Eggs and bad puns go hand in hand.
It’s almost to be egg-spected—egg-stravagant names for eggs-perimental dishes featuring everyone’s favourite spheroid cell.
At the Egg Factory, a speciality egg restaurant in Bangalore where everything from the starters to the desserts features eggs, the menu has squeezed every possible pun out of the word. Co-founder Yogesh Mokashi chuckles as he watches people cringe at the “Eggxoticas” and the “Eggcellents”. “(Co-founder) Rajesh (Pai) and I are known to come up with the best groaners,” he says. But the guests—the restaurant sees an average of 4,000 visitors a month—don’t seem to mind too much.
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The egg is making a comeback. After the 2006 avian flu scare in Maharashtra, where nearly 600,000 eggs were destroyed, and the 2008 outbreak in West Bengal that spelt death for 500,000 birds, the poultry industry saw people hesitant to follow its diktat of “Roz Khao Andey” (eat eggs every day). “We saw a dip around that time, but we are now growing at 10% a year,” says Harish C. Juneja, the north India chairman of the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), the apex body for poultry farmers in the country. “India now produces 14 crore eggs annually.” That makes it the fifth largest producer of eggs in the world, after China, the US, Russia and Japan.
Out of the shell: (top) Caramel custard at Bangalore’s Egg Factory. Hemant Mishra / Mint; the signature omelette served at the Eggspectation restaurant in Delhi. Pradeep Gaur / Mint
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Nearly 182,500 eggs are used in a year at the Eggspectation restaurant in central Delhi’s Rajinder Nagar. The restaurant serves nearly 100 dishes that feature eggs and uses up to 500 eggs a day in cooking. It has seen a gradual increase in the egg’s popularity in the decade that it has been in business. “I blame the masala omelette,” says Jaypee Hotels’ senior executive chef Shivanand Kain. “When we started, that was the dominant image of the egg—as a breakfast dish. People weren’t used to eating it at lunch and dinner, except for an occasional ‘egg curry’.” Kain walks the length of the restaurant’s open kitchen as he talks, watching the sous chef break an egg over a special glass-finished steel hot plate used exclusively for frying eggs. “Largely, eggs were never the main course, but now the acceptance of the dish has increased.” The restaurant uses eggs in salads, burgers, beverages (based on eggnog) and even makes a special egg halwa.
From its earlier dominance of railway canteens, roadside street food and late-night snacks, the egg is now spreading to new places in the food chain.
“India’s the only country where eggs fill this nice grey line between vegetarian and non-vegetarian food,” says Mokashi. “It’s accepted by a lot of vegetarians as edible food, and it’s such a versatile thing with a rich tradition of dishes.”
Mokashi’s relationship with eggs began during his hostel days at the TA Pai Management Institute in Manipal, Karnataka, in the mid-1990s. “There were several small stalls and restaurants, all of which served eggs, and the taste of the dishes at each one of them was different,” he says, adding that like most hostel residents, he found eggs the easiest to cook and experiment with. So after 12 years in the corporate world, his itch to become an entrepreneur led him into egg territory.
Mokashi and his team researched for eight months before finalizing the menu for the restaurant. Closest to their hearts is a section called “Eggxilirative Snacks”, subtitled “The Manipal Connection”. Here, they have Bun Omelette, Kannan Bullseye and boiled egg bhurji, all recipes that their chef collected during a visit to Manipal. “All our recipes have been gathered from friends and family. Sometimes, we have customers who want to teach us their personal favourites and if we like it, we put it on the menu,” he says. The restaurant will soon add a Mexican section to the menu courtesy a Mexican expatriate who shared his skills with them, although they already serve fajitas stuffed with scrambled eggs and other fillings.
This whiff of hostel and college experimentation manifests itself quite literally in the case of Ahmedabad’s famous RK Egg Eatery. The first branch of this fast-food joint opened in 1999 outside the National Institute of Design (NID) campus—the city now has five branches. All the 170 items on the menu use eggs, and are named after the NID students who came up with them—there’s an Abhijeet Omelette (made with chunks of boiled egg), a Varsha Fry (oil-free), and a Sunny Keema (extremely spicy). “All of our dishes are inventive and low-cost,” says the proprietor, Raju. “We’re opening our first branch outside Ahmedabad, in Mumbai, in a month’s time.”
At Eggspectation, Kain says the most popular dishes are the restaurant’s signature Benedicts—a muffin with meat filling topped with a poached egg. The place offers variants with smoked salmon and grilled tomatoes (The Eggstreme) and spinach and hollandaise sauce (the surprisingly pun-free Florentine).
At the Egg Factory, apart from the assortment of omelettes with stuffing ranging from cheese to lemon-flavoured chives, the egg curries take centre plate. The Malabar Roast is a spicy dish from Kerala that is served with rice or bread. On the most wanted list, mostly because it makes for a quick meal, is the scrambled Parsi Akoorie with buttered toast. For the adventurous, there’s Moo Shu Rou, scrambled eggs with diced soya ham, that has the comfortable and familiar taste of street Indian-Chinese food.
Eggs and Indians fit together perfectly, Kain says. “They’re easy to make, cheap to procure and it’s an entire meal in itself. Their popularity is not...” he pauses. “...uneggs-pected at all.” Groan.
Ande ka Halwa (Egg Halwa)
10 egg yolks; 100g coarse gram flour; 5-6 cloves; 20g almond flakes; 2g green cardamom; 100g sugar; 10g cashew nut; 10g raisins; 10g pistachio; a pinch of saffron; 100g ‘desi ghee’; 150ml water.
• Take a pan, boil water, add sugar and make a syrup with cardamom, clove and saffron
• Heat ‘ghee’, add gram flour and cook till colour changes to golden brown
• Break the eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. Mix the egg yolks with an egg beater and cook slowly with the golden brown gram flour till the colour changes to light brown
• Add the sugar syrup and cook till the mixture becomes thick
• Pour in a serving bowl and garnish with cashew nuts, pistachio, almond flakes and raisins
Masala Fried Egg Burger
2 buns; 2 eggs; 1 tsp butter; 1 tsp oil
For the masala
1 large onion, chopped finely; 1 tsp coriander leaves, chopped; 2 tbsp tomato ketchup; 1 tsp oil; salt and pepper to taste.
• Add oil in a non-stick frying pan. When the oil is hot, add chopped onions and sauté till brown
• Add chopped coriander leaves and continue to sauté
• Add tomato ketchup and sauté till the mixture is like a thick paste
• Transfer into a bowl and keep aside
• Clean the pan and add 1 tsp oil
• Break an egg into a bowl, ensuring that the yolk is intact
• Pour slowly into the pan and cook till the white has firmed but the yolk is still wobbly. If you do not like runny yolk, cook the egg till the yolk firms up too
• Transfer the egg to a plate. Repeat the process with the other egg
• Gently coat the thick masala on the fried eggs without breaking the yolks
• Cut each bun into two, apply butter and toast for a minute on a pan
• Place the fried eggs with masala on the bottom half of the bun, cover with the other half and serve immediately
Recipes courtesy Eggspectation and Egg Factory, respectively.