Ode to the Century Egg

The century egg is most familiar to the Chinese as pi dan. Its congealed, oolong-brown translucence flashes an exquisite snowflake pattern.

“A mutated egg that is! That’s an alien hatch!” the uninitiated cry.
Why do they condemn something that they haven’t come to fathom?
Surprisingly, not many understand that all it takes to cure this is a try.
Or at least a level of understanding equivalent to the weight of an atom.

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A bowl of cut up pi dan. But unlike what the picture suggests, you don’t eat it on its own (Photo: Jo del Corro, Flickr)

Slice this mysterious elliptical jelly trove in half with a blade and see how the beautiful yolk is really made.
A pine green yolk, vaguely resembling a quartz cave.
A soft and occasionally molten core tempts you to use your fork to stave into the green goo.
Whose consistency resembles a roux?

Also…what is that revolting urine odour?
It can only mean the uninviting blend of ammonia and sulphur.
And soon we learn that there is an explanation for the stench:
the pi dan is essentially an egg preserved for some few weeks in a clench.
Made of clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls.

Weeks pass until the pi dan is done.
Ready for its big unveil, its first and only run.

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A cleaned century egg after emerging from being preserved (Photo: ayu oshimi, Flickr)

A nondescript elliptical shell with a scattershot of ash markings.
To the uninitiated, he is disappointed.
His expectations and the results are disjointed.
He cracks it open.
And finds…an egg?
It is an egg, but it’s unlike any other.
It seems to oozing a strange, yet inviting aura.
It holds a perfect shape and carries an awfully potent urine odour.

“How should we eat it?” is the question most people ask.
The ones who dare to try, and not the ones who say, “I’m good. I’ll pass.”
And the answer to that is simple. Congee.

Congee?
The simplicity is what makes it so special.
Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried this creation that is oh so celestial.

Of course, it’s not all who answer the call.
Its a matter of personal taste, that’s all.
Some find its flavour rather dull while some find it hard to accept.
Either way, there’s a solution instead of choosing to sidestep.
This is where pickled ginger comes in.
Silky tofu, a magnet for grins.

So good.

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Congee (rice porridge) is often served with pi dan, meat and some finely chopped green onions (Photo: Jo del Corro, Flickr)


Yearning for some century egg goodness after this post? Here are a couple of places to sate those pesky cravings!

Imperial Treasure
Famous for their silky smooth lean pork congee with century egg, fried dough sticks, ginger and spring onion.

Find it at 10 Bayfront Avenue, Marina Bay Sands, The Shoppes Atrium 2, L2-04, 018972
Click here for more info on Imperial Treasure.

Tim Ho Wan
Simple and uncomplicated, the best sort of comfort food there is. This bowl comes with lean pork and both salted and century egg.

Find it at 68 Orchard Rd, #01-29A, Plaza Singapura, Plaza Singapura, 238839
Click here for more info on Tim Ho Wan.

Crystal Jade Dining IN Restaurant
A version with tender pulled pork instead of the usual lean variety! Comes with century egg, fried dough fritters and spring onion.

Find it at 1 Harbourfront Walk, #01-112 VivoCity, 098585
Book a table at Crystal Jade Dining IN Restaurant

PUTIEN
Century egg covered in a sweet & sour crust, topped with PUTIEN’s specialty sauce.

Find it at 2 Orchard Turn, #04-12, ION Orchard, 238801
Click here for more info on PUTIEN.

Koh Grill & Sushi Bar
Creamy century egg sauce on silky tofu, topped with tobiko and spring onions.

Find it at 435 Orchard Road, #04-21 Wisma Atria Shopping Centre, Wisma Atria, 238877
Click here for more info on Koh Grill & Sushi Bar.