Eggs from Heaven

February 21, 2015

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They're called hundred year old eggs, and they look the part.  But although pidan may look like scary eggs from hell, when you take a bite you discover something remarkably delicate. I love them.

See that flash of amber light on the plate? That's the sun from the garden, reflected through the beautiful eggs. I bought them last night in Chinatown, at what must have been the last market open. The place felt deserted; New Years is best spent at home. 

These spooky duck eggs are often made by mixing tea, lime, salt and wood ash into a paste, wrapping it around each egg and leaving it to harden. After allowing the eggs to ripen for at least a month you crack away the hardened clay to unveil this otherworldly delicacy. This ancient method is still practiced all over China, but there's also an easier way: today lime and sodium bicarbonate are used to make commercial century eggs. 

They're wonderful eaten on their own, or sliced into a bowl of congee.  They're great on tofu.  And if you want to punch up their gentle flavor, cut them into wedges and brighten them with a bit of sesame oil, soy, and a splash of black vinegar.  Happy year of the ram! 

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