Eat a Preserved Century Egg at a Thai Market

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.Cleaning a Fish in Thailand Chiang Mai Market Fish     Chiang Mai Market

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.
Annette White Eating a Century EggCentury Egg in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Peter Eating a Century Egg

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.

And I wanted to make eggplant parmigiana with every one of them.Thai Eggplant

Thai Ginger

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.

We wouldn’t need to be purchasing coconut milk either, but there was a quick demonstration as to how is was made by simply squeezing.
Curry in Thailand Coconut Juicer     Squeezing Coconut Juice

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.

And I was completely perplexed by how they got the air in there. Apparently, it doesn’t take much to puzzle me.
Bagged Nuts

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?

Discover more of the best foods in the world


Related. . .

Bucket List of 18 Things to Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Get a Thai Massage in Thailand
Eat Insects at Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Market
Bathe Elephants at a Rescue in Thailand
Learning to Make Pad Thai in Thailand
Learn to Make Handicraft Umbrellas in Chiang Mai
Wat Chedi Luang: Explore a Temple Inside the City Walls of Chiang Mai
Map of Chiang Mai
Get a Foot Massage by a Prison Inmate in Chiang Mai
Traveling by Tuk Tuk in Chiang Mai & Other Transporation
Make Wishes at the White Temple in Chiang Rai
Tour an Insect Museum in Chiang Mai

2018-12-14T23:00:45+00:00May 21st, 2013|Categories: Asia, FOOD, QUIRKY, Thailand, TRAVEL|Tags: , , , |

42 Comments

  1. Simon May 22, 2013 at 5:48 am - Reply

    Wow reading this makes me remember how much I miss Thai food… as well as how bad I remember those fish markets smelling!

    • Annette White May 22, 2013 at 7:57 am - Reply

      LOL! The fish markets are quite smelly.

  2. Century egg is on my bucket list too! So cool. I would die to go on a culinary adventure like this!

    • Annette White May 22, 2013 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      I was a little scared when I saw the color and smelled it, but it wasn’t that bad!

  3. elaine schoch @ carpetravel.com May 22, 2013 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    First thought – no to the green egg but it made me think about Dr. Seuss and the green eggs and ham story. Perhaps I would like a century egg after all. =)

    • Annette White May 22, 2013 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      LOL! I forgot about the whole green eggs & ham story!

  4. Ruth2Day May 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    you are very brave, there is no way I would have eaten that egg!
    great photos and great blog BTW

    • Annette White May 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      I’m either brave or a little dumb 😉

  5. Andrea May 23, 2013 at 7:14 am - Reply

    What a fascinating tradition – I wouldn’t have eaten that either…but glad you survived!

    • Annette White May 23, 2013 at 7:46 am - Reply

      Sometimes I do worry about getting sick after eating strange things, but so far so good. Did I just jinx myself?

  6. Jonathan Look, Jr. May 24, 2013 at 12:34 am - Reply

    I have been wanting to try on of these eggs but so far haven’t been able to bring myself to it. Here in Cambodia they also do something similar with chicken embryos. Maybe one day!

    • Annette White May 24, 2013 at 3:27 am - Reply

      I heard about the embryo ones and am not sure I would be able to do that one!

  7. This American Girl May 24, 2013 at 5:59 am - Reply

    I so admire your bravery! I’ve always been terrified of those things and am happy to simply live vicariously through you. Will you be sharing the thai curry paste recipe? Would love to try it out! 🙂

    • Annette White May 24, 2013 at 7:30 am - Reply

      The egg was definitely scarier looking than tasting, but I probably don’t need to have another one 😉
      I will have to see if I still have the curry recipe, I think I might.

  8. Christine May 24, 2013 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Annette! I just want to say that I absolutely love your bucket list blog, along with your Facebook page. Somewhere on your blog you referred to yourself as a “Bucket List Stalker” and I guess I’m guilty of that too! I also want to say thank you because reading about all of your exciting adventures and experiences has inspired me to officially create my new bucket list blog if you want to check it out 🙂

    Oh, and like everyone else has been commenting, I also admire your bravery for eating the egg!

    • Annette White May 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your kind words, this comment just made my day!! And I am super excited to have another bucket list blog to read 🙂

  9. Ayngelina May 25, 2013 at 7:24 am - Reply

    Wow, you’re bold! Great market shots, I want to try all those eggplants too!

    • Annette White May 25, 2013 at 8:53 am - Reply

      I was fascinated by the eggplants! They are one of my favorite vegetables 🙂

  10. Dave Briggs May 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    I thought I had tried most things, but the egg had me beat (if you will pardon the pun!)

    • Annette White May 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Loved that pun 🙂

  11. Marcy May 27, 2013 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Wow, I do not think I would have been able to eat that egg. Great photos!

    • Annette White May 27, 2013 at 4:43 pm - Reply

      I was just happy that it didn’t taste as bad as it looked or smelled!

  12. Edna June 11, 2013 at 5:30 am - Reply

    I find it funny how many commenters said they wouldn’t have eaten the egg. I grew up with Chinese cuisine (my parents are from Shanghai) so I LOVE century eggs — I usually eat them with rice for breakfast and miss them when I’m in Europe!

    • Annette White June 11, 2013 at 7:57 am - Reply

      I have to admit that the smell and color scared me a bit, but they weren’t bad. I could see getting used to them if I lived in Asia!

  13. Learning to Make Pad Thai in Chiang Mai, Thailand August 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    […] While perusing the stalls we were also given the opportunity to eat a century egg, preserved for several weeks, which I did. And that strange food experience is a whole different story that you can read about here: Eating a Preserved Century Egg. […]

  14. Drinking a Shot of Snake Whiskey in Laos August 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    […] would take a drink. I was a brave sole. Even braver after the experience of eating insects and a preserved century egg at Chiang Mai’s Somphet Market days earlier. May as well keep this bizarre food trend […]

  15. lynn September 22, 2013 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    The thousand century egg tastes best if eaten with plain porridge as a meal or eaten in slices with each alongside with a slice of sweet preserved ginger 🙂

    Love from a first time reader from Malaysia.

    • Annette White September 22, 2013 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      Next time I will have to try the century egg that way! Thanks for the suggestions 🙂

  16. […] heeft gedaan, zijn er ook een wat meer aparte  avonturen die ze heeft meegemaakt. Zo heeft ze een eeuwenoud ei gegeten, in een kwallenmeer gezwommen , slangensoep geslurpt  en rondgehangen in […]

  17. Escapist January 14, 2014 at 3:14 am - Reply

    Eeeek! I freak out when I see the pics of that “ancient egg”. I wouldn’t put anything like that in my mouth!

  18. […] would take a drink. I was a brave sole. Even braver after the experience of eating insects and a preserved century egg at Chiang Mai’s Somphet Market days earlier. May as well keep this bizarre food trend […]

  19. […] While perusing the stalls we were also given the opportunity to eat a century egg, preserved for several weeks, which I did. And that strange food experience is a whole different story that you can read about here: Eating a Preserved Century Egg. […]

  20. […] me that elephants deserve gentle love and bathes daily at an elephant rescue center and that century eggs don’t taste quite as bad as their ammonia smell, but crunchy insects are not at all […]

  21. […] Read about my experience here: Eating a Preserved Century Egg at a Thai Market. […]

  22. jj June 20, 2014 at 11:26 am - Reply

    Hahaha looks worse than it tastes? The century’s egg is beautiful. Maybe because you didn’t actually peel the shell off to look at it, but the dark semi-translucent egg white portion has delicate crystal patterns etched all over it, reminiscent of pine tree leaves, snow flake patterns, and plum tree blossoms. It’s also known as pine-flower egg.

    And you’re supposed to eat it sliced into thin wedges dipped in sesame oil, chili oil, and vinegar with a side of rice, all artfully arranged on a plate. Not gingerly licking at the yolk as if it’ll bite you. Honestly. =-= Of course it looks gross that way.

  23. matthew callico March 13, 2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    that century egg is best used at a ratio of 1 black egg per medium sized bowl of congee, called black egg congee.

    In Congee the super concentrated taste is dispersed enhancing the entire bowl.

    • Annette White March 13, 2015 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      That sounds like a much better option than eating the century egg alone!

  24. jo p February 28, 2018 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    You are not supposed to eat the egg straight up……it’s meant as almost like a condiment to eat WITH with something else; often rice.
    Usually with other sauces. I like mine with soy sauce and cane sugar.

  25. Marten Wright July 6, 2018 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    I understood when I tried it, that the ammonia odour was the result of it being soaked in horse urine and our hostess boiled (or soaked) it first to absorb away some of the ammonia effect. But I agree with the consensus, it tasted better than I anticipated.

    • Annette White July 22, 2018 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      Oooh! I never heard that about horse urine and I’m glad you are telling me after I tried it 🙂

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