Century eggs are preserved eggs that can be made from chicken, duck, or quail eggs. They're deep amber in color with creamy and rich grey-green yolk. It's intense and pungent (in a good way, think blue cheese!) Century eggs are popular in Chinese dishes and often paired with rice and tofu in recipes. Here's everything you need to know about century eggs, including where to eat it and how to cook with it. ^_^
What Are Century Eggs?
Behold, the century egg!! This is one of my favorite types of eggs. It is mysterious, and most importantly, delicious.
Century egg is a preserved egg. It's preserved in a mixture clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls. Depending on the preservation method, it can be preserved for anywhere between a few weeks and several months (not a century haha).
Century egg are made from chicken, duck, or quail eggs. Duck is the most popular option.
The final preserved egg looks nothing like the original egg. The color and texture is completely transformed into something complex and elegant. It's dark in color and very funky (almost like cheese) in flavor.
A century is already considered "cooked." It doesn't need to be cooked any further before you eat it. You can simply peel, slice, and serve.
Century eggs are used in many Chinese dishes. Because it's so potent tasting, century eggs are often paired with a plain ingredient like tofu and rice (to make congee/jook). It's also popular served as the main ingredient in appetizers, with the sliced eggs topped with a simple dressing and herbs.
Century Egg Name
Century eggs go by many different names:
- Century Eggs
- Pidan, Pi Dan, Peidan, or Pei Dan - This is usually what we call it at home, it’s also a common name in Hawaii.
- Preserved Eggs - This is another popular name often seen on restaurant menus.
- Thousand Year Old Eggs / 1000 Year Old Egg
- Hundred Year Old Eggs
- Millennium Eggs
- Pine Flower Eggs - You can sometimes see delicate patterns on the surface of the egg whites. The patterns look similar to pine branches. This is an indication of a very high quality century egg.
However you call it, they are delicious!
Century Egg Taste
The yolks are where all the flavor is at. The yolks are grey-green in color. They have a super creamy texture, almost like a soft cheese. It's bold and pungent. The flavor is very distinct, with the slightest hint of ammonia.
Some people liken the flavor of these preserved yolks to a cross between blue cheese and oysters.
The egg whites are a translucent amber-copper color with a smooth jelly-like texture. They are a little salty but don't have as much flavor (similar to "regular" egg whites).
Where To Buy Century Egg
You can purchase century eggs from pretty much any Chinese market.
They are usually kept near the refrigerated section. Though at some markets they are kept directly in the refrigerated section next to the regular eggs.
Because the eggs are preserved, you do not need to refrigerate them. Just keep them in a cool place. But you can refrigerate them you'd like.
They are typically sold in packages of 6 eggs, and each egg is individually wrapped.
Peeled century eggs keep 1-2 days in the refrigerator, but as a general rule, I do not peel the eggs until right before I'm ready to use them.
Peel the eggs the same way you would peel a hard boiled egg. Quickly rinse them under running water (to clean), and then tap the egg on a counter top to crack the shell. Peel and discard the shell. Then the egg is ready to eat!
Where To Eat Century Egg
You'll find many different preparations for century eggs at Chinese restaurants and dim sum places. Here are a few we love in Honolulu:
Tim Ho Wan in Waikiki, Ginger & Garlic, and Lam's Kitchen in Chinatown serve Congee/Jook with Century Egg and Pork. It may also be labeled on the menu as preserved egg.
I often order congee/jook from Lam's Kitchen for takeout. Why? Because in addition to making excellent jook, they also make my favorite you tiao (fried Chinese cruller). Order both! You must eat them together.
I drive my takeout order home, then toast the you tiao and warm the jook on the stove. Serve the jook hot with a side of you tiao...ahh! One of my top meals.
We cut the you tiao into one-inch pieces, dip it briefly into the hot jook, and then dip it into a little dish of Maggi with chopped Thai chili peppers. Eat! So delicious ^_^
Dew Drop Inn on S Beretania Street serves century eggs with tofu and cilantro.
Honolulu Skewer House on Kapahulu Avenue and Khan Skewer Restaurant on Isenberg Street also serve versions of this dish, they call it the Thousand Year Egg Tofu Salad.
P.S. At Benu in San Francisco, they serve a tiny century egg (made from quail eggs). It is gorgeous.
Century Egg Recipes
There are many ways to eat century eggs. You can incorporate them into dishes, or they can be the main element of a dish:
Century Egg and Tofu (pictured above)
This recipe layers diced century eggs over silken soft tofu. We season it with a little soy sauce and sesame oil, then top with green onions. It's served cool and is a very refreshing dish. It takes only five ingredients and five minutes to prepare. Eat it with rice!
Spinach with Century Egg and Salted Duck Egg
This is a simple and super flavorful stir fry dish of spinach cooked with garlic. Slices of century egg and salted duck egg are simmered with a little chicken broth until soft and slightly falling apart, and then combined with the spinach. Season with white pepper. Eat hot, with rice.
Note: this dish is traditionally made with yin choy, but because that is not so easy to find, we usually use spinach.
Spinach with Century Egg, Salted Duck Egg, and Regular Egg
This is the same as the recipe above but with the addition of a regular egg. Whereas the century eggs and salted duck eggs are simply sliced and simmered, the regular egg is beaten and swirled directly into the chicken stock (in the same style of egg drop soup). The three eggs are then poured over the salted spinach.
Century Egg Salad
Century Egg Salad (also called Pidan Salad) is made by topping sliced century eggs with a savory dressing made of soy sauce and rice vinegar. We include lots of garlic and herbs to give the "salad" a bright, fresh taste. The is best enjoyed as a side dish served at room temperature.
Congee/Jook with Century Egg and Pork (pictured above)
This is a very classic way to enjoy century eggs, and perhaps the most popular. We make congee/jook and then stir in thinly sliced pork and chopped century eggs. You can find this dish at many Chinese and dim sum restaurants. It's very nourishing and one of my favorite dishes to eat during cold weather (or when I'm feeling under the weather).
Three Colored Egg
This is a fun dish that uses three types of eggs: regular eggs, century eggs, and salted duck eggs. It's similar to our Chinese Steamed Egg, but we take it one step further by gently adding sliced century eggs and salted ducks eggs into the egg mixture before steaming.
Century Egg with Pickled Ginger
This is an easy to make appetizer that's often served at the beginning of a big meal. To prepare, slice the century egg into wedges (about 8 wedges per egg). Arrange them nicely on a place and place a small mound of thinly sliced pickled ginger in the middle. Eat a slice of century egg with a few pieces of pickled ginger, it's an excellent pairing.
P.S. Sometimes we first dip the century egg wedges into a little dish of sugar, and then eat it with the pickled ginger. Give it a try ^_^