Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't Know What to Do with Buckets and Buckets Full of Little Boys' Pee? Make Eggs!

Image Ministry of Tofu 

Have you ever eaten a hard-boiled egg and wondered, "Gee, this egg sure is delicious, but I bet it would taste a lot better if it was boiled in little boys' urine"? Yep. We've all been there. Thankfully, we now finally have our wish. Actually, as an important traditional Spring food of Dongyang in Zhejiang Province, it's been around long enough that it's been made into a cultural heritage in 2008!

Image Ministry of Tofu
The eggs are called tong zi dan (童子蛋), and are made by first collecting urine in buckets from prepubescent boys set out in the local elementary school. The eggs are then boiled in the urine and sold for 1.5 yuan (about a $0.25 USD). The scent emanating from the vats of steaming urine has been referred to as "the smell of spring" by some locals. Others have remarked that it "stinks to death" (臭死了).

When I first entered this country six years ago, I was well aware of the culinary eccentricities that are present in this nation. I viewed it as a challenge to be conquered, and swore there would be nothing too strange, pungent, or revolting for me to try. A few duck tongues, sea urchins, lamb testicles, and grasshoppers later, I decided I would not eat blood. Another few scorpions, lizards, and beetles later, I added goat placenta to my "will not eat" list, doubling it in size. Now, faced with a food that includes human waste and borders mild cannibalism, I'm worried at the rate of growth of this list. You can't win them all, I guess.

Story via Ministry of Tofu: Boy’s-urine-soaked eggs listed as local specialty, intangible cultural heritage


Lydia Steury said... god!

Chris said...

I can see how some dishes were born out of necessity, but this just seems ridiculous.

What catastrophe could be so all-encompassing that water is no longer good enough for boiling your eggs? Was there a salt drought so severe that urine was the only way to get it on your cobb salad?