I have set myself a challenging wine pairing today. What wine would go with 100-year-old eggs (also known as century eggs, thousand-year-old eggs and millennia eggs)?. As it happens, I have tasted 100-year-old eggs. Lucky old me.
I was travelling on a coach tour through Italy, many moons ago. I became friendly with an Asian family, originally from Singapore and based in London. I was chatting to the mother, Lily, and we got onto the topic of food. “Oh I would love to taste 100-year-old eggs” I rashly declared. “And so it shall be” said she.
When I returned to London, where I was living at the time, my invitation duly arrived. Lily invited me to the family weekend house in Cambridge for a day, which would include a family meal. Which would include 100-year-old eggs.
Her husband, some friends, her daughter and an assortment of nieces were present. Her husband cooked the most fabulous meal of stir-fry prawns and pak choi I have ever tasted.
Then came the moment, and they brought out the eggs. 100-year-old eggs are ducks eggs which have been wrapped in clay and left for several weeks to several months to ‘mature’. The egg white was dark, the colour of black tea, and had veiny markings in it. The yellow of the egg was grey-black in colour. The eggs were cut into quarters and placed on toothpicks with a slice of preserved ginger.
I was ready to taste my quarter egg, and found myself standing in the middle of the room, with the family watching me from a tidy semicircle. The older members of the family watched me with eager anticipation, keen for me to enjoy and appreciate the proudly proffered gift. The daughter and cousins looked less benign, and I was sure I could detect a taint of malicious glee in their eyes.
I placed the quarter egg in my mouth. The texture was that of hard-boiled egg, and I thought, ok, I can do this. And then the sulphur hit, followed by the kick of the ammonia. Imagine something rotten beyond repair, soft and doused in ammonia and you will have some idea of what it was like.
That was my proudest moment in life – proud that I swallowed it without gagging and running screaming from the room. I managed a weak and watery-eyed smile, pronouncing it to be very good. “Great” the elders exclaimed. “That one was only three months old. Now we will bring out the real delicacy – the six-month old one – the true connoisseur’s egg”. I got the second one down too, not because I was in any way happy to do so, but just to spite the cousins, who were now openly monitoring me closely for any signs of discomfort.
So, back to what wine would go with 100-year-old eggs.
The answer? Any wine. Every wine. Or more precisely, the very nearest bottle of wine, opened with your teeth and bare hands if necessary, and downed in one go.