physical benefits, century eggs are said to lower blood pressure, improve vision, and support the function of the liver. However, none of this has been scientifically proven. 

Century egg recipe

Ingredients:

  • Duck (check out our tasty duck soup recipe), quail, or chicken egg
  • Salt (NaCI – Sodium chloride)
  • 100% lye/causatic soda (Sodium hydroxide)

Tools:

  • Clay
  • Plastic wrap
  • Scale
  • Stainless steel container or jar with lid

Warning:

While sodium hydroxide sounds dangerous, it’s a common ingredient in a lot of foods. Still, you must wear protective gloves when handling it, as it can burn skin and flesh.

Sodium hydroxide reacts when it comes into contact with water – it will froth and splash, which can burn your skin. 

Sodium hydroxide is also highly corrosive, so keep it away from materials like utensils and plastics. It can also corrode glass, so don’t keep your eggs in a glass jar for more than several weeks. Once the eggs are done, it is safe to pour it down the drain. 

Recipe:

  1. Make the pickling solution

To make the pickling solution, you will need to weigh 1 liter of water, 72 grams of sodium chloride, and 42 grams of sodium hydroxide. 

Put this solution in a stainless steel saucepan over a low heat to allow the salt and caustic soda to dissolve. Once the solution has come to a boil, allow it to cool down fully before the next step. 

  1. Put the solution with the eggs

In a suitable container (we recommend a stainless steel one that won’t corrode from the sodium hydroxide solution), pour the cooled pickling solution into the jar or container with the raw eggs. Put a lid tightly on the container. 

The solution should cover all the eggs so they don’t emerge out of the mixture. 

  1. Store the container

Be sure to write the date on your container so you can keep track of the preservation time. If you live with kids, you might want to write another note to deter them from opening the container. Passive-aggressive post-it notes are acceptable when it comes to harsh chemicals!

Store the container or jar in a safe place away from people – for example in a kitchen cupboard. The temperature of the stored container should be around 60-70 °F for 10 days. 

  1. Remove from pickling solution

After 10 days, carefully remove the eggs from the pickling solution. Make sure to wear gloves. 

To do this, carefully pour the pickling solution down the drain and take out the eggs. Rinse the eggs with water and then dry them with a paper towel. At this point, the shell should still be hard, and some discoloration might occur. 

  1. Encase the eggs with clay

Traditionally, century eggs were encased in mud and rice husks. Nowadays, people use saran wrap and modelling clay to encase the eggs. Wrap several layers of saran wrap or plastic around the egg, and then cover this with clay to prevent oxygen from preventing the eggs to cure. 

This can be a tricky task, so make sure not to break the eggs! 

After doing this, put the eggs in a resealable bag and store them again for 2 weeks. 

  1. Time to open

After a month or two from the first step, it’s time to unwrap the eggs! Carefully peel away the clay and plastic encasement and crack open the egg in the same way as a hard-boiled egg. 

The eggs should have a dark brown outer layer that resembles a jelly-like consistency. If you cut open the egg, the yolk should be a dark green or gray color. 

Serving century eggs

Century eggs are mostly served in a mushy soup of rice. If you find a particular likeness to century eggs, you can get creative with servings! They go well with pastry, pork, other century eggs, tofu salad, and pickled ginger. Enjoy! 

Another delicious egg recipe I highly recommend for you is our special salted egg yolk recipe.

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