For my last stop in Myanmar this month, I opted for a unique version of recipe known throughout Southeast Asia under different names: golden egg curry, also called bae ou chin hin.
Indeed, as you know by now if you have been following us for a while, I am obsessed with Indian cuisine. I am currently traveling for business and in one week in San Francisco, I managed to try 4 different Indian restaurants around my hotel in 4 evenings!
As we have shared with you this month Burmese cuisine is influenced by the cuisines of three major neighbors: Thailand, India and China.
Egg curry is a dish that is known in Thailand under the name of kai loog keuy or son-in-law eggs. In Malaysia, it is called telur masak branda. In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, you will find a similar recipe under different names including anda curry. In Indonesia, it is called sambal goreng telur.
In Burma, golden egg curry is often made with duck eggs. It is then called bae ou chin hin. But it can also be prepared with more widely available hen eggs. It is then called jet-u jhet, which literally means “chicken egg cooked”.
Although you can definitely prepare this Burmese golden egg curry with chicken eggs, you can imagine that I had to make the duck egg version! However, and despite the large Asian population in Southern California, fresh duck eggs are definitely not widely available where I live. I tried calling and checking the aisles of the go-to Asian markets in my area, before my friend Soe told me he would bring me some from an Asian supermarket in Orange County (south of Los Angeles).
Eggs: the essential cooking and baking ingredient
It is the first time that we are cooking duck eggs on 196 flavors, but it is obviously not the first time that we are using standard chicken eggs. Eggs are probably one of the most used ingredients in the kitchen. Very versatile, it can be used as much in cooking as in baking.
Like in this Burmese golden egg curry, eggs can be hard-boiled and used as a garnish or main ingredient in a number of recipes, such as Portuguese bacalhau, Peruvian papas a la Huancaina, Uruguayan pascualina, or even Moroccan dafina where the eggs are caramelized after a 10+ hour boiling process.
Eggs can also be scrambled or cooked in an omelette, such as in Bulgarian mish mash, Middle Eastern balaleet, Azerbaijani kuku, Malaysian roti john, or one of the most famous omelette recipe, Spanish tortilla.
Everyone knows that any dish is better with a fried egg on top! I personally love an egg on my pizza, even if it is not really fried but baked as in Georgian khachapuri.
But eggs can also be used in desserts, not only in cakes, but egg yolks are also the main ingredient in custard as in flan, creme caramel or the Brazilian version called pudim de leite condensado. Other custard recipes that we have featured include luscious Peruvian suspiro lumeno, Portuguese pasteis de nata, Brazilian quindim, or British trifle.
Where egg yolks are used for custard, egg whites are used for meringue. As a matter of fact, Peruvian suspiro limeno combines both a custard and a Port-infused meringue. If you have a lot of egg whites left, why don’t you make a pavlova, this now very famous and colorful cake from New Zealand? I personally love the acidity of the lemon balanced by the sweetness of the torched meringue frosting in the lemon meringue pie.
Eggs are also a main ingredient in the making of brioche or certain richer breads like Jewish challah bread, Czech vanocka, Estonian kringel, Swedish lussekatter, or guaguas de pan that will be prepared next week in Ecuadorian for el día de los difuntos on November 2nd.
But let’s not forget about drinks, especially alcoholic drinks! I recently made Pisco sour when we traveled to Peru over the summer, and I have to say this is becoming one of my favorite cocktails! But since the end of year holidays are approaching, let’s not forget Puerto Rican coquito, the alcoholic version of egg nog, which is often made with egg yolks.
Chicken (or rather hen) eggs have been used in cooking for ages. Actually, not only chicken but bird eggs have been valuable ingredients since prehistory, whether coming from wild or domesticated animals. It is highly probable that chicken started being domesticated for its eggs in tropical and subtropical Southeast Asia and India before 7500 BCE. Chickens were brought to Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations by 1500 BCE, and they arrived in Greece around 800 BCE, where quail eggs prevailed before.
Today, the world production of chicken eggs is about 70 million tons, with China representing about 40% of this total, which contributes to making Asia the largest producer with about 60% of the global number.
Expand your bird’s nest horizon
But as I mentioned, chickens are not the only birds that produce edible eggs.
Duck eggs virtually taste identical to chicken eggs and they are about the same size as large chicken eggs. Their shell is much thicker however. They are higher in protein, calcium, iron and potassium than traditional chicken eggs.
Quail eggs are often considered a delicacy given their size (about a quarter the size of a standard chicken egg) and their price. Often used hard-boiled in appetizers and finger foods. But they can also be used raw in Japanese delicacies such as on an ikura (salmon roe sushi). Also, their shell is speckled in a variety of colors so they make great table decorations.
Goose eggs are about three times larger than chicken eggs, and their shell is much harder. Their taste is rich and creamy. They are often paired with truffle.
Ostrich eggs have been around since the Phoenicians times. It is roughly equivalent to two-dozen chicken eggs and can weigh as much as five pounds! Hard-boiling an ostrich egg can take you up to 2 hours. They are also similar in taste and texture to standard chicken eggs, although a little stronger in flavor.
Emu eggs are not as big as ostrich eggs but still roughly equivalent to eight chicken eggs. They are more popular as a decorative item than as an edible egg. They feature a distinct green outer layer which hides a blue middle layer and a white base layer. You almost don’t want to eat them!
Turkey eggs are also edible although hard to find, as most farmers don’t sell them simply because the birds that hatch from them are far more valuable for their meat. If you can get your hands on those eggs, they are creamier in taste than chicken eggs due to a high yolk to white ration, and about two times bigger. Like quail eggs, turkey eggs have distinct speckled shells that make them quite attractive.
In their native Africa, guinea fowl eggs are considered a delicacy. This is probably due to their rarity and the fact that they only lay 50 to 60 eggs a year compared to five times as much for a hen. They are about a quarter smaller and have a much stronger taste.
Pheasant eggs are slightly larger than quail eggs, and half the size of a standard chicken egg. They feature a rich yellow yolk, and their flavor is perfect for salads, not so much for baking.
But let’s go back to our Burmese golden egg curry. This recipe is actually quite easy to make, and you can absolutely prepare it with large hen eggs. It consists of blistered hard-boiled eggs that are combined with a tomato-based sauce with tamarind, onion, garlic spices and fish sauce (or dried shrimp powder). In Burma, it is always topped with fried shallots and often cooked and served with okras.
If you omit the fish sauce, it is a delicious, aromatic and filling vegetarian dish. The version I made is probably not as saucy as the traditional one, as I prefer to reduce the tomato sauce in order to concentrate the flavors, so feel free to stop the cooking when you reach the desired consistency.
I made this dish for lunch right before my trip to Paris a couple weeks ago and it was definitely a big hit at home!
- 5 duck eggs (or large chicken eggs)
- 6 tablespoons peanut oil
- 3 shallots , peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 onions , finely diced
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3 thai chilis , thinly sliced (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- 1 (½ inch) piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 tomatoes , puréed in food processor
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
- ½ bunch cilantro , chopped
Place the duck eggs in a pot, cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, remove the pot from the heat and let stand 12 minutes. Remove the eggs from the pot and peel them under cold water.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium/high heat. Add the shallots and fry for about 6 to 8 minutes or until light brown. Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel and sprinkle with salt.
Add the duck eggs into the hot oil, then lower the heat. Fry them for 4 minutes, regularly turning them to brown them all around. Take them out of the pan and transfer them to a plate.
Add the onions, turmeric, paprika, chili, garlic and ginger to the pan and fry for a 5 minutes, then stir in the puréed tomatoes, tamarind concentrate, fish sauce and brown sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes to reduce.
Cut the eggs in half and carefully place them back into the pan. Pour some of the mixture over the eggs, making sure that they are coated generously and simmer for another 2 minutes.
Finish by sprinkling the fried shallots and roughly chopped cilantro on top of the eggs.