Fri, Jul 01, 2011 - Page 2 News List

American blogger on CNN sparks ‘pi dan’ brouhaha

GETTING EGGY:Critic Tao Li-jun was surprised that ‘pi dan’ had been labeled the most revolting and not pig blood cake, which she said foreigners are terrified of

By Yang Jiu-ying, Lin Jia-chi and Hung Su-ching  /  Staff Reporters, with CNA

A century egg is shown in this photo taken on March 18, 2010.

Photo: Tang Chia-ling, Taipei Times

Taiwanese food critics and gastronomists called a report on century eggs by an American on CNN’s iReport “unfair,” saying it undervalued the nature of the dish.

“Awful — it tastes like the devil cooked eggs for me. It tastes like something that used to be an egg, but made some really horrible choices,” the iReporter said of century eggs.

Danny Holwerda, a resident of Texas, wrote on iReport — a reserved site for bloggers on the CNN Web site — that the egg he had bought at an Asian supermarket was revolting and did not impress him.

Century eggs, also known as pi dan (皮蛋), are made by wrapping the eggs of ducks and chickens in a mixture of clay, ash, salt and various traditional medicines for a period ranging from several weeks to several months.

Taiwanese gastronomist Fei Chi (費奇) said that although pi dan had the form of an egg, physical and chemical changes during the process changed the taste, which no longer resembled that of an egg.

The poor rating was because Holwerda did not know how to appreciate its taste, Fei said.

I will click “Like” for pi dan 100,000 times on Facebook, Fei said, adding that Holwerda’s criticism was “ridiculous.”

Food critic Tao Li-jun (陶禮君) was also surprised that pi dan had been labeled “the world’s most revolting food” and not zhu xie gao (豬血糕), which she said most foreigners, including many of her friends, are terrified of.

Zhu xie gao is made by mixing glutinous rice with pig’s blood, then steaming it until it congeals or deep frying it.

Tao said Holwerda had probably eaten pi dan without any condiments.

Tao also said pi dan with diced scallion, sesame oil or soy sauce made for a delicious dish and if it is eaten with chilled tofu in summer it is even tastier.

Food and Drug Administration Deputy Director-General Hsu Ming-neng (許銘能) said that although pi dan is not aesthetically pleasing, it did not mean it was unsanitary, adding that it is important there are no residual heavy metals in the dish.

There have been fewer discoveries of residual amounts of heavy metals in pi dan in recent years, Hsu said.

Cheng Yi-ping (鄭憶萍), section chief at the Tourism Bureau’s international travel division, said Taiwan respected the food preferences of people from other countries, but also urged foreign tourists to engage in an “adventure for the taste buds,” adding that the many specialty foods in the nation, including stinky tofu and zhu xie gao, are “Taiwan only” treats.

The food dispute prompted politicians to weigh in and some were not holding back their feelings about what they called the ignorance of Westerners.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said Western people should be “more courageous and willing to try new things.”

“Americans are chicken-hearted,” she said. “If they try the dish, they will love it as I do.”


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