28 July, 2016
Eggsciting Bharuchi Akuri
One of my favourite breakfast preparations is scrambled eggs, even higher on the scale of delicacy, is the akuri, a much underrated dish. Akuri means egg curry in its most basic sense. It is like dhansak and patra ni machi, considered to be a pan-Indian favourite.
The Parsis have a love affair with eggs. You have the Parsi pora or omelette and, of course, the various versions of whipped eggs covering myriad vegetables such as tarkari per eda and sali per eda (sali: shoe string chips), of which The Ripon Club (a club restricted to Parsis) in Mumbai’s Fort area does a particularly greasy, though sinfully delectable, version.
There is even eda per eda, egg on egg which is a bit of a joke. This is something perhaps which the Parsis derive from their Persian roots. Persian cuisine offers much in terms of egg preparation, particularly the kuku, an interesting variety of omelette similar to the Italian frittata and the Arab eggah.
Akuri holds a special place in this pantheon of egg-based preparations. In fact, the daddy of them all, the Bharuchi akuri uses an obscene amount of cream, dry fruits, fried onions and dollops of ginger and garlic and is occasionally served at Parsi wedding bhonu. Such is the esteem akuri is held in.
The principle using vegetables in scrambled eggs is not uncommon. In China the Cantonese do these extraordinary stir fried eggs, soft almost set, a rather ingenious halfway house between scrambled eggs and an omelette, a common addition are spring onions and chives. The Spanish have their oye rancheros, which is almost the same as akuri without the chilies and coriander.
Even English scrambled eggs can be inventive; there is a marvellous recipe by Jane Grigson using asparagus spears in scrambled eggs, although there is a tendency to use good cheeses like Emmanthal or Gruyere. You have the magnificent Basque preparation, piperade — capsicum, onion, tomato in scrambled eggs, the distinctive feature being the attractive contribution of the red and green capsicums to add a whiff of Mediterranean colour and magic. What piperade lacks though is spice and that is where akuri scores.
I recently got the opportunity to discuss akuri with a delightful Parsi lady, Nilofer Ichapuria King (now based in the US), who has written an uncommonly good cook book, My Bombay Kitchen (University of California Press 2007), receiving accolades from the legendary Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, no less, who has even written the foreword to it.
All akuri recipes I have come across including Katy Dalal’s (Jamva Chalo) have the usual suspects in the ingredients including tomato. Nilofer consciously excludes this, she believes that it adds a wateriness which is unnecessary and spoils the flavour and texture of akuri.
A Parsi connoisseur uses tomato paste which he claims eliminates the wateriness. Having done a little research into akuri recipes, I note with some satisfaction that Niloufer is supported by none other than the akuri recipe in the Time and Talents Recipe Book (the bible for all authentic Parsi cuisine, given the eminence of some of the contributors), a recipe by Gool Shavaksha.
The recipe uses 6 eggs, 1 onion which is crisply fried, seasoning, 1/4 cup milk, 2 teaspoons of ghee, 5 green chillies and a small bunch of coriander. Simplicity at its best.