In an emergency, you can always rely on eggs to help you cook a big, tasty dish of curry, or to prop up a faltering meal with an improvised side dish, or a rich pickle, all without too much effort. Eggs are a solid, if unremarkable presence in most kitchens –and they never seem to get their due for all the support they provide us. The one dish that my husband could –and still can –make unassisted, from scratch, draws on hard-boiled eggs; a scattering of spices; fresh green chillies, practically crackling with intensity; copious quantities of fried onions, and best of all, a fistful of brightly scented coriander leaves. The results are incredibly good, and we always scrape the last trace of the slow-cooked sauce off our plates. Years after I first ate it and learned to cook it from him, I discovered that it was my mother-in-law’s breakfast special. And sometimes when everyone wanted a light supper, it doubled quite happily as the dinner special, usually eaten with bread or chapatis. Of course, she had the advantage of her own home-reared hens. They wandered around the yard that blended seamlessly into the coffee plantation, bobbing around, pecking industriously underneath coffee bushes. They produced the freshest organic eggs that tasted very different, so much better than a lot of what passes for food these days.

We still cook these breakfast eggs with the same enthusiasm as we always did, it’s a recipe of which one can never grow tired. Every now and then –for some reason, it’s often a Sunday morning or evening –we make the dish, and surprise ourselves by scraping the bowl clean, yet again with the same enthusiasm.

This concoction is in fact a variation on a rustic Coorg egg and potato curry that everyone made with near identical ingredients. When you simmer all the spices together for egg curry, and finally slide in a generous spoonful of thick, smooth coconut, the result is a dense, fragrant base that supports the halved hard-boiled eggs, their surfaces splashed attractively with turmeric and bright red chilli powder. Unevenly shaped, less than perfect looking, ripe country tomatoes that still carry a little sharpness untamed by the hot sun make the perfect paste for the spices that go into this country style curry, created from ingredients easily at hand. A perfectly wonderful variation on the same theme brings in a flat, Indian-style omelette loaded with green coriander leaves and green chillies, sliced into slabs and simmered in the gravy in place of the boiled eggs. With akki ottis or steamed rice, it is a complete meal. It was my grandmother’s go-to curry when unexpected guests arrived at meal times. She too, had hen-houses a short walk away from her kitchen, which probably accounted for the unforgettable flavour teased out from very ordinary ingredients.

Faced with eggs on a supermarket shelf, we are numbed to their existence by the rows and rows of neatly packed boxes that we see in prodigious quantities. In the countryside, you appreciate their value quite differently. Very often, while visiting an isolated home perched above green rice fields in a remote part of Coorg, I was offered an egg. It used to startle me at first, being asked if I would like to eat an egg at slightly odd hours of the day. I quickly got used to it, though; it took a while to realize that this was the freshest, most sustaining –and most easily portable food that one could offer a guest. If I declined to eat a freshly cooked egg, my host would quickly boil a couple of them and package them for me to carry away. The journey home was always a long walk across fields and rough tracks before you reached the road head. I remember, with some nostalgia, the number of times I have returned with a couple of hard-boiled eggs in my bag, a gift of food from my hosts. Eggs never seem to get the credit they deserve.

Photo Credits:
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa

Please look out for this recipe in my cookbook.

Thank you for visiting this page. If you read something that you enjoy, or see an image that you like, please take a moment to write a response. Do look out for the recipes of all the food featured here in my upcoming cookbook.

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is an author and widely published independent writer on heritage, food and wine. She is the author of The Vanishing Kodavas, an acclaimed cultural study of the Kodava people, and a collection of Kodava poems, A Place Apart, Poems from Kodagu. Kaveri is an acknowledged authority on Kodava culture, history and food traditions.

  1. Leela monnappa says:

    Dear kaveri,

    I am very fan of ur page..I like the way write about coorg culture and food..I am waiting to buy your book and become a cooking expert like you before marriage:-)

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Leela, thank you very much for writing and for your appreciation. I hope to have my book out in time to make you a very good cook! Warm wishes. Kaveri

  2. Sheetal Bhatt says:

    Dear Kaveriji, this curry reminds me of the egg curry my mother made, it was always this color. In the days when tomatoes were not to be found in refrigerator alway, my mum made the curry with onion and yogurt. It was a hit in our vegetarian/eggitarian household My husband who is extremely fond of the egg curry my mum, feels I have not nailed it so well but, my sister-in law has managed to learn it from her and has perfected it:( She is much patient than I am and allows the onions to cook slowly to get the intended flavor and color. I have plans to feature it on my blog someday. A thrifty egg curry, it is !! Such nuances to a perfect dish which otherwise looks so simple..Your post brought back so many wonderful memories of the times when my Nani would send us scout the eggs her hens had laid during the day. The bachha party had one chore to finish before sunset, looking around the bushes and bring back all the eggs for next day’s breakfast.. It was so much fun and highlight of the day for me!! All afternoon we would keep an eye around our huge compound and carefully listen to calls our hens made after laying eggs, that ways we knew where to head over for eggs…Oh, those summer vacations and the fun we had.. thank you so much for writing this stories that lead us to our memories 🙂 and as always loved your post, the pictures, your writing everything … much love

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Sheetal, thank you for taking the time to share your very special memories here. I can almost hear the clucking of the hens announcing the newly laid eggs as you searched for them! I am so happy that this post took you back to those carefree days, wandering around your grandmother’s sprawling garden, on an egg hunt. Thank you for your kind words about this page and blog, it is always wonderful to connect with a reader. Please keep visiting this page! Warm wishes.Kaveri

  3. Kishore says:

    It did make me smile ! This is such an unsung heroine of a dish; and a variation of this exists in a million tables every day. I dont think there was ever a ‘bachelor’ kitchen without one. Lovely !!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Thank you so much, Kishore. You’re absolutely right about the many versions and yes, even these days when single men seem to be working at churning out gourmet meals, I’m sure egg curry still features on the menu, we can’t do without it. Warm wishes. Kaveri

  4. Sakala Appachu Debrass says:

    one of my favourites, I am so fortunate to have born to a Dad who was a foodie….and I got to remember my childhood with that post.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Thank you very much for writing and sharing your memories of food, Sakala- I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post, please keep reading. Warm wishes.Kaveri

  5. Kaverappa Padeyanda says:

    Since I don’t eat meat, mutton, chicken, pork or fish. Whenever I visit to my relatives place in Coorg their first preference for me will be egg curry as said by you whenever there is an unexpected guests egg curry and akki otti will be always first preference in Coorg..even I do like egg potato curry and for me poori and egg potato curry makes good combination…As always nice narration, the way of your story narration makes us feel as somewhere we are there in the part of your story…wonderful writing…Thank you!!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Kaverappa, like you, I am not a dedicated meat eater, so egg curry or omelettes were familiar dishes served up whenever I visited people in Coorg. In spite of having eaten it so often, I still love this curry. My mother-in-law’s breakfast special was a dry version of this, a recipe I hope to share soon. It’s so good to hear that you feel part of the story, that’s the way I hope it will always be for people who read these posts. Warm wishes. Kaveri

  6. Binny says:

    This looks soo very yummy I want to have it right away!! Your post Got me so hungry managed with boiled eggs for now as im still at office.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Binny, I hope you got home and made yourself some egg curry the next day, at least! The egg curry is as delicious as it looks, and I love it too. Warm wishes.Kaveri

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