I’m cooking my dad’s Burmese egg curry for my family. It would have been his birthday this weekend, if he were still with us. He loved to cook dishes from his childhood and we learnt about him through his stories and the traditional dishes he made for us.
Burmese golden egg curry features twice-cooked eggs in a spicy red, oily pool of sauce. The spices sing in harmony with one another – just like the chatter around our family dinner table when we had stories to share about our day. The curry is mild in spice, but the roasted belachan (dried shrimp paste) packs a punch with its pungent qualities – it creates layers and depth of flavour.
My dad would halve boiled eggs, then fry them in oil and turmeric until they formed a golden blistered crust. They rested on a plate, with a paper towel absorbing the excess oil, while he cooked the curry. When I was young, I'd intervene at this stage, sneak up to the countertop and stealthily pinch an irresistible golden egg or two. My dad would joke and pretend he didn’t know I was taking them. He'd scratch his head and sarcastically say aloud, “I’m sure there were more eggs here before, I guess my mind must be playing tricks on me.”
When I ate the eggs before the meal, I was already full by the time the curry was ready to eat. Sometimes he'd have to cook a second batch of eggs.
When I was young, I'd intervene at this stage, sneak up to the countertop and stealthily pinch an irresistible golden egg or two.
Leaving the remaining oil and turmeric in the pan, he'd fry up the shallots with the dried shrimp paste and aromatics. The scent would find its way through each room of the house, causing everyone at home to salivate.
The raw ingredients were cooked down slowly to concentrate the flavour (which made it perfect with plain steamed rice). The curry was bold and woke up your sinuses without being too spicy, but managed not to overpower the subtle characteristics of the eggs.
The halved eggs had a crisp exterior, tender whites, soft-pastel yellow yolks – and when they were placed into the curry, they resembled little boats floating cheerfully in an aromatic sea. My dad spent most of his career out at sea. He was a sincere, kind, funny, humble and ambitious man who worked his way up to become a revered marine engineer and was accepted as an engineering fellow. My elder siblings recall him being away at work during their childhood; but after I was born, my dad had retired and was home every day, cooking me delicious meals like this one.
Once the eggs were placed into the vibrant curry, he'd garnish the dish with contrasting green ingredients: thinly sliced cayenne chillies, torn coriander and wedges of fresh lime. The curry was served with a big bowl of steamed white jasmine rice and mango chilli pickle.
My dad always had a side of mango chilli pickle with this dish for extra spice. Back then, I would purse my lips in disapproval at the thought of this addition – but I now heap it on my plate to eat with each spoonful.
This is an easy recipe, it’s packed full of flavour and evokes lots of loving memories of my dad. I hope you like it.
Burmese golden egg curry
This is a dish of blistered, turmeric-stained eggs and mild chilli, tomato-based curry with punchy dried shrimp tones. This curry has bold flavours and is best served with a side of steamed rice.
- ½ cup peanut oil or canola oil
- 6 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and halved
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 large shallots, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 piece ginger (2.5cm wide), minced
- 10 g roasted belachan (dried shrimp paste)
- ½ tsp ground paprika
- ½ tsp ground chilli powder
- 410 g tin crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 green cayenne chillies, sliced
- ¼ bunch coriander, torn
- 1 lime, sliced into quarters for serving
- Heat oil In a medium frying pan over medium heat and add turmeric. Place the halved hard-boiled eggs into the pan, yolk-side up. Gently move eggs around and fry for two minutes or until the bottom of the eggs turn brown and blisters. Set eggs aside, leaving the turmeric oil in the pan.
- In the remaining oil, fry the shallots, garlic and ginger until the shallots turn translucent (about three minutes).
- Add the roasted belachan, chilli powder, paprika and salt to the pan and cook for a few more minutes.
- Pour the tin of crushed tomatoes into the pan and add the brown sugar to the pan. When the curry begins to boil, lower heat to low heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the eggs back to the curry, turn off the heat and garnish with green cayenne chilli, coriander and fresh lime.
- Serve with a side of steamed rice. Enjoy.
A feature of Burmese cuisine is toasted chickpea flour (besan), which is commonly used as a thickener for soups or, like here, sprinkled over salads.
Sipyan, the Burmese word for curry, means ‘oil returns’, and refers to how the curry is cooked until the oil comes back to the surface.
This popular Burmese salad is packed with traditional and refreshing flavours.
This is a hearty salad full of refreshing flavours and textures, and a favourite dish in Burmese cuisine.
Kaeng hang lay is a rich curry based around pork belly (hang lay is a corruption of the Burmese word for pork curry). The dish is found all over northern Thailand and, because it’s easy to make in large volumes, is often associated with communal eating. This version highlights the local obsession with tomatoes (here in the form of ketchup).