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Mar 31, 2011 02:57 PM

No Eggs in The Great Cuisines of India?

I was thinking about the role of eggs in the various cultures of the world, and thinking that poultry eggs and bird eggs are eaten "everywhere". But then I realized that I have never seen a reference or recipe for eggs in any Indian cookbooks I've read. Have I missed something? Anyone have thoughts/knowledge about this?

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  1. I know some Indians who treat eggs as non-vegetarian food. That could be partly why.

    1. Egg Vindaloo. Our friends make it all the time.

      2 Replies
      1. re: linguafood

        might you ask them if this is a traditional dish or a new one? there are on line recipes but i'm wondering if they are new and egg eating is not ' in the tradition' (enormous country; maaany traditions, i know!) thnx much.

      2. I've seen egg dishes in many cookbooks and on many restaurant menus in my area.
        Maybe it's more Pakistani? A lot of egg curry / gravy dishes I've seen call for boiled eggs, but then also, omlet parathas are a standard street food if I'm not mistaken. I won't pretend to be any kind of authority on this, but I do live in an area with a high concentration of Indian ppl, and I do see egg dishes on many of the menus. However, a lot of the restaurants do tend to mix vegetarian dishes with non-vegetarian dishes. It would not be out of the norm here to go to an "Indian" restaurant here, and see a few Pakistani dishes like a nehari, and maybe even a Goan pork dish on the menu.

        1. what cuisine would you consider is more eggish? maybe the french? otherwise i see it no more egginess in any other cuisine

          2 Replies
          1. re: shoeman

            eggs in prevalent in Thai and Chinese Cuisine. Egg drop soup, Fried rice, pad thai, etc.

            I think french use it more often in sweet and savory but other cuisines do use it.

            1. re: Sandwich_Sister

              rice topped with a fried egg is an extremely common thai dish, as are son-in-law eggs, thai-style street omelet, bitter melon with egg, egg in egg noodles, loofah with egg, chok with egg in it. boiled egg is frequently served with a dish of rice and stewed pig trotters, roast pork and/or crispy pork. salted duck egg is another frequent eggy culprit in thai cuisine, as are eggs in certain chinese-derived noodle soups. some versions of som tam use salted eggs... on and on and on! in addition to fried rice, pad thai, pad see ew, etc. lots of eggies in thailand! and not all chicken, either...

              edit: just noticed this is a zombie thread come back to life. still interesting! :-)

          2. Eggs are not eaten by certain types of observant Hindus and also by Jains. This is because they are thought of like meat/non-veg, and like meat thought to produce a negative effect on the body, mind and soul (they are tamasic according to ayurvedic food/health associations). However, many Hindus do eat eggs (as well as meat), and Indians of every other religious background also eat eggs.

            There are tons of Indian egg dishes: scrambled egg in masala (anday ki bhurji), aloo anda (hard boiled egg and potato in a spicy gravy) is a very ubiquitous home 'curry' fare, hard boiled egg in curry with vegetables, and on and on. People eat fried egg with toast or with paratha for breakfast-omlet or anda fry. There is khagheena, which is Urdu-speaking Muslim style scrambled eggs, and also of that community the Nargisi kofta or meatballs stuffed with a hard boiled egg, eggs can be used as garnish in fancy rice dishes, etc. There is egg pakora, too (so easy, just dip the hard boiled egg in pakora batter). The first time I ever ate a soft boiled egg was in India--just served in a bowl with salt and black pepper, amazing! In the South you can get a Keralite appam (sort of like a dosa) with a fried egg inside, eat dosa with egg, Hyderabad has the famous egg-curry of egg in tomato gravy (anday ka saalan), there is the similar Andhra egg curry, egg on uttapam, and on and on. I am just mentioning well known specialties off of the top of my head. Basically, the egg is a widely consumed and daily item in every region, consumed by everyone except for those whose religious communities do not consume it (and who are a small minority, despite popular perception/misconception about Indian vegetarianism outside of India). One thing I'd say about these egg dishes is that I have not seen them on typical US Indian restaurant menus either, and there could be a variety of reasons why. (I think I recall Gordeaux lives in Chicago and has access to Devon, which has more regional Indian restos, maybe why he has seen eggs on menus) But people eat eggs at home all the time.

            I don't know about cookbooks, but if you copy paste some of the dishes I have mentioned above into google searches, you will get loads of recipes.

            42 Replies
            1. re: luckyfatima

              yay lucky; i was hoping you would chirp in. This is certainly news to me! I wonder if eggs have always been a mainstay in indian cuisines, or if the british brought them in.....

              my curiosity started because i was wondering how indian vegetarians got enough protein in their diets. I know paneer and yoghurt (or do the religious groups who don't eat eggs- also not eat milk?), but what else? i didn't think legumes had significant protein value.

              i also am so curious why tofu(or soy sauce for that matter) never came to india from its close proximity to china (where so many other ingredients originated.) Just wondering, not that there's an answer here. thanks so much for any thoughts yall!

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Indian people eat so many different kinds of beans that tofu is pretty much irrelevant.

                1. re: Tripeler

                  "So many kinds of beans"? Chickpeas (I don't know if those are technically beans or just legumes) and...what else? Mung beans I'm sure, green beans...? They don't use soybeans the way Asians do, as far as I know. And I never see the new world varieties of common bean in Indian cuisine (your kidneys, pintos, whites, etc.). But of course I've only had Indian food in the US/UK. And I may also just be blanking. Very curious, pls. enlighten me!

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    I don't know where the semantic concept of bean and legume begin and end, or what the technical designations are. But large beans are also widely consumed in India. In Northern Indian languages there are common varieties like rajma (rajma makes for a very famous bean stew dish of the same name, and variations of the dish rajma are iconic of Punjab, Kashmir, and Nepal-it is like kidney but I don't know if it the exact same thing as the American kidney bean), lobia (black eyed pea), chawli (smaller red beans like adzuki, same as black eyed pea but red, not white) are some common examples.

                    The wikipedia page on beans includes the smaller daal on the list of examples of beans.


                    You mention green beans, in N. Indian languages there is a word for the green edible bean versus the hard legume. The green part is "phalli" and there are many varieties, long bean, green bean, sem ki phalli (sword bean), gavaar (gypsy bean), and on and on. All are home food items and perhaps not found in restos in the US except maybe regional specialty restos that have green bean options for thaali.

                    Sprouted beans are also used in cooking.

                    Soy beans, I haven't seen them eaten in India, but I couldn't discount that they may be. I have seen that soybean oil is a popular cooking oil. Also, the textured soy protein granules and chunks (soya bari/vadi) are pretty popular in vegetarian cooking-also the kind of thing one would never see on a US Indian resto menu but very popular for vegetarians at home.

                    In short, a wide variety of larger beans as well as green beans are consumed, not just smaller daal.

                      1. re: tatamagouche

                        according to chef raghavan iyer, there are more than 60 different legumes regularly used in the cuisines of india. to me, that's quite a lot. he takes his role as an educator pretty seriously and is very good about returning emails, if you wanted to learn more. you could also look in the aisles dedicated to various pulses and dals in any indian grocery store to see the various selections.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Caution: be extra careful in cleaning dals (or rice) from Indian stores. I find many stones which are not only unappetizing but crown-damaging (hubby calls 'em shrapnel). Wash, wash, wash, too. Otherwise, it's happy discovery of a new world of pulses!

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            kitten, i have been a big fan of Indian foods for 30 years. I can assure you that in the Boston U.S. area(we have a sizeable Indian and South Indian population here because of our large hi tech industry) you will NOT find anywhere near 60 types of pulse sold. Looking at my julie sahni Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking,which i believe is targeted to the U.S.), she lists 11 different dal (which include lentils, beans and peas). i have seen all these sold here. If 60 varieties are really the NORM for Indian cuisine, I am very surprised that we would not be seeing many more varieties in our Indian markets here. Now, perhaps I am assuming that South Indians would be the first to embrace all varieties of dal, and maybe North India has many types that are not used in South india, but I am still surprised that we would not see them here, to satisfy the needs of our North Indian populace.

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              i believe iyer refers to various different beans (e.g. kidney, cowpea, black eyed pea) and various different lentils among the legumes in common use. he also differentiates color variations, like with chickpeas: yellow/kabuli chana, black/kala chana, green/hara chana. additionally, iyer *may* differentiate between products that come from the same legume but have different names/cooking techniques depending on whether the legume is split or whole-- like black lentils: whole/sabud urad, split/urad dal. all of these types should be packaged and sold separately in an indian grocery, and are used in different recipes.

                              i know i can easily get more than a dozen types of legumes at non-indian grocery stores, and the selection at indian stores is much, much broader. probably not a full 60 varieties, true, and some of the legumes iyer counts may be very regional and not exported at all, but an indian grocery in the u.s. will have a couple of big aisles' worth at least :) & i admit i've never actually counted the varieties. when i was in southern india i saw and ate many kinds of lentils & beans i was unfamiliar with, when i asked what they were i'd often just get "dal" as a response and i'd have to pry a bit to get a more detailed answer. some sort of dal was a part of every single family meal i had there though, iirc-- i just can't stress the fundamental culinary importance of dal in india, across region, religion, social class lines-- as far as i observed. dal&rice was the basic meal of most (poor) folks, wealthier folks would have other dishes as well, but dal never was absent.

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                i do completely understand the importance of dal in india. and of course i understand that there are different colors and forms(split/whole). I could not have been shopping for, cooking and eating South Indian food the last 30 yrs w/o knowing all that.Sorry, but my point is a very specific one re the number of types of dal. I am always excited to learn about unfamiliar foodstuffs; it's so fascinating. But if 60 or even 30 dal are out there in common use in India, why am I not seeing them here?Now certainly I am not omniscient, but, until proven otherwise, I stand by my post above. I am hoping some Desi CHs will weigh in here; always so much to learn!

                      2. re: opinionatedchef

                        I thought when legumes are combined with rice it forms a complete protein...I don't know the details but I have always been told that. Besides legumes plus rice, milk, buttermilk, paneer, and yoghurt, some of the specific regional cuisines of egg-free pure veg. communities are heavy on peanuts and sesame seeds.

                        I don't know why there is no tofu in traditional South Asian cuisine.

                        And I don't know if egg consumption comes from the British. Could be that the egg fry and omlet/omelette at breakfast are from the Brits (obviously 'omlet' and 'fry' are not indigenous words), but I really shouldn't speculate because I don't know. Anyway, even if the concept came from afar, egg consumption is certainly extremely common now. I do know that the domesticated chicken spread to the West from India (via Persia), although I recently read that the first domesticated chickens came from South East Asia and spread to India and China, when before, experts who know about dat shtuff thought that ancient Indians were the first to domesticate the gallus gallus.

                        1. re: luckyfatima

                          I would be really surprised if it took the British to introduce eggs into india, given the pervasiveness of eggs in Persian cuisine, and the great exchange of culture (culinary or otherwise) between Persia and India over time.

                            1. re: Behemoth

                              Yes, agreed. I hesitate to say that Indians didn't eggs before the Central Asian invasions, either. I don't know the answer, but I would suspect that Indians had always eaten eggs. Khagina (mentioned in other replies in this thread) is indeed a Persian word for the breakfast scrambled egg dish, though.

                              1. re: Behemoth

                                The Brits, it seems, invented Kedgeree, smoked fish, rice, curry, and hard boiled eggs. A sort of Anglo Indian egg dish eaten at breakfast by we Brits!

                                1. re: smartie

                                  Kedgeree is a British adaptation of khichdi, rice cooked with lentils, which is a very old subcontinetal dish. Incidentally, khichdi travelled to the Middle East and exists in variant versions, there, perhaps most notoriously koshary in Egypt.

                                2. re: Behemoth

                                  Hubby was raised Parsi (theory is they migrated from Persia to India generations ago), and his community has an egg dish called ekuri (neither he nor I like it, but so goes tradition). Wonder if it had Persian roots?

                                  1. re: pine time

                                    I don't know the origins of akuri. I don't recognize it as a Farsi word, but it may be. From what I know, Parsi food is a subset of Gujarati cuisine, and their language is a specific Parsi dialect of Gujarati which has a lot of Persian words in it. I recognize the names of many of their other well known Parsi dishes as being Gujarati. They did originally come from Persia 1000 years ago, though.

                                    I will ask about akuri as a Persian word in a language forum and report back if I get any useful info.

                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                      My father is a Parsi and he LOVES eggs, as most Parsis do: Parsi cuisine is dominated by egg recipes. There are few enough Parsis left today that I wouldn't call the cuisine one of the "main" Indian eating traditions, but it certainly is a well-established and delicious one. Let's discuss this Parsi thing first, though, because there seems to be a lot of confusion about it. The word "Parsi" (also spelled "parsee") refers to a member of a specific ethnic-religious group from India. Ancestrally, they were people of the Zoroastrian faith who, fleeing religious persecution, emigrated from parts of Persia in the 8th century A.D. or so to Gujarat, India, where they were granted land. Today, for brevity's sake, it's easiest to say that Parsis were Indian Zoroastrians, but the way that Parsis practice the religion today has drifted so far from original Zoroastrianism that Parsis now have their own faith. Also, Parsis traditionally speak Gujurati, not Farsi.
                                      Parsi cookbooks, although somewhat difficult to come across in the U.S., are worth looking for if you're an egg lover, because they're FULL of egg recipes. I have a few books, and am happy to post recipes here. According to my Parsi grandmother and relatives, the Holy Grail of Parsi cookbooks is Jeroo Mehta's 101 Parsi Recipes. Easier to find, and more recent, is Niloufer King's excellent My Bombay Kitchen. And although I'm not much of an egg eater (to my father's extreme dismay!), I grew up eating akuri regularly, and it's one of the few egg dishes I'm happy to eat. In my experience, Parsis also love to eat various breads--possibly because they're a vehicle for those treasured eggs. If anyone wants a recipe for akuri, let me know!

                                      1. re: freelancer77

                                        Thanks for the info.

                                        Do you happen to know the etymology of akuri?

                                        A Farsi speaker did reply on my language forum query and confirmed to his knowledge it is not a Farsi word. Is it a Gujju word? I don't know how it is pronounced but the way it looks written looks almost as if it is "egg curry."

                                        Please do share your recipe for akuri, that would be awesome!

                                        1. re: luckyfatima

                                          Hmm... so apparently we have a mystery on our hands. After speaking with my father, who then spoke to his very well-informed Parsi cousin in Pune, India, I still have no solid answers regarding the etymology of "akuri/akoori." He did, however, believe it was of Gujju origin, therefore stemming (way, way back, once upon a time) from the Sanskrit. One thing my dad and I talked about was that the direct Gujurati translation of "scrambled eggs" is "charvela eeda" ("eeda" being the Parsi word for eggs)--but, upon looking through the cookbooks, we found that "charvela eeda" is a completely separate recipe that doesn't cover what akuri really is. So it seems that the word "akuri" doesn't contain a recognizable reference to the Gujju word for eggs. (I wonder if it's like scrapple, or bagna cauda, or any of those other foodstuffs whose names don't readily indicate what's in the dish...). My dad actually said, "I would be amazed if there was any Parsi out there who could tell you the etymology of 'akuri'!" Luckyfatima, I have always pronounced it "AH-koo-ree," and I never before noticed that the word does look like "egg curry"--what a great observation!

                                          My Dad's Akoori

                                          2 T. vegetable oil
                                          1 medium onion, finely chopped
                                          a pinch of turmeric
                                          1 garlic clove, minced to a paste
                                          2 green chillies, finely chopped (optional--or cut into easily-avoidable larger rings for those who want less heat)
                                          2 medium tomatoes (preferably a non-juicy kind, like a Roma or plum), diced small
                                          2 T. chopped cilantro, divided use
                                          6 eggs, beaten gently
                                          1/4 c. milk
                                          3/4 tsp salt
                                          1/2 T. ghee (clarified butter)

                                          Heat the oil in a medium-sized non-stick frying pan, then add onions, turmeric, and garlic, and cook until onions have softened but not browned. Add the chillies, tomatoes and 1 T. cilantro to the pan, and stir to combine thoroughly. Fry gently -- you want some liquid to cook out of the tomato, or it'll make your eggs watery. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk, salt and ghee, and whisk well. Now remove the frying pan from the heat, quickly pour the eggs into the pan, and mix well. Return the pan to low heat, slowly stirring all the time, until the mixture has set to a soft, not-quite-still-quivering consistency with small curds. Decant into a warmed (not hot) serving bowl, garnish with remaining 1 T. cilantro, and serve immediately. Serves 4 with warm, buttered toast.


                                          This is the version I grew up with. For me, akoori isn't akoori unless a) it's really loosely set (which is why, to this day, I can't eat any scrambled eggs that are cooked beyond that point) and b) served for breakfast, over buttered toast (although a variant of akoori is served at Parsi wedding dinners). Many people eat it with chapatis, or tortillas, or even cooled as a sandwich filling. You can also use all ghee or all oil, and many variants use 1-2 tsp. ginger-garlic paste instead of the garlic clove. And while I love the tomato, others omit it, or use tomato paste to avoid watering down the final product. To bulk it out, you can serve it Bharuchi-style by adding 2 or 3 large par-boiled potatoes, cubed, to the onions while they fry.

                                          Also, sorry for jumping between the akuri/akoori spellings -- I feel it's more recognizable, at least to me, when spelled "akoori," so that's what I'll stick with from now on...

                                          1. re: freelancer77

                                            Thanks for the recipe. I love the idea of the potato option.

                                            1. re: freelancer77

                                              that's so interesting. i make a very similar moroccan dish called tchechouka (sp. different ways)that is apparently made all over - tunisia, israel etc. It's basically a lot of minced garlic, sauteed in EVOO, tomatoes added and cooked down, and then your eggs. I love it w/ cilantro and yoghurt and uppama or uttapum.

                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                  I thought chakchouka was where a tomato base is made (sometimes with potatoes or sausage) and whole eggs are cracked on top of this, and the sunny side up eggs cook a top the gravy base, as opposed to being scrambled. I suppose the ingredients are similar even if the method is different.

                                                2. re: freelancer77

                                                  Glad you mentioned the wedding option: we had this (altho' MUCH oilier) at a huge Parsee wedding reception. While hubs was raised Parsee, neither of us like the dish much, but seemed it was a "must" for the other attendees.

                                                  1. re: pine time

                                                    Yes, eggs play a hugely important role in Parsi lives and cuisine (they even feature in some of our religious ceremonies). That important role extends to the "laggan nu bhonu," or Parsi wedding feast, which is typically a long, multi-course, lavish affair traditionally featuring two egg-based dishes. One of those dishes is almost always "laggan nu custard," ("wedding custard"). This is a sweet custard, dotted with raisins and almonds or cheroli nuts, and redolent of cardamom. It's served in the middle of the meal as a very rich sort of intermezzo before the rice course (not quite your standard granita, huh?). The other egg dish is usually a savory, onion-based dish that appears later in the meal. (Yes, a LOT of dedicated eating occurs at Parsi weddings -- eating seems to be another Parsi obsession!). If you'd like the laggan nu custard recipe, let me know...

                                                    Luckyfatima, recently I happened to read Nigel Slater's recipe for chakchouka, a dish that I was heretofore unfamiliar with. It sounded like your description -- eggs cracked on top of a simmered tomato base. Is it any good? Outside of desserts, the few ways in which I'm happy to eat eggs typically involve adding a bunch of other ingredients to reduce the overall "egginess" of the dish, so chakchouka sounds intriguing.

                                                    1. re: freelancer77

                                                      I don't know about Nigel Slater's recipe, but to me any egg dish that combines fried stuff and a runny yolk is good. I think it is worth giving the recipe a try.

                                                  2. re: freelancer77

                                                    Great recipe, I will try it soon, thanks!

                                                    BTW, my husband was raised in Gujarat, and he says that his (vegetarian) family never ate eggs. I also have never been served eggs in any form at his siblings' houses. That being said, when he went through a period as a child where he was very thin and didn't seem to be thriving (hard to imagine now! :-) his father used to sneak him two hard-boiled eggs almost every night. (They would go for a walk and his father would buy them from a vendor). He would say something like "Don't tell your mother, but you need the protein!" To this day DH loves hard-boiled eggs :-)

                                    2. re: luckyfatima

                                      I had something called Mughlai Baida Curry here in Denver, which was a fairly standard tomato-based curry wiht hard-boiled eggs, but no potatoes...

                                      1. re: luckyfatima

                                        Is there much difference between khagheena and ekuri? I don't remember what we called spicy scrambled eggs when we were kids, but we call them ekuri now -- mainly due to the influence of Parsi friends.

                                        1. re: JungMann

                                          From what I've seen, khageena is slightly different. My family from Bangladesh makes ekuri style eggs all the time but khageena's got a few extra ingredients and tastes different. My husband's family is from Hyderabad in India where there are a ton of Urdu speaking Indian Muslims, so they eat khageena often.

                                          1. re: nafrate

                                            Does your BD family call the scarmbled eggs 'ekuri' or 'dimer ekuri' or does it have some other specific name? Just curious.

                                            1. re: luckyfatima

                                              My mom always just called it "dimer bhaji" which is a bit of a misnomer as it is not an American style fried egg, but the eggs are technically fried since they're omelettes, lol. They have onion, cilantro and chopped green chili pepper, sometimes a bit of tomato.

                                          2. re: JungMann

                                            I mentioned to you before that I had never heard of ekuri until I read about it from you in a thread. I don't know anything about Parsi cooking except from what I have read in pan-Indian cookbooks. It seems to me though that ekuri, anday ki bhurji, and khagina are all essentially the same thing, the terms just used by different communities. I googled and read some recipes to see for anything that stood out to me as distinguishing features. Seems like onion, green chile, and tomatoes are basic to all (but I found some recipes without tomato). Some of the akuri recipes I found had ginger and turmeric in them, but I found a few khageena with that, too. I can only imagine that each of these dishes would be slightly different from house to house, region to region, and even depending on what the home chef has on hand-no tomatoes, leave it out today, or whatever.

                                            In my google digging, I found some sites on which ekuri is being labeled as an Anglo-Indian rather than Parsi dish, although clearly it is also associated with Parsis.

                                            1. re: luckyfatima

                                              man am i glad you post on CH. you are always so well researched and generous w/ your time. thank you, as always.

                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                Cafe Spice Namaste by Cyrus Todiwala (a Parsi chef based in the UK) has many egg recipes. Should still be available via Amazon. Nice book, interesting recipes...

                                                1. re: penthouse pup

                                                  thanks for that info. Is that a samy ? i always feel so happy when i see their smiley faces! what's his name?

                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                    Yes, she's 4 years old and her name is Klara--an amazing young lady...

                                                  2. re: penthouse pup

                                                    And as luckyfatima pointed out above, there's Niloufer King's recent "My Bombay Kitchen," a delightful and very personal book filled with delicious recipes. It has an extensive discussion of eggs and their role in Parsi cuisine and culture.

                                                2. re: luckyfatima

                                                  luckyfatima: sorry, but I replied to the wrong thread (above, re: Persian food, Parsis and ekuri).