Some people don't like century eggs. Those people are wrong.
Whenever I visit Burma, I try to consume five times my bodyweight in food - that’s just the way I roll (sometimes literally, on the way back from Heathrow). Give me a break, I only make it out there every couple of years, so I need to make it last. This means I eat out (and in) about 12 times a day and succeed in putting on at least two dress sizes.
I’m completely spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out - there are 135 ethnic groups in Burma each with varying cuisines. I’m a mixed bag myself - I worked out the other day that I’m 38% Shan, 32% Bamar, 13% Intha and 17% Chinese. I used a spreadsheet and everything.
And when we’re there, we always order the roast duck (Shway Bè means “Golden Duck”) and we always order the Century Egg Salad.
For those who are unfamiliar with century eggs, I’ll let Wikipedia be your guide:
“Century egg, 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, cream-like substance with a strong odour of sulphur and ammonia, while the white becomes a dark brown, transparent jelly with little flavour.”
Now, although century eggs aka pi dan are quintessential Chinese food, in Burma the century egg is a slightly different beast. Our eggs aren’t dark brown - they’re a beautiful golden amber. And the yolk isn’t grey or green, but instead a deep ochre (I’ve even brought these handsome treats back from Burma before - DEFRA said it’s ok).
They taste more or less the same as the Chinese version, but without the hellish whiff - they’re altogether a more elegant egg.
And this century egg salad is definitely a Burmese invention, using classic Burmese salad ingredients. You can eat it by itself, but it’s much better with a bowl of steaming rice and some roast duck on the side.
Yes, it’s a recipe. Remember those? I used to do them - I’ve just been lazy.
- 4 century eggs
- 2 large, firm tomatoes or 8 firm cherry tomatoes
- 1 large white onion or 6 shallots
- 1 fresh red chilli
- Handful of coriander leaves
- 1 tbsp lemon juice/quarter of a squeezed lemon
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 teeny pinch of MSG (if you can't eat MSG, use a smidge of Marigold Bouillon)
- 1 tsp peanut oil or other flavourless vegetable oil
Peel the eggs and then scald them with boiling water to get rid of the sulphurous smell. Next immediately rinse them in cold water, slice into segments and place in a bowl to one side.
Slice the onions as finely as possible and then soak in cold water to let the slivers crisp up.
If using large tomatoes, slice thinly; if using cherry tomatoes, slice into segments.
Shred the chillies and the coriander, leaving some coriander sprigs whole for garnish.
Drain the onions (squeeze excess water out with kitchen towel if necessary) and add to the eggs.
Add the tomatoes, chillies and coriander; chuck in the oil, fish sauce, lemon juice and MSG and toss thoroughly.
Garnish with reserved coriander leaves and serve immediately.
It's lovely, honest.