Well, everyone, I finally did it. I've been clamoring for a century egg for some time now, and I finally found some at an Asian grocery store in my new home of East Lansing. My roommate pointed them out to me, only to realize in slow-motion horror that I hadn't been kidding all these years.
These were duck eggs preserved in the traditional style with salt and lye. They were not refrigerated, and were not shelled. What follows is an illustrated account of my solitary quest to discover the mysterious flavors and textures of the century egg.
Each egg was individually wrapped with loose plastic:
The membrane directly under the shell was speckled:
Peeling back the membrane, the egg itself appeared to be black and glossy (I later discovered it was a very dark, translucent amber, as expected).
The fully peeled egg:
I will say that at this point, the smell of the egg was quite strong. Difficult to describe, but if I had to characterize it, it was something like a combination of urine and rotting potatoes.
Having sliced it apart, I did take a small bite, despite the foul odor. In truth, it was quite bland... the white was close to the consistency of a gummy bear, but a little firmer, and had almost no flavor whatsoever. The yolk, apart from its coloration, tasted very much like the yolk from a regular fresh hard-boiled egg. On a scale of 1-10, (1 being foul and inedible, and 10 being scrumtrulescent) I would give it a 3. I certainly wouldn't eat one if I were looking for a snack, but if I were starving, I'd have few qualms.
Bonus! Characteristic "pine-branch" patterns, which I observed upon holding the white against the light of the open window!