While taking a Thai cooking class, we made a stop by Chiang Mai’s Somphet Market to purchase ingredients for our dishes. This proved to be a bit more eventful than originally planned. Of course, it had a colorful selection of native fruits and vegetables, along with fresh fish being scaled right in front of you. But, what was unexpected was the opportunity to eat a pastel pink century egg.
A century egg, also known as a thousand year old egg, is an Asian tradition in which an egg is preserved for several weeks or months using a process that combines clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls. Yum.
We walked through the market with our guide as he pointed out ingredients, some of which we would be using in our meal and most of which would not. He picked up a century egg, gave a brief description and let us all take a whiff. It smelled like ammonia and boasted a moldy green color, so there weren’t many takers when asked if anybody wanted to try it. Except me. And I don’t even like normal, fresh eggs.
Of course, if I’m going to eat something strange so is Peter. Mostly because I make him. He’ll thank me for the experience later. Or not.
Surprisingly, and thankfully, the egg didn’t taste like it smelled. It tasted like a warm, slightly old hard-boiled egg. Not as bad as lamb brain, yet not good enough to eat the entire thing either.
We continued through the market, with the faint scent century egg on our breath. A lasting memory.
With the egg in the past, I fell in love with the eclectic varieties of eggplants, most of which I had never seen before.
Even though we would be making our own curry in class, you could purchase it at Somphet Market already complete. But, what fun would that be?
I already had my heart set on using a mortar and pestle to make my spicy paste.
What fascinated me most about the market, besides the smell of the century egg, was the air-filled bags that held random nuts and beans. It reminded me of the plastic bags of live fish being sold at Hong Kong’s Goldfish Market.
With the shopping complete, we headed to the kitchen to learn what to do with all of our purchases. And I was grateful to not see a century egg in any of the bags.
Have you ever eaten a century egg?
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