A Chinese Proverb and 100 Year Old Eggs

My new favorite proverb comes from China: “Never hit a dog with a meat-bun.”

The saying indicates that punishment with a reward is doomed for failure, and that one must be careful when choosing how to solve problems.

A traditional Chinese place setting includes the following items:

  • bowl
  • plate
  • chopsticks
  • spoon
  • warm, damp towels (instead of napkins)

Chinese aphrodisiac foods (the kind that make your heart go pitter-patter) include:

  • shark fin
  • swallow nest
  • tiger bones
  • hundred-year-old eggs

Hundred Year Old Egg, courtesy of Kowloonese

What are hundred-year-old eggs? Why duck eggs that have been preserved about three months:

[…the eggs] are enclosed in a coating made of lime, mud, saltpetre, fragrant herbs and rice straw […] They can be eaten after the third month, but their smell grows stronger with age. When they are broken out of their covering, the eggs are black and shiny.

Larousse Gastronomique

I hope you have a most wonderful Friday!


  1. Jessica Bennett says

    Yes, I got to try shark fin soup when I was in Hong Kong. I knew it was a delicacy and should be grateful for getting to try it. No, I did not like it and had a hard time finishing it.

  2. Karen Anne says

    They get the shark fins but cutting them off living sharks and throwing the sharks back overboard to die.

  3. Here are some fun facts about Chinese cuisine and history. A few years ago I wrote an essay to show that periods of cultural and political apogee were also periods of culinary excellence. I used China as an example. Here’s what I wrote:

    The Tang Dynasty, for example, was a time of cultural excellence. It was also a time of culinary innovation. The sybaritic art of gracious living flourished, and court poets such as Li Bai and Du Fu described the elaborate, Versailles-like fetes and revels of the day. Foreigners who settled in the capital city of Chang’an brought their cooking with them, and the foods of central Asia could be found in the wineshops of the city’s huge Western Market.

    Another time of cultural apogee is the southern Sung dynasty. As a time of exploration and openness to innovation, it has no rival until modern times. Through the Sung, Yuan and the early years of the Ming, until about 1430, innovation reigned supreme. In the 13 century, neo-Confucian writers such as Zhu Xi laid the groundwork for a scientific revolution…which revolution, strangely, never happened. In the early years of the 15th century, the Ming emperor Yongle sent a vast armada to explore the known world. Under the command of admiral Cheng Ho (also spelled Zheng He), this fleet visited east Africa, Egypt, and Ceylon, as well as the lands of southern Asia and the Persian gulf. But, a few years later, for reasons unknown and still debated, all voyages were stopped and China turned inward. Had this not happened, the European explorers a half-century later would have been met with Chinese flags. China would have domintated the world.

    And in the kitchen? The southern Sung saw the development of the four styles of cooking found in Zhejiang. Su Dongpo wrote a poem about his favorite slow-cooked pork, providing us with perhaps the world’s first written recipe and a dish served to this day. As for the Yuan and early Ming, it saw the genesis of northern, Peking imperial cuisine. And the period after 1430? I’d like to be able to correlate it with a time of culinary stagnation… but I just don’t know enough about the culinary history. To complicate the issue, that period was not a time of unrelieved cultural entropy. The sixteenth century, to give just one example, saw the invention of modern art (Dong Qichang) and big factories (silk workshops in Suzhou). But enough for now. If my words be food for thought, think on.

  4. Marry says

    In dad’s old village they would eat the hundred-year-old eggs with some pickled ginger slices. I tried some once and it wasn’t that bad. But I prefer it in some congee instead.

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