Three awesome masala (desi) omelets

Before chat rooms and MySpace, there were pen friends. Did
you have one? I had several between the ages of nine and fourteen,
who I wrote to diligently every month. We exchanged news and
factoids on our country, school, what we read and where are lives
were. Then life and school got hectic, took priority and I had no
time to keep in touch. Neither did they, and the inevitable parting
of ways took place without us even knowing it. Every once so often,
I found myself missing that like-minded interaction with fun
individuals I knew only through their words. I missed that, until a
few more years passed. Then there was Twitter.

Among all the social media prevalent
today, Twitter is the one that I find most creatively inspiring. It
facilitates connections so easily that finding someone interesting
and inspiring requires only that you start. This was where I
connected with Manisha. Not only is she an interesting follow on
twitter, but her blog never
ceases to inspire me. When my half-Kashmiri husband had a sudden
yearning for Haak,
it was her blog that led me to salvation. I despair using collard
greens, what one would traditionally use here. I embraced, and
enjoyed, her dandelion greens version with a sigh of relief. Her
travel photos on India go a long way in assuaging that homesick
feeling I still get sometimes.

As I was threading my way through a recent travel photos of
hers, I found, much to a delight all out of proportion, a recipe
for a Desi Omelet, basically the Indian version of an
omelet. A spiced up, pimped out omelet with a sweet kick, much as
we are want to do with most of the food we adopt. It is especially
precious for me, the food that turns me into a
precocious ten year old in a snap. An omelet sandwich was
my most requested packed lunch item when I was at school. (A
hard-boiled egg and tomato sandwich was a close second.) I looked
forward to that spicy chilli and onion filled omelet, nestled
simply between two buttered, untoasted slices of white bread. Manna
from my mother’s kitchen, but the way I felt about it, heaven
couldn’t have done better. As I moved on to junior college, my
omelet obsession was further informed by my friend, Sherie. At
sixteen, she had a passion for cooking and an expertise with it
that was rarely seen in girls our age.
She had already been cooking for several years. She could
also play a mean game of Scrabble and was one of the few people who
challenged my game. I warmed up to her instantly. The fact that she
loved to feed her friends as much as they’d let her only made her
more wonderful. She went on to study medicine and I went to
architecture school but our friendship remained. Many a time have I
turned up on her door step, weary from a long day of wrestling
with mean professors and mysterious design philosophy. When she
asked me if I wanted a snack, I’d always ask for her version of an
omelet. I know this bored her, just wasn’t exciting after having
made hundreds of them,  but she’d put her anatomy texts aside
and make me one anyway. Sherie grew up part of the small, wonderful
community of Parsis in Bombay, who have a wonderful cuisine of
their own and her omelet was inspired by that cooking. It involved
caramelized onions, ginger and garlic paste and salt. Where my
mother pan-fried her version, Sherie beat the eggs and mix-ins
together and dropped them into a karahi with
enough oil to make my mother faint. The result was the
fluffiest, most delectable omelet imaginable, good enough to eat
without any accompaniments. My cousin Parag is also a famous lover
of the omelet. As a rule, my grandma didn’t let us cook in her
house, but one night when we’d gotten in from a late night out, he
snuck in and made me my number one post-midnight snack. Rooting
through the fridge, he found Schezwan sauce from his father’s
catering kitchens and armed with that and an onion, he made a
wonderfully simple omelet with fantastic depth and heat. The
garlic, ginger and tomato in that sauce mellowed away in that egg,
leaving rich flavour in an unloaded omelet. Fabulous with leaflets
of coriander sprinkled over. Exposure to different
cultures and growing as a cook have added all manner of
omelets to my repertoire, but without a doubt, close approximations
of these are the ones that satisfy me the most. The biggest
difference to omelet the way we make it is that we beat the egg and
add all mix-ins to it in the bowl instead of adding toppings in the
pan. I still have a preference for this. The only ingredient I add
in the pan is cheese, if I’m using any. Gruyere is my cheese of
choice when I do. It is hard to give quantities of what I put into
the egg since it’s really a ratio of egg to mix-in, liquid to
solid, so I’m estimating with those. All I can tell you is
that the mixture should be more liquid than solid.
My
mama’s omelet
Large eggs – 2 Onion – about
2 tbsp, finely chopped Green chilli – 1/2 finely chopped or sliced
(more if you can take the heat) Coriander – 2 tbsps, finely chopped
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp Milk – about a teaspoon Tomato (optional) – 1
tbsp 9deseeded and finely chopped) Canola, or neutral oil for
frying Salt to taste

– Heat a
couple of tablespoons of a neutral oil like Canola in a shallow
pan. – Break the eggs in a bowl and beat with a fork to
mix the whites and yolk. Add milk and whisk further until
slightly frothy. Add the salt. – Add in the turmeric,
coriander, onion and tomato if using. Mix everything up well. –
Pour into the heated pan and swirl the pan to spread the egg
mixture out. – Cook one side till egg sets then flip over to cook
the other side until just set.
Cut into halves, nestle each half in white
bread to make two sandwiches. Tastes even better at room
temperature.


Sherie’s
Omelet

Large eggs – 2
Caramelised onion slivers – about 2 tbsps
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp Red chilli powder – 1 tsp Dhania-jeera
powder – 1/2 tsp Canola, or other neutral oil for
frying
Salt to taste
– Heat the
oil in a wok or similar vessel. – Break the eggs in a bowl
and beat well. Add all the mix-ins and beat further. – When
the oil starts to shimmer, pour in the egg mixture. Fry for about
three minutes.
Serve warm to hot.
Parag’s Schezwan Omelet
The Schezwan sauce that I’m talking about here is the
kind found in Indian-Chinese food. I have Parag’s recipe for it
which I’ll post with his permission, but until then here’s a recipe.
You can also mix three parts Sriracha to one part ketchup and have
a fairly decent replacement sauce.

Large eggs -2 Onion – 1/4, finely
chopped.
Schezwan sauce – 2 to 3
tablespoons.
Neutral oil like Canola (or
butter) – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
– Heat oil in a shallow pan. – Break
the eggs into a bowl and beat to mix.
– Add
salt, onion and schezwan sauce and mix further.

– Pour into heated pan and cook for a couple of minutes
on both sides.
Serve with chapatis or slices
of bread.

5 comments

  1. Manisha

    This is such a beautiful ode to the good old desi omelet! And not one, but three! I hope your cousin Parag is willing to share his recipe here or I might just try the Sriracha & ketchup combo.

    I am so glad we connected, too! Your posts are so evocative and take me back to a place that I wish I could describe even half as eloquently as you.

  2. KA

    Oooh,I’m a big omelette lover too.My fav is the one sold on the trains (the Indian Railways). I used to travel by trains only for the omelettes!
    My daughter loves them too and for a variation, I sometimes add dried herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary) , instead of corainder and green chillies.
    Am waiting for your cousin Parag’s recipe too!!

    • Sharmila

      Manisha – Your post brought back so many memories for me. Thanks for setting me off on all these lovely omelet-related recollections.
      KA – Choosing mode of travel by food available? Now, that sounds just like something I’d do 🙂

  3. Jaya

    came here after a LONG time and caught up with some archives. nice variations of the desi omelette, your stories make it even more worthwhile:)