Pi dan after the rice husks and shell are removed.
This is a century egg. Some people exaggerate and call it thousand-year old egg. Both these names must've been given by some foreigner, 'inspired' by the color of the egg. The Chinese will not know what a century or thousand year old egg is because they call it pi dan ( pronounced "pe dun") which translates as skin egg. If you have never seen or eaten this before, it is terrifying. I saw an episode of Fear Factor where the contestants had to eat pi dan, and another where they had to eat durians, and I wish I was a contestant. The guys were choking while the girls were crying. I was crying too because I knew that if I was there, I would've gobbled everybody's share of the durians and pi dan and walked home with the prize. If you are ever given a choice of pi dan or durians, both of which you abhor, go for the durian. It is after all a fruit, not some treated produce of an animal.
You can smell the presence of a durian within half a kilometre but the smell of a pi dan won't hit you until it's in your mouth. If eating it for the first time, I fully understand if you spit it out. It doesn't help that when people who are being 'initiated' to pi dan are often made to eat the whole egg in one mouthful. You just don't do that. It is after all raw ducks' eggs coated with rice husk , clay and ammonia and left for a month, resulting in a totally different looking egg: the white of the egg becomes a clear black-brown tasteless jelly with snow-flake like patterns due to crystals of salt (I think) while the yolk turns greenish. A soft oozy yolk is preferred over a hard yolk because it will give a creamy texture. The egg is edible straightaway; there's no need to cook. The taste is indescribable but it is more the pungency of the ammonia that breaks you. It is not something anyone will like at first bite so it definitely is a matter of getting used to. Sometimes the ammonia can hit you stronger than usual and it is disgusting. My mom used to tell me pi dan is duck eggs soaked in horses' pee. That's because most people in her generation really were told that, mainly because most animals excrete ammonia as urea. Of course now we know ammonia can be easily produced in the chemical plants. If you think that's disgusting and weird, so are blue cheeses because those large veins of blue are MOLD. Although I eat pi dan, I would rather starve to death than eat a Filipino balut which is a fertilized egg that is half way to becoming a chick. I hope you are thoroughly nauseated by now.
Because the taste is so unusual, pi dan is usually served cut into small pieces as a starter, with pickled young ginger to wash away the taste between bites, or more often, added to pork congee which makes it a delicious night or breakfast dish. A coffee shop in Iramanis used to sell pi dan pies, complete with a small piece of sweet pickled ginger, and they were heavenly. Unfortunately not many people, especially the young people, appreciate pi dan enough to eat it as a dessert and the shop doesn't make them anymore.
I once served two Canadian sisters pi dan to get back at them for laughing at my bowl of 'squiggly' instant noodles. The pi dan freaked them out and I was both thrilled and sorry.
To cut a pi dan (or any cooked egg) into clean, perfect pieces, you should use a piece of thread and pull it through without hesistation. Lack of practice will give pieces of dan (egg) like this::
A good pi dan has a soft, oozy center.
A common way to serve pi dan is as an appetizer, with young pickled ginger. You have to splash some soy sauce and sesame oil on the pi dan first.
Another way to cook pi dan is to cook a salted duck's egg, a fresh chicken egg and a pi dan in plenty of superior chicken stock, and add a bunch of 'emperor's veg'. or Chinese spinach. Since my garden is out of these veg, here's one way you can cook your pi dan. You also need these 3 types of eggs:
A salted duck's egg (I used this for impact. I prefer ducks' eggs salted in brine to this one packed in black ash which is too salty for me), a fresh chicken egg and pi dan.
3 Eggs Savory Custard
1 salted egg
2 fresh chicken eggS
1 pi dan, shelled
1 cup room temp water
a shake of white pepper
1. Break the chicken eggs and salted egg into a bowl and beat with a small whisk. Cut or mash the salted egg yolk and pi dan into small pieces and add to the beaten egg.
2. Shake some white pepper in, add some salt if like (the salted egg is quite enough) and the cup of water. Whisk to mix well
3. Scoop into ramekins or bowls and steam at medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes.