Eggs can be made into everything: the heart-warming concoction, the hearty brunch, the lazy meal, the simple snack…They have this incredible ability to alter, adding that magical touch to dishes – deep fry and then top it into a broth and you get a multi-textured meal; crack it onto a pizza before oven baking and it’s instantly gourmet.
They simultaneously produce, absorb and enhance flavours, and thus are one of the most common ingredients in the world’s kitchens. In Spain for example, the typical “can I make you something to eat?” greeting at home is “can I fry you an egg?” (¿Tienes hambre? ¿Te frio un huevo?)
Today, let’s leave the classics aside and contemplate on a list of more colourful and intriguing ways that eggs are being cooked and consumed.
Strands of grounded raw beef, nicely frozen and crunchy, mixed with equally icy strips of pear and then topped with a raw egg. An explosion of flavours from the sweetness of the pear as well as the savouriness in the marinated beef, and the raw egg blends all that in while adding on a layer of a silk.
This is my favourite example when talking about eccentric Asian foods. I especially love the hysterical looks I get when I tell people legend has it that the egg is preserved in horse urine. It doesn't help very much either that the result is an off-putting brown with grey centre as the yolk. Nevertheless, lip-smackingly delicious and usually eaten with rice congee. Served in many Chinese communities: Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China.
Before spending a few months in France, I thought that jello should be reserved only for dessert. How horribly wrong had I been. I’m glad to have changed my ways and grown to love wobbly and sprightly coloured foods such as this one. A poached egg floating in gelatinised vegetable stock, sometimes accompanied by bits of ham, summer vegetables or even seafood, all well chilled. Refreshingly delectable.
A dish I dream of trying out, allegedly seen on the streets of Bangkok food stalls. A little hole is made to extract the contents of the egg which is then beaten and seasoned soy sauce, fish sauce, black pepper, and sprinkled with spring onions. All that is then poured back into the egg shell and barbequed on charcoal for that beautiful smoky flavour.
Steamed eggs are my all-time comfort food. They form this smooth, wonderful curd that dissolves in the mouth and warms the tum. The base of this dish is eggs beaten and seasoned, and then jazzed up with a myriad of toppings. The Japanese have perfected this recipe with chawanmushi, meaning “steamed in a tea bowl”. The standard contents include chicken strips, shitake mushrooms, crabsticks, ginko etc. But the innovative experiment with many variations all the time and personally, the one with clams is the most ingenious of all.
The first glance…and many more, had sent shivers down my spine. I could unmistakeably make out a duck embryo, with eyes and beak and partly formed wings, coiled among the rest of its yolk. But my curiosity got the better of me and with haste, dipped the mass into a saucer with a miraculously tasty sweet, savoury and sour sauce and then devoured it. I could hardly believe how delicious it was. If you like the yolk part of a boiled egg, that’s how balut tastes like – rich, mushy, and packed with flavour. Mainly found in the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Whip eggs into sugar, cream and milk, add a combination of spirits such as bourbon, rum or cognac and sprinkle with nutmeg and/or cinnamon, and there you have it, eggnog, meaning egg in a cup. Invented by the British and loved all over North America. A thick, velvety drink to be had sitting next to a crackling fire and a book in hand.
In the land where the egg dish tortilla de patatas is a staple, comes a tooth-achingly sweet pastry called yemas, meaning egg yolks, due to their appearance. The gummy, orangey-yellow balls are typical of the fortress town of Ávila, in the North-Central part of Spain as well as Ronda, down South in Andalucia.
Made out of egg yolks simmered in a sugary liquid that’s spiced with lemon and cinnamon, which is later iced with caster sugar once in their rounded form. An instant pick-me-up.
OK, so it’s not technically an egg, but looks pretty much like one. The Snow Egg is one of the most memorable haute cuisine desserts I’ve ever had. Two clouds of poached meringue, enveloping a luscious coconut ice cream, slapped onto each other and then blanketed by caramelised biscuit for that added crunch. The whole ensemble is sat on a bed of granita. The moment I dug my spoon into it, I knew it was going to be…eggstatic.