Century eggs are usually eaten with congee in many Asian countries, including China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. It is used as a topping for sushi or served along with Chinese tea. In Malaysia, it is called "pulut tenggiri" in Malay language (mutton bird egg) which was introduced by the Cantonese. It is also a common ingredient in Cantonese cuisine and Indonesian cuisine.
Century egg is eaten as an appetizer or as a side dish with rice porridge or congee, such as with Chinese herbal chicken congee. In Thai cuisine, century eggs are usually chopped up and lightly fried before being eaten with steamed sticky rice. Century eggs are called "pidan" in Mandarin Chinese but are colloquially referred to as "sannianji"(三年紀) in most parts of China.
The yolk, creamy and with a strong odor, is sometimes consumed together with the white but often discarded. The egg white is initially solid, but once broken it turns clear. The eggs are preserved through the addition of two key ingredients: sodium sulfate and calcium hydroxide. The yolk takes on an ash-gray hue and has a strong alkaline taste caused by the high pH of the preserving agent.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, century egg is believed to have health benefits, such as being nourishing and restorative. Calcium hydroxide is a highly caustic compound that can burn the skin and eyes if not handled carefully during preparation. In some regions, people affected by the obsessive-compulsive disorder have been reported to eat century eggs. One of the most famous cases was a Mr. Cui from the Wenzhou region of China, who ate over three kilograms (6.5 pounds) daily until receiving treatment.
Much like cheese, century eggs develop a stronger flavor after being wrapped for over a week. In Thailand, these eggs are called "thua naem" (ทัวร์แน่ม) and can be found in most parts of the country. They are usually eaten with either rice porridge or fried rice. Century eggs may also be used whole as a garnish for congee. In the Malay language, century eggs are also known as "pulut tenggiri" (tenggeh-ree; literally: mutton bird egg). The term is derived from its resemblance to bird's eggs and its age which makes it similar to mutton meat. In the Philippines, it is known as "panggang piko" and is used as a side dish to pork dishes.
In the West, they are generally found in Asian supermarkets and some gourmet grocery stores.
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