In the West, most vegetarians will happily feast on a frittata or scoff a souffle. But in India, you’ll find eggs eggclusively confined to the ‘non-veg’ section of restaurant menus and cookbooks, with a booming baking industry built around eggshellent eggless cakes which sate the sweet teeth of the 400 million Indians who are estimated to follow a vegetarian diet.
But the remaining two-thirds of the Indian population enjoy eggs in some wicked-good ways – in spicy scrambles; swimming in sauce; brushed onto dosas as the crepes cook; hidden at the heart of minced meat kebabs; stuffed into whole chickens, buried in biryani, made into masala omelettes and handsome halwas.
Eggs Kejriwal is a Bombay curio created at the city’s Willingdon Sports Club where it’s now a classic that’s also popular in London courtesy of Dishoom. And appams – or hoppers as they’re called at both the eponymous Soho restaurant and London street food stall Weligama, both of which specialise in the saucer-shaped fermented rice crepes – often cradle a soft-yolked egg in their bases.
Calcutta’s kati rolls are the cats pyjamas – beautifully-buttery parathas with an omelette layer, enclosing grilled meat and slivers of raw onion. In the same state you’ll find deemer pataudi – a whole boiled egg dressed with addictive mustard paste, wrapped up in a banana leaf parcels and steamed. And Hyderabad has its tamatar ka cutt – the eggs-in-tomato-gravy dish that Darjeeling Express’s Asma Khan cooks so well.
Perhaps most #EggCentric of all is the Parsi community, whose most recognisable representatives in the UK are Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala. It would be an understatement to say that Bawas and Bawis are obsessed with the ovoids – put it this way: were Beyonce Parsi, she’s have been singing about putting an egg on it, not a ring.
We Brits enjoy dipping chips into runny egg yolks, and accordingly, Parsis are partial to deep-fried straw potatoes topped with fried eggs in a combo called ‘salli par eedu‘. The heavenly hash ‘kanda papeta per eda‘ sees the potatoes cut into cubes and onion added to the equation. Eggs are mixed up with mince in keema par eedu, scrambled with spices in akuri, and used as the base of the nutmeg-laced ‘wedding custard’, lagan nu custard.
Mumbai-based caterer Kurush Dalal reckons introducing eggs to a vegetable dish is the easiest way to introduce it to protein-focused Parsis, whilst the same city’s Bawi Bride – aka Parsi food practitioner Perzen Patel – compiled a dedicated ‘Eedu Edition‘ of her #BestKeptSecrets cookbook. And on British telly’s Saturday Kitchen, Cyrus served up saas ni macchi – fish fillets in a subtly-spiced white sauce that’s unusually based on eggs.
In short, eggs form the brilliant basis of many a meal, especially when it’s of a South Asian persuasion. High in protein and low in fat, they’re rich in all the right kind of nutrients. As part of British Lion egg’s current #EggCentric campaign, chef Neil Rankin is getting all eggcited about Indian egg dishes as part of his globally-inspired recipe collection. And, as a regular hopper popper and a committed consumer of chaat, I had to share the following pair…
For the hoppers:
- 1 tsp fast-action yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 150g rice flour
- 400ml can light coconut milk
- a pinch of salt
- 100ml coconut water
- sunflower oil, for frying
- 5 large British Lion eggs
For the curry:
- 2 aubergines
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- ½ an onion, sliced
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1 tsp grated root ginger
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 200g tomatoes, chopped
- 100ml double cream
- salt, to taste
For the green sambal:
- 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
- 1 tbsp mint, chopped
- 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
- ½ shallot, finely chopped
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- For the hoppers, whisk together the yeast, sugar, flour, coconut milk and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
- For the curry, pierce and microwave the aubergines for 6-8 minutes – or pierce and bake in an oven preheated to 180°C for 30-40 minutes – until soft. Allow to cool slightly, halve, scoop out the aubergine flesh and roughly chop.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the spices, ginger and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cream, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for a further 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped aubergines, and season to taste.
- For the sambal, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and reserve until required.
- Remove the hopper batter from the refrigerator and add enough coconut water to yield a batter with the consistency of single cream.
- Heat a small non-stick wok or deep-sided frying pan over medium-high heat and brush with oil. Add 1/5 of the batter and swirl around the pan to create a thin layer. Crack an egg into the middle and cook until the egg is just set and the batter is toasted and pulls away from the pan.
- Leave for 1 minute before removing the pancake. Spoon in some curry and sambal and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining batter, eggs and sambal.
CHAAT MASALA FRIED EGGS
- sunflower oil – enough to fill a small saucepan to 1cm, plus 3 tbsp
- 1 large potato, peeled, cut into 1½ cm cubes and boiled until tender
- 30g easy cook rice
- ½ a 400g can of chickpeas, drained
- 50g peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- 2 tsp chaat masala
- ½ a small red onion, diced
- 1 tbsp tamarind and date chutney (try The Cheeky Food Co.’s!), plus 2 tbsp to serve
- 1 large mild green chilli, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 4 large British Lion eggs
- 30g butter
- 4 tbsp soured cream, mixed with the juice of ½ a lime
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil in a frying pan, add the potato and cook for 5-6 minutes until deep golden-brown and crisp all over. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and reserve until required.
- Pour sunflower oil into a small deep saucepan to a depth of 1cm and set over a high heat. When very hot, drop in half the rice and wait a few seconds until it puffs. Remove from the oil with a slotted metal spoon and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and reserve until required. Repeat with the remaining rice.
- Mix together all the remaining ingredients except the eggs, butter and soured cream, and set aside until required.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a large frying pan set over high heat, add the eggs, and fry until the whites are almost set. Add the butter and baste for a few seconds to finish, then transfer to serving plates.
- Mix the reserved fried potato and puffed rice into the chaat masala mix, and scatter evenly over the eggs. Serve immediately, topped with the soured cream and chutney.
- Recipes created by Neil Rankin (@frontlinechef) for British Lion eggs for the #EggCentric campaign. For more recipes and information, click here
- For more on Parsi cuisine, click here
- For more on finding great appams and Keralite food in East Ham, click here
- For more Indian brunch inspiration and recipes, click here
Image credit: Neil Rankin by Paul Winch Furness