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Preserved Eggs (皮蛋 Or 松花蛋, Pi Dan)

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Century egg (Chinese: 皮蛋; pinyin: pí dàn), also known as preserved egg, hundred-year egg, thousand-year egg, thousand-year-old egg, and millennium egg, is a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing.

Through the process, the yolk becomes a dark green to grey colour, with a creamy consistency and an odor of sulphur and ammonia, while the white becomes a dark brown, translucent jelly with little flavor. The transforming agent in the century egg is its alkaline material, which gradually raises the pH of the egg to around 9, 12, or more during the curing process. This chemical process breaks down some of the complex, flavorless proteins and fats, which produces a variety of smaller flavorful compounds.

Some eggs have patterns near the surface of the egg white that are likened to pine branches, and that gives rise to one of its Chinese names, the pine-patterned egg.

History


The origin of the method for creating century eggs likely came about through the need to preserve eggs in times of plenty by coating them in alkaline clay, which is similar to methods of egg preservation in some Western cultures. The clay hardens around the egg and resulted in the curing and creation of century eggs instead of spoiled eggs.

According to some, the century egg has over five centuries of history behind its production. Its discovery, though not verifiable, was said to have occurred during the Ming Dynasty 600 years ago in Hunan, when a homeowner discovered duck eggs in a shallow pool of slaked lime that was used for mortar during construction of his home two months before. Upon tasting the eggs, he set out to produce more, this time with the addition of salt to improve the taste, thus resulting in the present recipe of the century egg.

Uses


Century eggs can be eaten without further preparation, on their own or as a side dish. As an hors d'œuvre, the Cantonese wrap chunks of this egg with slices of pickled ginger root (sometimes sold on a stick as street food). A Shanghainese recipe mixes chopped century eggs with chilled tofu. In Taiwan, it is popular to eat century eggs on top of cold tofu with katsuobushi, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a style similar to Japanese hiyayakko. A variation of this recipe common in northern China is to slice century eggs over chilled silken (soft) tofu, adding liberal quantities of shredded young ginger and chopped spring onions as a topping, and then drizzling light soy sauce and sesame oil over the dish, to taste. They are also used in a dish called old-and-fresh eggs, where chopped century eggs are combined with (or used to top) an omelet made with fresh eggs.

Some Chinese households cut them up into small chunks and cook them with rice porridge to create "century egg and lean pork congee" (Chinese: 皮蛋瘦肉粥; pinyin: pídàn shòuròu zhōu). This is sometimes served in dim sum restaurants. Rice congee, lean pork, and century egg are the main ingredients. Peeled century eggs are cut into quarters or eighths and simmered with the seasoned marinated lean slivers of pork until both ingredients are cooked into the rice congee. Fried dough sticks known as youtiao are commonly eaten with century egg congee. Another common variation of this dish is the addition of salted duck eggs into the congee mixture.

On special events like wedding banquets or birthday parties, a first course platter of sliced barbecued pork, pickled baby leeks, sliced abalone, pickled julienned carrots, pickled julienned daikon radish, seasoned julienned jellyfish, sliced pork, brawn and the quartered century eggs is served. This is called a lahng-poon in Cantonese, which simply means "cold dish".

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References

Century egg, en.wikipedia.org

Century egg, en.wikibooks.org

PRESERVED EGGS, www.asianrecipesonline.com