During our travels, particularly during our time living abroad, our tastebuds have been challenged on occasion.
The thousand year old egg was definitely one of those times.
We were first introduced to this delicacy through our visits to the local 7-11 in Hsin Chu, Taiwan, where we lived from 1998-1999 as ESL teachers. Every time the sliding glass doors of the store opened, our senses were accosted with a very strong and very unfamiliar smell.
One day, we tracked the scent to the side of the store where we saw an open tub with whole eggs, blackened, floating around in them. Our curiosity temporarily satisfied, we chalked it up to cultural difference and didn’t give it much more thought…
…until one day when we were at a student’s house for lunch. The child’s parent presented us with a tray of these same eggs, proudly introducing them as Thousand Year Old Eggs.
Now we are pretty adventurous when it comes to new food adventures, but the blackened, greenish, gelatinous appearance of these eggs did not appeal. Nor did the explanation from our gracious hosts as to their origins. They explained that, while these delicacies were traditionally pickled in horse urine, they were now soaked in an ammonia solution. A more detailed discussion of their provenance can be found here.
One of us was brave enough to try the egg, and the other got squeamish and professed to have an egg allergy.
While there are numerous things we miss about our time in Asia, many of them being the delicious food we were able to eat on a daily basis, let’s just say that the Thousand Year Old Egg was something we are glad we tried. And we can leave our memories in the kitchens of Hsin Chu.