Search This Blog

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


So, obviously this one’s not about Turkey.
Happily,  I’m the one food blogger not blogging about Turkey at the end of December. Actually, I’m going to hold off on all Holiday Cooking for a bit. See, I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks eating Christmas food. Not that I have anything against eating Christmas Food. Or anything else, for that matter. I, as you well know, adore eating. But after two weeks of eating the same stuff(ing) in different shapes, sizes and forms, good as it no doubt was, I’m well and truly done for a while. 

Instead I’m going off on a tangent.

So, goodbye  Stuffing and Turkey and Cranberry Sauce and Sweet Potatoes.
And hello: Bread Omelette.

(I wasn’t kidding about that tangent)

But hold on to your knickers, my lovelies, because it is totally connected.

Because, Bread Omelette, you see, is how I celebrated Christmas a long time ago.
When I was young.
It wasn’t that long ago, believe it or not. (Just give or take circa 18 years.) (ouch)
India in the early 90's and boy, were those great times!
No job, no money, no stress.
(What’s changed, you ask?)
(very funny) (not)

No seriously, Bread Omelette brings back old memories of younger days.
And is there, ever, a better thought than that?

I was a teenager. And like all teenagers, we’d celebrate Christmas (and every other occasion) at someone’s house - we took turns depending on when, whose parents felt brave enough. And there’d always be food and music. And disgustingly sweet cocktails mixed by someone who thought they knew what they were doing (oh no, you didn’t!). And dim lighting. So dim that you’d need to squint real hard to see who you were talking to. Which is ironic because my friends and I would discuss our attire options for so-and-so's Christmas party for for weeks on end. When actually it was so dark that one could have showed up in yesterday’s pyjamas and no one would have known the difference. Anyhow, so we’d eat and dance. And talk and dance.  And drink (many) disgustingly sweet cocktails (my head still hurts at the thought). And giggle. And admire each others' dresses that couldn't be seen. While the boys would stand awkwardly around, with a glass in their hands, gawking mostly. The “cool” ones would ask a girl for a dance. The rest would continue to stand awkwardly around, with a glass in their hands, gawking mostly.

And then at some point, someone smart enough to have resisted all those cocktails, would suggest “a drive.”

So, we'd take off, 5 or 6 of us, squeezed into someone’s red Maruti Suzuki, on empty roads, through the city, under dark skies full of stars, fast, with the windows down and the cool wind whipping through our hair.

You are fearless at 16.

How different the city would look in the darkness. Quiet. Serene. Free. Most of the time, we’d drive up to the airport, park and watch the planes take off – the International flights leaving in the middle of the night, for faraway exotic lands. We’d sit there, for hours, talking, watching the  lights flash with rythmic precision along the gigantic underbelly of the aircraft, as it lifted off above us. Above, and away.

We’d crane our necks and follow the plane with our eyes as it got smaller and smaller and smaller, until it was swallowed up completely by clouds. The lights, just moments ago so bright that we'd had to shield our eyes, would seem like a twinkle in the sky. Like a star in motion. The deafening whirr of the motors would slowly fade away. And in those few moments until the next aircraft was ready to take off, we’d be blanketed in a silence so thick, we could lose ourselves in it.

In a few hours, the sun would rise over the horizon, and the sky would turn pink. In a few hours, alarm clocks all over the city would go off, people would stumble out of bed and stare at themselves in disbelief into bathroom mirrors. In a few hours, the city would wake, the roads would get frenetic in the early morning office rush, the blaring sound of impatient horns would obliterate the silence.

In a few hours, before all of this – in that short, precious window of time between dawn and daylight, between quiet and chaos, between solitude and commotion – we would safely return home. Gingerly unlock the front door, tip toe silently up the stairs, carefully walk past the closed doors of fast-asleep parents, and into to the safe haven of our bedrooms.

In a few hours. But not before we made a (very important) stop first.

For Bread Omelette. (Of course!)

We’d stop at one of those many roadside establishments – the only ones open at 3 or 4 in the morning, the ones you drive past without so much as a second glance at other, more normal, hours  – called “Hotel” something or the other. On the placard, below its name, it would claim “Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.” And if it was the ambitious kind, it would add “Indian, Chinese and Continental.”

Of course, none of these establishments were “Hotels” in any sense of the word.  The one we went to on the night in question, for example, was a tin shack, (sportingly adorned with Christmas fairy lights), a one room shed-like building with charpoys up front and a make-shift kitchen at the back, serving up piping hot, finger-lickingly-tasty food at any time of day or night. A jovial, moustached chap played the all-important role of owner/proprietor/cook/manager/order-taker and a skinny, smiley boy with surprisingly white teeth served as waiter/server/helper/dishwasher.

And the Bread Omelette they served?
A Class Act.

It’s gone 18 years now and still, I can think of absolutely nothing better at that time of the morning (or night, whichever you prefer!) than the Bread Omelette this place managed to dish up. Seriously.

Now bread omelette, for the uninitiated, is not, as one might assume, an omelette made out of bread. It’s just a regular, masala omelette (chillies and all) served between two slices of liberally buttered and toasted bread, eaten with chilli sauce or ketchup. Like a jazzed-up omelette sandwich. See?

At Rs. 10 a piece, (and perhaps only slightly more now) this simple meal was an Everyman’s favourite. For us, it was salve with magical cure-all properties. It satisfied our ravenous teenage hunger, warmed us up from the nippy bite in the 4am air, and ensured we would wake in the morning, hangover-free from those terrible cocktails. Three jobs in one; the perfect antidote.

Samosapedia, by the way, do a great job with their description of bread omelette (see It is the best egg you’ve ever eaten, and it is the best bread you’ve ever eaten and it wouldn’t really be either, without, as they put it, that touch of roadside pollution! Anyhow, suffice it to say, when it comes to street food, this is undeniably an Indian Classic.

Mention “bread omelette” to anyone with any ties to the Subcontinent, and I bet it will conjure up visions of train travel. Because bread omelette is the food of the Indian Railway. Travel on a sleeper service and sure enough you’ll be woken up by the cries of hawkers (ahem – “pantry car attendants”) walking through the train compartment, calling “breadomlate, breadomlate” (one-word, repeated twice, and pronounced exactly the way it's spelt.)

And so, on that Christmas night, almost two decades ago, we sit there, a whole bunch of us – friends forever – under the starry skies, on straw charpoys, feeling nothing but quiet happiness, a sense of freedom, of infinite space, breathing freely, feeling powerful and content....and happy. And while we sit there waiting for our food, we sip steaming hot cups of freshly brewed filter coffee (which despite my attempts on my Coffee post, I will never be able to replicate).

And soon enough, out comes the little waiter/server/helper/dishwasher boy, with his 22 carat smile, effortlessly juggling 10 steel plates plus a bottle of Maggie Hot and Sweet. Which is indispensible, of course. On each plate, are two slices of toasted bread, filled with a generous portion of omelette, just off the tava, so piping hot that you can still see the rings of smoke wafting from it. So you simply lift off the top slice of bread, liberally pour the Maggie Hot and Sweet over the omelette, replace the slice of bread, and dig in. And there you have it: hot, crunchy, buttered toast, spicy, flavourful omelette cooked to the perfect consistency – creamy and fluffy and rich and light, all at once.

Here’s what you need:

- 4 slices of white bread
- 2 eggs
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- Handful, coriander leaves
- Pinch, garam masala
- Salt, to taste
- Butter (I'll leave the quantity up to you!)

Here’s how you do it:

Break the eggs in a bowl and add garam masala, salt, onion, green chillies and coriander leaves. Whisk well until frothy and light. Heat up some oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture. The version we had was super duper basic, by the way, so feel free to add other ingredients – red peppers, spinach, diced tomatoes – all of these can be happy additions, if you so desire. Anyhow, back to the omelette – when the bottom is browned, flip it over until it is golden brown on both sides. Now set it aside for a moment while you butter the bread slices (both sides. Go on, go for it!) and lay them on the same frying pan until browned – they will beautifully absorb the flavour of your just-cooked omelette. Now, place the omelette in between the bread pieces to complete your Bread Omellete. And don't foget the Maggie Hot and Sweet (it really is indespensible and I think you can buy it off the web anywhere in the world now!)

Post Script: I’d written the word “omelette” about 50 times in this post  and according to spellcheck, apparently I had misspelt it every single time. It’s not really a very intuitive spelling, is it? So, after putting considerable thought into the matter, and as a tribute to this undeniabe Indian Classic, I vote for re-christening this dish “breadomlate.”


No comments:

Post a Comment