I think of myself as a moderately adventurous eater. I don’t go out of my way to eat disgusting things, Andrew Zimmern style, but I’ll give most things a try once.
The first time I heard about century (or preserved, or hundred-year or thousand-year) eggs, I couldn’t understand why anyone would eat them. I mean really, just look at them… it’s not the most appetizing sight.
But then I started seeing them on the food carts here, either peeled and cut into slices, or sitting in their dyed pink shells. And I started to consider trying them. Salted eggs were a good intermediate step, so I thought these should be next.
Before digging in, I did some research, and I’m glad I did, because my inner science nerd really appreciates what I discovered. (If you don’t care about the science behind them, skip ahead, but this is my favorite part!!) The eggs (typically chicken, duck, or quail eggs) are soaked in a mixture of salt, calcium carbonate, and sodium hydroxide for a few days. This mixture is very alkaline (pH between 9 and 12), and the egg takes up a lot of the sodium and hydroxide ions. This changes the protien structure of the egg, and in breaking down various molecules, smaller, more flavorful compounds are made.
By the way, if the science of food interests you at all, this book is an absolute MUST READ! I took it on vacation and spent 5 days randomly informing anyone who would listen about why you can’t freeze milk and the intricacies of dry-aging beef. It’s a phenomenal book, and I could go on about it for days.
I like to order one of these eggs with my usual chicken fried rice. In addition to making me feel kind of daring and hardcore because I look like I’m eating something rotten, it actually does add a nice element of flavor and textural contrast.