Does anyone know how the name "century eggs" or "thousand-year eggs" came about? The Chinese name 皮蛋 just means "skin/leather egg". Perhaps the wait for the curing process of these delicious eggs feels like a century! Or perhaps these eggs look so different after curing (literally going to the other end of the colour spectrum), they give the impression they've been buried a thousand years!
The crystallization patterns also led to the eggs being called 松花蛋 or pine-patterned egg. They are almost too pretty to be eaten. Yeah, some of you may be wondering if it's safe enough to be eaten! I read that lead oxide is sometimes used to speed up the curing process, so just look for lead-free versions when you buy.
It seems the eggs are not just pretty, they might even have therapeutic effects, such as lowering blood cholesterol and ß-lipoprotein in certain experiments. In addition, consumption of pidan will purportedly improve appetite, clear vision, and protect the liver. All yet to be scientifically confirmed though.
Century eggs are an adventure in both taste and texture. They may be an acquired taste for some, as the yolk can be pungent like certain cheeses. However, the white (or is it black now?) is generally bland. Texture-wise, the creamy yolk contrasts with the dark amber egg white, which is firm, bouncy and jelly-like. I love them, whether raw with pickled ginger or cubed in porridge or cooked with other eggs and vegetables. Yum.
Oh, and the tales about these eggs being cured in horse urine? That's just a myth, so relax and enjoy this eggs-cellent delicacy (if you can get past the ammonia scent that probably gave rise to the myth)!