1000-year old eggs with ginger

14Jun08

This Chinese starter scores high on the scary-looking exotic foods list. Although your guests can tell these blackish things probably won’t be monkey brains, they will not easily pick up their chopsticks to take a bite, until you tell them these are a must-try.

These duck eggs, with their black translucent outside and gooey greenish-grey from the inside, look definitely off. They have been packed in a mixture of mud, salt and lime with special ingredients, and left to cure for about 2 months. This makes the mixture permeate the shells so the eggs are cured on the inside. In Chinese they are called 皮蛋 pidan, ‘skin eggs’, or 松花蛋 songhua dan, here known with their poetic name ‘century eggs‘ or ‘1000-year old eggs’.

These century eggs were originally sold out of giant Chinese ceramic jars, each packed in clay with straw and rice husks clinging to it and wrapped in a thin plastic bag. Because of a food scare they were not sold in Europe for many years, but have now found their way back into the stores, but in a different packaging. They now come from the UK in a normal looking egg-packet of six, and cost around 1 euro for each egg.

ingredients:
packet of 6 century eggs
Chinese black vinegar
fresh ginger
optional: red chiles and/or green spring onions

For a starter, shell 3 to 4 eggs carefully and wipe clean under running water. Slice them with a knife, each egg into 8ths, and arrange in a circle on a plate. The yolk might be runny and sticky when you cut the eggs, so – messy it will get. Pour over 2 to 3 tablespoons of black Chinese vinegar and sprinkle over at least 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh ginger. For extra decoration, you can add tiny slivers of spring onions or some preserved red chiles from the jar. Enjoy!

Note: when you have them the first time, they might smell really stinky; but believe me, with vinegar and ginger they really have a special addictive taste – you even might stock up on them as I do, so you can always have this side dish to a Chinese meal!

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