Chinese preserved eggs, also known as thousand-year eggs, add funky flavor to congee (rice porridge) and lots of other dishes. The outer egg is translucent black with a texture like aspic, says MMRuth.

Preserved eggs vary widely in price, from a few dollars to around $20 per package and up. The price is based on how the eggs are preserved, says ipsedixit. The expensive eggs are cured in the traditional method, with an alkaline clay mixture, and individually wrapped to ferment for at least three months. The cheaper eggs are cured using a “short-cut” method, which entails soaking them in a brine solution to shorten the curing time to about a week. Perhaps this is why MMRuth’s eggs reeked of ammonia when she opened the package! Luckily, the ammonia wasn’t detectable in the finished dish.

Also, beware cheap preserved eggs that have been prepared with a lead oxide solution, says ipsedixit. Look for labeling that says “lead free” or “preserved with zinc oxide.”

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