Century egg: Explaining one of China’s most misunderstood foods
ExplainerChinese century eggs: what’s to like about them, if you can get past their look and smell, how to eat them, and are they really that old?
The century egg has intrigued and disgusted generations of diners. It is derided by some for its look, texture and aroma – the very things others admireA mainstay in congee shops and Chinese restaurants, it is also showing up in Hong Kong in fine-dining restaurants and bars – and even in arty photoshootsFood and DrinksCharmaine MokPublished: 1:15pm, 17 Sep, 2023Why you can trust SCMP
With its dark amber hue and glassy exterior marked by the telltale tendrils of snowflake-like fractals, the typical century egg is as much a thing of wonder as it is an object of disgust.
Sliced open surgically, a fine specimen reveals even more intrigue – a molten yolk with the texture of the richest chocolate ganache, tinged a pale dusty olive around the edges with a deep, inky green-black centre.
A whiff of ammonia can sometimes characterise this divisive food, known as pidan in Mandarin Chinese, calling to mind the sharpness of an extremely ripe soft cheese.
It’s different. And, indeed, much has been said about this humble egg over the years.
“They leered up at me from the plate like the eyeballs of some nightmarish monster,” cookbook author Fuchsia Dunlop – herself now a century egg fan – once wrote of her first encounter with pidan.