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Around the World in 80 Eggs

Lately I've had a thing for egg dishes, especially at dinnertime. I think it all started a few months ago with a salad I tried at a restaurant that came with a poached egg atop a toasted slice of crusty bread. Such a simple dish, yet the combination of textures—silky egg with crunchy bread and fres...

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Shakshuka, from XXXX. Image courtesy of Flickr user mhaithaca


Lately I've had a thing for egg dishes, especially at dinnertime. I think it all started a few months ago with a salad I tried at a restaurant that came with a poached egg atop a toasted slice of crusty bread. Such a simple dish, yet the combination of textures—silky egg with crunchy bread and fresh greens—and flavors was perfect.

Then, a few weeks ago, I started buying farm-fresh eggs from a neighbor with a small flock of hens. Faced with a commitment to buy a dozen eggs every other week and a small morning appetite, I figured I had to think beyond breakfast and expand my egg repertoire. Suddenly, I started noticing egg-based main dishes everywhere: Smitten Kitchen wrote about shakshuka, an Israeli dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. I wrote about my favorite Korean dish, dolsot bibimbap, made with rice and vegetables and topped with an egg. I tried a yummy dish of poached eggs on a bed of vegetables from one of my cookbooks, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen, and whipped up a classic Niçoise salad with hard-boiled eggs and tuna.

Eggs have to be one of the most versatile ingredients out there, are consumed by nearly every culture, and they're inexpensive to boot. So here, with a nod to Amanda's ABC's of Maple Syrup and apologies to Jules Verne, is a whirlwind round-the-world tour of ideas for cooking (more or less) 80 eggs:

USA: Deli-style egg salad sandwich on rye. Other countries may have thought of mixing chopped hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise, but nobody does it like a New York deli. For bonus points wash it down a chocolate egg cream (which, puzzlingly, contains no egg).

Mexico: Huevos divorciados. I could have gone with the more famous huevos rancheros, but this variation—with each member of a "divorced" egg couple taking custody of a different salsa—sounded like more fun.

Colombia: Whole eggs are just one of the many common fillings for the delicious corn-flour fritters called arepas.

France: The French have made some of the humble egg's most glorious contributions to cuisine, including the soufflé. Chocolate is divine, but savory versions, like this cheese one, make for impressive dinners.

Germany: Surprisingly, one of the most famous of French-sounding egg recipes—quiche—originated not in France but in Germany, in the kingdom that was later named Lorraine. Classic Quiche Lorraine contains bacon; I prefer veggies and cheese in the filling.

Spain: Here, a tortilla is not a burrito wrapper but a type of omelette, most commonly filled with potatoes and eaten at any meal.

Italy: A filling egg-drop soup called stracciatella is especially popular at Easter.

Greece: Avgolemono is a tart, lemony egg sauce that is served with meat, vegetables or made into a soup.

Turkey: Menemem is a scrambled egg and vegetable dish, and a staple of Turkish cuisine.

Ethiopia: Doro wat, the spicy national dish of stewed chicken in red pepper paste, is often topped with hard boiled eggs.

Iran: The Persian baked egg dish called Kuku contains spinach, herbs and an exotic blend of spices that can even include rose petals.

India: One of my favorite cuisines, with some of the most innovative vegetarian dishes, makes good use of eggs. Intriguing ovo-recipes include eggs in tamarind sauce.

China: Hot and sour soup is a spicier and zingier cousin of the traditional egg flower soup.

Japan: Tamagoyaki is a slightly sweet rolled omelette often found in bento boxes (a Japanese boxed lunch).

Philippines: The simple dish called egg sarciado contains hard-cooked eggs in a tomato and onion sauce.

I'm sure I've missed plenty. What's your favorite international egg dish?
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About Lisa Bramen
Lisa Bramen

Lisa Bramen was a frequent contributor to Smithsonian.com's Food and Think blog. She is based in northern New York and is also an associate editor at Adirondack Life magazine.

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