When my boss tells me he needs something within the hour, I usually think that is a great time to manically scroll through those mini-biographies of cooks on food52, reading about their strangest meals, and what they like to eat alone. Frequently, in the latter category, that would be eggs.
This makes complete sense – eggs are inexpensive, quick-cooking and offensive to few people save vegans, cardiologists and a kid or two on the soccer team that you somehow got stuck managing.
Eggs are just as delightful naked and softly boiled as they are tarted up with cheese or savory salts or anything else that transforms their flavor into something deeply exciting. I like eggs. They are worthy players in the game of weeknight cooking.
For weeks after finding this recipe, I avoided making Khagina, or Aromatic Scrambled Eggs the Afghani / Pakistani way, for two silly reasons. One, I didn’t know what a Thai bird chili was, and was afraid to ask someone. There was also some performance anxiety – who am I to assume I might succeed doing things the Pakistani way?
At last, failing to find a Thai bird chili in multiple markets, I bought myself a Serrano chili, some eggs from the nice lady at the farmer’s market, and got moving. About 15 minutes later, I was eating the most divine meal of my week.
Our recipe writer, shayma, seems dedicated to your enjoyment of this dish. She writes about it in a very inviting way, promising a mouthful of nut and herb flavors, and gives you some key pointers that help you bring it together. Use eggs you bought from a farmer, she says, and I agree. Be careful to keep them moving at the end, and she is right on that score, too.
Once your finely chopped onions are cooking away in their butter, wash up your cilantro, chop your tomato (I got a nice heirloom at the market, but I realize that is unreasonable for those outside Los Angeles), cut your chili in half, seed it and get your spices out. Before you know it, they are doing a dance with your eggs in your non-stick pan. (I went to shake my “cumin seed” into the mix and realized it was actually ground -- which did not damage, and I might add, enhanced the dish. I have since found the seeds, and Thai bird chilies, on the stretch of Indian stores in Artesia, a city southeast of Los Angeles.)
You know that exciting feeling when your dish looks exactly like the picture? That will happen to you. Each bite will be a revelation of flavor and heat against the backdrop of something so creamy and warm, you will imagine that you are somewhere, living the Pakistani way, instead of staring at a pile of laundry and wondering if you can leave it until morning.
I probably should have saved some of these eggs for my family. Instead, I stood scraping them from the pan with a tablespoon, until they were mostly polished off. I feel somewhat guilty about this, but as that great philosopher queen Janet Jackson once said, that’s the way love goes.
- 6 eggs, (preferably free-range)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
- 1 small white onion, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons cumin seed (zeera)
- 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh cilantro/coriander (both leaves&stems), finely chopped
- 2-3 thai bird chillies, sliced straight into the mixture in the pan with kitchen shears.
- Break the eggs into a bowl, add salt and whisk lightly together, just enough so that the yolks combine with the whites.
- Place pan over a fairly medium heat, add the butter (or olive oil) and tilt the pan from side to side so the pan is coated evenly. As soon as the butter stops foaming and begins to turn a nutty brown, add the onions and stir for 5-7 minutes till soft and golden.
- Add the cumin seeds and fry for 2 minutes till aromatic.
- To this, add the tomatoes and stir till warmed over and slightly soft. Turn the heat to low.
- Add cilantro, the egg mixture and chilies.
- Continue to stir the eggs swiftly, for another 5-7 minutes, until they are at the point of setting and resemble a soft custard. Make sure to keep scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. Serve immediately; while warm and creamy.