By in Food

Green Eggs! Where's the Ham?

Last year I was searching the web for information on cooking duck eggs, a new-to-us food I had brought home from the farmers market. I found some great advice and recipes, but I also discovered what may have been at least a partial inspiration for Dr. Seuss when he was writing Green Eggs and Ham . (The principal inspiration was, of course, the bet with his editor that he couldn't write a book with only fifty words – but that's a topic for another post!)

Yes, there are actually green eggs ! Not just green-shelled eggs, and not eggs that have been coloured with herbs or food dyes. I'm talking real green eggs.

They're called pidan , or “ century eggs .” No, they don't look nearly as appetizing as the ones in the popular children's book. From what I've read they smell (and presumably taste) like ammonia. Apparently this is considered a delicacy in China.

The “century egg” is made using a traditional Chinese method for preserving fresh eggs (usually duck eggs) before taking them to market. It involves coating a fresh, uncooked egg with a sort of alkaline clay mixture brewed up with tea, ashes and lime. The coated egg is then rolled in rice hulls, at which point they can be taken to market. They are aged for several weeks or months, after which time the egg yolk turns green and the white like amber gelatine. Sometimes the whites get quite a bit darker, from brown right on through black.

I doubt I'll be trying a century egg any time soon, but I love that I learned about a food preserving method I had never previously encountered. And I can very much understand why Dr. Seuss would write an entire work about not wanting to even try green eggs

I am not even going to think about how the ham turned green....

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Image credit: Century egg with preserved ginger by Felix Chia/Flickr ( CC BY 2.0 )

Sources:

H.C. Hou, “ Hunger and Technology: Egg Preservation in China

The Chinese Soup Lady, “ Century or Thousand Year Old Egg

The Silk Road Gourmet, “ Making 1000 Year Eggs

Tales from an Open Book, “ Green Eggs and Ham on a Bet

Note: This article was migrated from Bubblews, where it was originally published


Image Credit » https://www.flickr.com/photos/felixchia/6860799497/

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Comments

alexdg1 wrote on October 26, 2014, 10:53 PM

I don't think I'd like those green eggs much; they look like they'd make me queasy!

LeaPea2417 wrote on October 26, 2014, 11:28 PM

That is very interesting. I never heard of this type of thing to do to eggs. It does not sound appetizing but it is fascinating that it exists.

carolscash wrote on October 27, 2014, 7:37 AM

I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Ruby I am. LOL! These century eggs sound awful

LoudMan wrote on October 27, 2014, 9:53 AM

We Humans are a odd species sometimes. We see something which smells like ammonia and we think "Gee! I want to put that in my mouth."

Side-note: Dr. Seuss's earlier attempts were "Orange Beef and Chips" and "Plaid Spaghetti."

* My lawyer insists I tell you no such event actually happened.*

Feisty56 wrote on October 27, 2014, 11:01 AM

So many food items are a matter of culture and being acquired tastes. If we grow up accepting that something is not only acceptable to eat, but actually prized, we may well buy into that. Century eggs, are, in my opinion, one of those things.

BarbRad wrote on October 27, 2014, 11:33 AM

If this is what green eggs are, I'd have to agree with Sam-I-Am. I do not want green eggs and ham.

SLGarcia wrote on October 27, 2014, 12:50 PM

They eggs do look interesting, but completely unappetizing to me. The process of making them is fascinating though.

AngelSharum wrote on October 27, 2014, 1:30 PM

I couldn't eat anything that smelled like ammonia. That just wouldn't work.

Platespinner wrote on October 28, 2014, 8:39 AM

"I would not, could not..." That is one delicacy I will definitely pass on!

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on October 28, 2014, 2:42 PM

I'm pretty sure we'd all be in agreement with Sam-I-Am!

JanetJenson wrote on October 29, 2014, 1:12 AM

I have had the century eggs before and the color was kind of off. They were served at a banquet along with many other delicacies. They tasted OK, but I liked the duck better.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 29, 2014, 1:38 AM

I kind of like the way the whites look in some versions. The amber colour is quite pretty. But the yolks put me off - and I'm sure the smell would too!

Ruby3881 wrote on October 29, 2014, 1:47 AM

I kind of like the way the whites look in some versions. The amber colour is quite pretty. But the yolks put me off - and I'm sure the smell would too!

Ruby3881 wrote on October 29, 2014, 1:49 AM

Sorry LeaPea! My internet went wonky and I ended up with two of the same comment emoticon :sad:
I was saying that I was also fascinated but reviled...

Ruby3881 wrote on October 29, 2014, 1:50 AM

Don't they just? I wonder if Seuss ate one before he wrote the book?

Ruby3881 wrote on October 29, 2014, 1:51 AM

Was that spaghetti made by a Scotsman, Don?

Ruby3881 wrote on October 29, 2014, 2:14 AM

I think even some Chinese people find century eggs a turn off! But I think they are less frequently made now, and so have become sort of a delicacy/old people's food...

Ruby3881 wrote on October 29, 2014, 2:16 AM

Not in a box and not with a fox? emoticon :tongue:
I don't think I'd want them either! And I'm afraid of the ham....

Ruby3881 wrote on October 31, 2014, 4:41 AM

That was my reaction exactly. I don't think I'd even want to open a carton of them! I've seen video of people opening the package and tasting them, and they just gag on the fumes....

Ruby3881 wrote on October 31, 2014, 4:47 AM

I'm sure I couldn't get close enough to put the egg in my mouth. not without a clothespin on my nose, anyway!

Ruby3881 wrote on October 31, 2014, 4:49 AM

So far, nobody has stepped up to say they'd try a century egg. Not even for the sake of saying they'd been adventurous. I wonder if anyone would....

Ruby3881 wrote on October 31, 2014, 4:50 AM

Now that sounds much more palatable than eating a century egg! I might do that next Easter, to show the kids :)

Ruby3881 wrote on October 31, 2014, 4:52 AM

Wow, I found one person who has tried them! I imagine at a banquet they'd had some time to air out a little before you ate them. But did they still smell of ammonia?

Ruby3881 wrote on October 31, 2014, 4:55 AM

I'm really glad you enjoyed! The internet, and in particular sites like Persona Paper, really is a great place for us to learn and grow :)

paigea wrote on November 9, 2014, 6:31 PM

I am never going to try the century old eggs either. The smell would put me off.

Ruby3881 wrote on November 11, 2014, 11:34 AM

It's a wonder anyone can get close enough to eat them!