What’s that old saying? Someone had to be the first to eat an oyster? I feel like emu eggs require a similar level of Magellan-like gastronomic courage. Seriously, this 8-ft bush turkey lays an emerald green dinosaur egg—600 grams of gelastic yolk and albumin. You crack it open, and eat what’s inside?
Well buckle up, because you’re about to see emu eggs on more menus around town. According to emu farmers—and yes there are such things—emu egg sales are on the rise, driven mostly by restaurants and cafes.
“There’s definitely a trend for edible emu eggs,” says Emu Ridge supplier Bev Turner. “We used to only do like Survivor and My Kitchen Rules. You know, the TV shows wanting something ‘weird’. Now it’s actual restaurants ringing up wanting them.”
This isn’t necessarily a new trend. Emu eggs have been hatching in local and international restaurants for a while. Last year, Ben Shewry made headlines at Attica with his sweet emu egg sabayon, served in the shell with chocolate sorbet. New York chef David Santos was dishing up scrambled emu egg with wild mushrooms at Louro in the West Village back in 2014.
“It’s kind of like a kitschy delicacy…like a Pterodactyl egg. It was huge,” one Louro diner told the New York Post.
And there is something vaguely reptilian about emu eggs. They spark memories of Jurassic Park and Jeff Goldblum. “Your chefs were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Each of these massive googies is the equivalent to 12 regular chicken eggs. The yolk is the size of your fist and makes up 50% of the actual egg. They make you think of the word ‘ovum’, even if you don’t want to. Each one retails between $25 and $50.
Bev says the trade of emu eggs is strictly controlled, and the rules differ from state to state. “We’re the only ones in South Australia who can do it,” she says. “We have a special license to keep and sell edible eggs. There’s only 12 licensed sellers in all of Australia, because the government doesn’t want people hatching emus.”
It turns out, breeding emus is also pretty temperamental. You can’t just leave the heat lamps on all night and have them laying eggs year ‘round.
“Emus only lay in winter,” Meg says. “They were like a barometer for Indigenous Australians. They lay as the first rains start, at least in South Australia, and they finish when the rains finish. You’ve got three months to get as many eggs as you can.”
So what can you actually do with an emu egg? Well, in theory, you can use it exactly as you would a hen’s egg. Just adjust your portion sizes. People have fried them, turned them into football-size Scotch eggs, there are recipes for emu egg Benedict and even emu egg quiche.
Bev says the taste is pretty much like a chicken egg, although some chefs reckon you get a deeper flavour, like a duck egg or quail egg. What everyone agrees is that emu eggs make the fluffiest scrambled eggs of all time. “The old farmers' wives used to use them because they made the best sponge cakes.”
Whether you start seeing emu eggs on every menu will depend on economic factors. Clearly there’s a taste for them (bars like Eau de Vie in Melbourne are even using the shells as decorative bowls), but on a cost-per-egg basis, the numbers don’t really stack up. Bev sells her eggs for $30 a pop. And even though an emu egg equals 12 chicken eggs, that’s still around quadruple the price. The price of chilli scramble would skyrocket, and that’s a future we don’t want to contemplate.
“Some chefs try to get around the cost by freezing the eggs,” says Bev. “Then they grate a little yolk onto their dishes. So they can say ‘grated emu egg’ on the menu, without shelling out for a whole egg every time.”
Want to learn more about emu eggs? Check out Bev’s farm, Emu Ridge.
Image credit: John White