The Edible Egg: Facts and Facets of World Cuisine
How Poultry Farming Affects Food Culture
When it comes to eggs, facts are right in front of us: they’re healthy, full of protein, and delicious. They’re also economical and easy to prepare. These factors combine to create one of the world’s most perfect foods.
Are there cultures that don’t eat eggs? Very few, really. On all hemispheres and continents, recipes prove that people have included this complete protein in their daily lives. And if you review the egg facts, it’s easy to see why.
Eggs contain folate, which supports neurological formation during fetal development. Choline, lutein, and zinc support our brains and bodies. At six grams per egg, they provide one of the only vegetarian complete protein sources. And the chicken is so sustainable, eating bugs and wild grasses, that poor communities have been raising chickens for eggs for thousands of years.
Scientists Have Proven These Chicken and Egg Facts
+ Chickens developed from Indonesian red jungle fowl, with genetic contributions from the gray jungle fowl.
+ After that, they moved to Greece and Rome then up into Europe.
+ Medieval peasants consumed larger birds like geese and swan so they could keep chicken breeds for eggs.
+ Chickens traveled on ships to the New World, feeding sailors then flourishing among colonies and settlements.
+ How old do chickens need to be to lay eggs? Only six to nine months, depending on the breed, which meant it wasn’t long from hatch to harvest, giving communities a protein source that didn’t involve hunting or butchering.
After asking many of my friends from different countries, I’ve compiled a collection of recipes that show how eggs and different spices are prepared around the world. This isn’t a complete list, as recipes are vast and varied.
Egg Recipes Across the Globe
Mexico: Tortas de Camaron
Separate six eggs into whites and yolks. Beat the whites into a meringue then beat the yolks and slowly mix it all together. Add ground shrimp and slowly stir. Now heat oil in a frying pan and drop in the shrimp/egg mixture, frying on both sides until golden brown and puffy. Serve in a red salsa, topped with cilantro.
An alternative is “tortitas de pollo en salsa verde,” which replaces the shrimp with cooked, shredded chicken. The fried chicken/egg puffs then sit in green salsa.
(Thanks to Candie Lorenzo for this contribution.)
Southwest United States: Chile Rellenos Casserole
Texas takes Mexican cuisine and adds its own northern edge. Author Natalie Gibson submitted a recipe which turns traditional chile Rellenos into a casserole. She uses Poblano peppers, which aren’t as hot as Anaheim, and deep, flavorful cheeses like smoked gouda and cheddar. After frying the peppers and simmering them in broth, she layers them in a casserole dish with the cheeses and topping made with egg, flour, and evaporated milk.
India: Egg Curry
In a country so large, you find different cultures and beliefs. Entire districts are predominantly vegetarian. And as far as whether they eat eggs, facts matter. Some people won’t eat eggs which are fertilized because they have the potential to become life, while others don’t share the same creed. Egg curry fits within the dietary guidelines of many religions and belief systems.
The eggs are boiled and peeled first. Then a curry is made from yogurt, tomatoes, onions, and spices such as ginger, garlic, cilantro, coriander, and cumin. Unlike many curries, this doesn’t need a pressure cooker or a long simmering time. As soon as the sauce is ready, which takes fewer than ten minutes, the peeled and halved eggs are added. Cilantro leaves garnish the top.
(Thanks to Michael Walker for this contribution.)
United Kingdom: Scotch Eggs
Though the London department store Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented these, they carry the “Scotch” attribution. Variations include the Manchester egg, which is a pickled egg wrapped in a mixture of ground pork and Lancashire black pudding, and the Worcester egg: boiled egg soaked in Worcestershire sauce then wrapped in sausage mixed with white pudding.
To make Scotch eggs, soft-boil eggs enough that you can peel them but the yolks are barely set. Carefully wrap each egg in soft, raw sausage then roll in bread crumbs. Bake until the sausage is cooked and bread crumbs are crispy.
(Thanks to Brad Wind for this contribution.)
Europe is known for its eggy pancakes. Kaiserschmarrn takes five eggs for one cup of flour, a great way to use up that surplus from backyard chickens. It also uses rum-soaked raisins, sugar, vanilla, and lots of butter. This is a delectable dessert that was popular with emperor Franz Joseph I. Soak the raisins in rum for about a half hour. Then beat the eggs with milk, white sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk in the flour then add the eggs. Cook pancakes in lots of melted butter in a skillet until golden brown on both sides then tear up into bite-sized pieces. Add more butter and confectioner’s sugar then turn up the heat and cook until the sugar has caramelized. Serve with plum preserves.
Denmark: Sol Over Gudhjem
Named after a small town on the Danish island of Bornholm, this dish is a basic combination of raw egg yolk, smoked herring, and dark rye bread. Generously butter a slice of rye then top with a smoked herring fillet. Place a couple red onion rings on the herring then spoon pasteurized egg yolk over the sandwich. Top with snipped chives and freshly ground black pepper. If you make this dish, know your egg facts: they can contain salmonella, which is why it’s important to pasteurize the yolk first.
Uzbekistan: Tuhum Dolma
Similar to a deviled egg, tuhum dolma involves cutting the top from the peeled egg then carefully scooping out the yolk. Mix the yolk with grated hard cheese, chopped coriander, and either cream or cream cheese. Salt to taste then fill the empty egg whites with the mixture. Serve for breakfast.
Ethiopia: Doro Wat
In a country known for its poverty, chickens and egg consumption makes sense: they’re inexpensive to keep and easy to harvest and prepare. A traditional Ethiopian meal contains several stew-like dishes placed on a large piece of flatbread called injera then served on a single, oversized tray to the entire group. To eat this food, tear off pieces of your own injera, use it to grab the food, and place both bread and food in your mouth. Doro Wat is a chicken-and-egg stew served beside vegetable dishes containing carrots, cabbage, or potatoes. Simmer the ingredients for a long time to build the right flavor profile then add the chicken and simmer longer. This entire process can take hours. When it’s all done, peel the boiled eggs and place them into the stew. Scoop out and serve on a layer of injera.
Whether it’s originally of Jewish, Tunisian, or Libyan origin is still under debate. Shakshuka (shakshouka) is a staple in many Middle Eastern countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, Tunisia, and Libya. Similar in flavor to Mexican huevos rancheros, it is often served for breakfast.
In a cast iron skillet or oven-ready pan, saute’ onions, garlic, and bell pepper. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and desired spices such as cumin, chili powder, paprika, and cayenne. Once the tomato mixture is simmering and fragrant, crack several raw eggs directly into the sauce. Sprinkle with crumbled cheese such as feta and move the pan into the oven to finish cooking. Once the eggs are set, remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley. Serve with fresh, crusty bread.
Iran: Kuku Sabzi
Persian culture is rich in food and history. Nowruz (Norouz), the Iranian new year, is a secular holiday celebrated worldwide, marking the beginning of spring. Dishes pile deep on decorated tables, offering cuisine made with rice, nuts, and custards. Essentially a frittata, Kuku sabzi combines eggs with herbs and walnuts. Toast the walnuts then mix it with ingredients like barberries, parsley, cilantro, chives, dill, and perhaps spinach or green onions. Add baking powder to the beaten eggs so the dish bakes up light and fluffy then mix it all together. Cook in a covered pan for about twenty minutes then cut into wedges and cook until done. If you can’t find barberries, substitute with unsweetened dried cranberries.
(Thanks to Clint Dalrymple for this and other contributions.)
Jewish: Chopped Egg and Onions
Instead of a country, this selection focuses on a specific culture. Sean Karp contributed an Ashkenazic recipe, one of the oldest dishes in Jewish history. Some say it hails back to ancient Egyptian times. Boiled peeled eggs go into a bowl with chopped spring onions and either mayonnaise or rendered chicken fat. Other ingredients include prepared wholegrain mustard, chopped fresh parsley, and salt and pepper. It’s chopped and mixed together then served on rye bread or a toasted bagel.
Whether you’re focusing on nutrition, ease of raising and harvesting, or their deliciousness, egg facts prove why they can be found worldwide. Have you tried any of these dishes? Do you have any to add to our list? Let us know in the comments.