Every Sunday, I wake to a patchwork of sun-honeyed shadows washing over my face, and the clink and clatter of my mother beating eggs in the kitchen. She is making a poro, a sort of Parsi omelette, laden with fat and spice. The routine never varies. First, she beats the eggs, then sails a knob of butter in a saucepan. Into the beaten eggs go shards of onion, green chile, and green mango. A rill of perspiration slopes down my mother's forehead as she bends over the hot pan. The egg batter swells and frills and sets, and mum slides the finished poro out of the pan and onto a plate.
Although it is the poro that takes pride of place in our kitchen, all kinds of egg preparations are ubiquitous in India’s Parsi community. We whip them up into akuri (scrambled eggs with masala, sort of). We strew them over wafers or biscuits or serve them over carefree quantities of cream to make an extraordinarily satisfying lunch. We blend them into white sauce (saas) and use that to blanket our favorite fish (pomfret). We furl spicy green chutney around eggs to make egg-chutney patties. We even bake them into the voluptuous lagan nu custard (a baked custard often served at weddings).
Eggs are deeply ingrained into our DNA: Russi Mody, a prominent Parsi businessman who passed away at 96, was famous for diving nose-down into a 16-egg poro for breakfast. My grandfather, a pallid eater in comparison, celebrated weekends with a four-egg akuri (his eggs were scrambled with nuts and raisins that had taken a long, glorious bath in the frying pan). My uncle, a man of appetite, has been known to scoff an entire saucepan of coddled eggs with cream.
But me? I dislike the things. Intensely. I recoil from a running yolk, cringe at a sludge of scrambled eggs, and eggy sauces send a shiver down my back. What I feel about the egg chutney patties cannot be put into civil words. No doubt, the fault lies in some kind of hideous character flaw, or so my family says. But even I, the troglodyte, clashing as I do with my artery-hardened clan, cannot resist the siren call of the wafer par eedu, or eggs over chips. The dish is a variation of kasa par eeda, which literally translates to “eggs cooked on something,” and that something could be anything from potato chips to okra. (I know some of us cannily use eggs to sheathe the taste of any vegetable, be it spinach, eggplant, haricot verts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini…) Other “somethings,” from seminal Parsi chef and cookbook author Bhicoo Manekshaw’s Parsi Food and Customs and a vintage Gujarati-Parsi cookbook called Varied and Delicious Dishes, respectively, include:
- Eggs Cooked on Bread
- Eggs Cooked on Onions and Coriander
- Eggs Cooked on Potatoes
- Eggs Cooked on Tomatoes
- Eggs Cooked on Fenugreek leaves
- Eggs Cooked on Bananas
- Eggs Cooked on Mincemeat
- Eggs Cooked on Brains
- Eggs Cooked on Shrimp
- Eggs Cooked on Biscuits (not the American kind)
- Eggs Cooked on Bombay Duck
- Eggs Cooked on Eggplant
- Eggs Cooked on Sweet Potato
- Eggs Cooked on Gourds
- Eggs Cooked on Green Peas
- Eggs Cooked on Dried Coconut
- Eggs Cooked on Dal
- Eggs Cooked on Pumpkin Seeds
- Eggs Cooked on Shredded Mutton
And so on.
But while my starch-loving self leans towards ropy noodles, cloud-like mashed potato, and fluffy rice, on days of gnawing stress and strain, on days when life seems bleak, when I can't be arsed to make a complicated lunch, I add butter to a saucepan, toss in potato chips along with some stridently-flavoured onions, and then break an egg over it all. The egg batter swells and frills and sets, just like with my mom’s poro. I eat it piping hot, the steam still screaming out of my plate, with loaves of soft white bread from the nearby bakery.
Eggs on Potato Chips
- 1 onion
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 3/4 cup (200 grams) potato chips
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 green chile, mild (like jalapeño)
- salt, to taste
Eggs On Spinach
- 1/2 onion, chopped finely
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 green chile (2, if they're mild)
- 1 cup (250g) spinach (or a leafy green of your choice)
- Salt, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 egg
- Cilantro, for garnish
What are you keep to put an egg on? Let us know in the comments!