Is it gross? The thousand-year egg edition

pi-danOnce again, we ask the question, “is it gross?” We’ve brought back our contestant Ed. Here’s today’s “thing”:

Take a duck egg. Soak it in a brine of salt and industrial strength cleaning product for 10 days. Then, wrap it in plastic and age it for several weeks. Expedite the process by adding a lead oxide. Later, crack the egg open and serve with soy sauce.

Ed’s response:

what, gross!

Yes folks, it is indeed gross. But interestingly enough, what pushed today’s “thing” over Ed’s gross-threshold was the fact that it was served with soy sauce and not the industrial strength cleaning product in which it was prepared.

Today’s “thing” is in fact what the Chinese call pi-dan (pee-done). In English, it is often called “preserved eggs,” “century eggs,” or “thousand year eggs.” Back in the day (about a week ago), the Chinese compensated for their lack of a reliable food source with an abundance of preservatives.

Traditionally, pi-dan has been all about preserving eggs. The procedure for making pi-dan was packing duck eggs in a mixture of water and clay with a high pH level. The clay would turn the yolk translucent blackish-brown and the yolk blackish-gray. Pi-dan would then be served with xi-fan or rice porridge. In my (gross) case, just cut it up and serve it with soy sauce.

Now, pi-dan is all about making a whacky tasting egg. Serving with soy sauce is definitely the preferred method for grossing out your non-Chinese friends. Once tasted, the palate cannot cannot be cleansed. Other foods consumed within hours of preserved egg will just taste bizarre. Only time will get the taste out of one’s mouth.

Modern methods have reduced the fermentation period to mere weeks (yay modern methods!), making them easy to mass produce and distribute. But, when buying preserved eggs, be sure to find the ones without lead. Heavy metal poisoning messes you up good.


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