The first time I ate a Century Egg (or Pidan) was in Milpitas, California, at a little joint that served it as a condiment for Congee, a traditional Chinese rice porridge. At the time, I found its coffee black color, gelatinous texture, and funky taste a little off-putting. But, like most foods I don't enjoy at first, I tried it several times over the ensuing years until I finally found one that I liked.
Century Eggs are a Chinese delicacy made by coating duck eggs in an alkaline slurry and aging them. This not only preserves them, it fundamentally transforms the eggs into a unique ingredient that feels a little bit like looking at a photographic negative. The form factor is familiar, yet the appearance, taste, and texture are something entirely new.
Like anything, the care and attention that's poured into making Century Eggs affect the finished product's taste and texture. It wasn't until I moved to Japan that I first had a good one. As a Chinese chef pointed out, high-quality century eggs have a beautiful snowflake-like pattern on the surface that develops naturally due to the aging process. It is said to resemble the branches of a pine tree and is the sign of a really good Century Egg.
I kind of debated whether or not to share this dish with all of you, as the ingredients may be difficult to find outside of Asia, and the foreign nature of it may be off-putting for some. But I promised I'd share what my family was eating with all of you, and this has been a recent favorite in our household. Paired with sweet fava beans and crunchy pickled daikon and dressed with a tangy, nutty dressing, this unique salad is a singular experience that I hope you're all able to try someday!
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