Century Eggs

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Introduction: Century Eggs

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Whether you call them century eggs, hundred-year eggs, millennium eggs or whatever, these outlandish ova are a Chinese delicacy dating back centuries to the Ming Dynasty. The boastful name suggests these eggs take forever to make, this is a misnomer. Century eggs take about 4-5 weeks to make, a few minutes to work up the courage to open, and a few seconds to eat.

Traditionally century eggs were made by preserving chicken or duck eggs in a mixture of salt, lime and ash, then wrapping in rice husks for several weeks. During this time the pH of the egg raises transforming the egg, the chemical process breaks down some of the proteins and fats into smaller, more complex flavours. After curing the yolk of the egg turns a dark green and has a creamy consistency, while the white turns amber and is gelatinous. 

I chose a more modern method to achieve the same results: a salt and lye pickling solution, and encasing in modelling clay. After about a month my eggs were ready, and I'm happy to say they turned out perfectly!

Want to make your own? Of course you do! 
Enough talk, let's make some eggs!


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Step 1: Supplies + Materials

supplies:
  • 100% lye/caustic soda (NaOH - sodium hydroxide)*
  • salt (NaCl - sodium cloride)
  • chicken egg (duck or quail egg)
.
materials:

* Technically lye is a corrosive, not poison. Though, it' can be labelled as either. It's incredibly dangerous to handle and can cause severe burns with contact to skin, there's also an inhalation risk. Use gloves and a respirator.
There's plenty of other foods that are made/prepared with lye, but use caution and common sense.
Always use pure, 100% lye (sodium hydroxide).

Step 2: Prepare Pickling Solution

Start by making the pickling solution, here's the basic breakdown:
  • 1L  - Water
  • 42g - Sodium hydroxide(NaOH)   (lye)
  • 72g - Sodium chloride(NaCl)   (salt)
On a scale weigh out the lye and salt. Over low heat dissolve the salt and lye completely in water. Bring the solution to a boil and allow it to cool down before use.

Place raw eggs into glass jar and pour the cooled pickling solution over eggs. Ensure all eggs are completely submerged. 

Step 3: Store

I wrote the date of submerging these eggs on my label, as well as the expected dates for encasing in clay, and eventual consumption. Label jar and store in a safe place, like the corner of your desk, so all your coworkers can gawk in disgust (or silent admiration). I also added a warning so my coworkers wouldn't mess with the jar while the eggs were pickling.

Leave eggs at 15-20°C (60-70°F) for about 10 days. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don't pop up above the solution and stay submerged.


Step 4: Remove From Brine

After about 10 days it's time to remove the eggs. Carefully pour out brine and pick out eggs, rinse with water then towel dry. The shells should still be hard.

You should be able to see some discolouration through the shells. 

Step 5: Encase

Traditionally century eggs were rolled in mud then wrapped in rice husks and buried for a few more weeks. In this modern version I simply wrapped the eggs in several layers of clear plastic wrap then encased in modeling clay. This inhibits oxygen from reaching the eggs while they cure.

Be careful when encasing in clay as not to break the eggs. After wrapping I put all the eggs into a resealable bag and left for another 2 weeks. 

Step 6: Crack Open

After about a month from the when the eggs were first put into the brine solution it's time to open them up. Carefully remove the clay encasement and the plastic wrap, then tap the egg to break the shell and gently peel away. The eggs should be completely transformed!

The whites of the eggs will now be a jelly-like translucent amber colour and the yolks a very dark green and with a texture much like a hard boiled egg. Take a look at picture 2 in this step to see the different consistency between the yolk and white in my egg-xperiment.

Step 7: Serve!

Century eggs are typically served mashed up in soupy rice. I made a steamy bowl and served it to my friends.

The taste was...interesting. The appearance is deceiving and almost put me off eating it altogether, but once I ate some it wasn't that bad. It tasted kind of like a hard boiled egg, only with a more complex flavour and a slightly mineral/metallic taste. I'm happy I tried this and think I would probably eat it again. You know, sometime later (much, much later).



Did you make your own version of century eggs? Post a picture in the comments below.

Happy making :)

3 People Made This Project!

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89 Discussions

0
GretaNG
GretaNG

6 weeks ago

Thanks for the guide, Mike. I’m on day 10. Just happy the egg came out of the jar I put it in, from it’s growth spurt. Now to use ash or clay is my next step. Thank you.

1
MelBermachea
MelBermachea

Question 3 months ago

Hello sir, can you help me. My eggs yolk is not totally transformed. still watery.

What do you think is the problem?

CCE0A275-F691-427D-BF0F-FE6656C7F3C7.jpeg
0
anthonymaw
anthonymaw

3 months ago

Or you could just go down to your local Chinatown or Asian food market and buy them off-the-shelf and ready-to-eat. They might also be served in Chinese restaurants with the rice-broth more commonly known as "congee". Enjoy!

0
Millie Lim
Millie Lim

Question 8 months ago on Step 1

Is it fine to soak the century egg in the pickling solution more than 10days?What will happen?

0
JeffH344
JeffH344

10 months ago

Thanks for sharing this! I read that the NaoH should be stored in plastic not glass though - is that true?

0
mikeasaurus
mikeasaurus

Reply 10 months ago

Plastic is best. Storing sodium hydroxide in glass can cause a reaction and frost the glass. For the length of time the eggs are in there I don't see this as an issue, but the right protocol is to use plastic.

0
chiao
chiao

8 years ago on Introduction

Yes! I love these! Unfortunately, my wife just bought some, so she won't let me make them right now. I like to eat them sliced with soft tofu and thick soy sauce. Mmm! Now I just need to learn to make my own rice wine and tofu...

0
100YearsAnEgg
100YearsAnEgg

Reply 1 year ago

I hate when my wife doesn't let me make eggs right now!!!

0
RayL4
RayL4

5 years ago on Introduction

Alright! I'm gonna start the process tonight! Thanks so much for this write-up! How in the world did you even get the asian century egg sensei's to give up their secrets??

0
100YearsAnEgg
100YearsAnEgg

Reply 1 year ago

Keep us posted on how it goes!!

0
jacobevolved
jacobevolved

5 years ago on Introduction

I wonder if sodium silicate could be used instead of the clay....

0
100YearsAnEgg
100YearsAnEgg

Reply 1 year ago

I also wonder jacob

0
painrelief
painrelief

Reply 4 years ago

Sodium silicate found in furnace cement should probably not be used. In my experience, it dries up really hard and is tough to remove. In the past, I've seen these eggs rolled up in a coat of (wood) ash. I assumed that it was also used to raise the pH

0
phettsack
phettsack

8 years ago on Step 7

As those eggs aren't cooked, I am courious about germs.
Whats about bacteria like salmonella? Are they gone?

0
zekar-yah-echad
zekar-yah-echad

Reply 4 years ago

I eat UNREFRIGERATED, RAW eggs all the time without incident. you can store them on the counter at room temp for at least two weeks. mercola.com even recommends it. what's more, salmonella is not a death sentence. eat farm fresh, free range, organic, anti biotic free and pesticide free as much as possible.

0
100YearsAnEgg
100YearsAnEgg

Reply 1 year ago

Out of wondering,
How many times have you getting salmonella from UNREFRIGERATED, RAW egg? I've had twice but centuary egg so good
to no make
so i eat anyway hope this helps!

0
kadidlehopper
kadidlehopper

Reply 4 years ago

you feel better now? the guy was simply asking a question, not questioning your beliefs.

0
TaiF3
TaiF3

Reply 3 years ago

Century egg is pickled, meaning they are soaked in a strong brine solution that kills bacteria. I do not think bacteria can live in an extremely high ph environment, not to mention how salty it is.

I have seen century egg sold in stores here in the states refrigerated and I do not think it's necessary since those eggs are preserved, so it will not spoil unless the shell broke.

It's a bit like pickled eggs.