When it comes to cooking eggs, fried is the default option. Anyone can crack an egg into a hot pan. If you do nothing else at all, you are still technically frying an egg. We should not, however, think of the fried egg as something so basic that it’s unworthy of further culinary attention. There are hundreds of recipes from all over the world that use a fried egg as either a starting point, a main ingredient or a final flourish. Here are 17 of the best.
The first is a precautionary primer on egg-frying from Felicity Cloake. There may be more than one correct way to fry an egg – in butter or oil, on high heat or medium, yolk runny or just set – but there are also many wrong ways. Cloake can help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls. One tip I learned from her, never to be forgotten: don’t use cold eggs. Let them come to room temperature before frying, or the yolk will set long before the white is done.
Some recipes demand specific egg-frying protocols. Ravinder Bhogal’s crispy fried eggs with coconut curry and coriander sambol, for example, asks you to cook them in a wok. But a fried egg can inspire strong prejudices: how you like them is how you like them, and you should not be dissuaded from having them your way. Personally, and regardless of any countermanding instructions, I will be puncturing the yolk with the edge of the shell just after cracking. Sue me.
Simple variations on basic breakfast eggs include a spicy, chilli oil-fried egg with Chinese five-spice powder, garlic and spring onions and a morning wrap containing a fried egg, chorizo sausage, rocket, capers and, frankly, anything else you think will work in there. It’s your breakfast.
Some of the more substantial recipes provide a bed of ingredients on which a fried egg, cooked last of all, sits proudly. That is certainly the case with Thomasina Miers’ sage and nduja fried eggs, a sort of Calabrian chickpea stew that makes for an exotic and yet unfussy evening meal. Another good bedding to try is hash made from chorizo, kale, onions and potatoes.
Peter Sanchez Iglesias has tweaked his father’s huevos a la flamenca to make it more of a brunch offering. Here the eggs are cracked directly into the spicy jamon, rosemary and tomato sauce, as you would do with shakshuka. One could, therefore, argue the eggs are poached rather than fried, but I think in this case the distinction is a little philosophical.
The addition of a fried egg is often enough to turn any dish into a breakfast thing, but Angela Hartnett argues that her wild mushrooms on toast with fried egg could just as well be served as lunch or dinner. Likewise, Rachel Roddy’s deceptively simple fried potatoes and eggs resists categorisation. It’s a meal you could eat at any time of day and sounds as if it would particularly suit those nights out when supper somehow gets de-prioritised and you end up eating after midnight. In any case, I dare you to find a better use for four eggs and a kilo of potatoes.
Eggs fried in a generously deep quantity of fat – to insure crispy edges – feature regularly in Asian cooking. Felicity Cloake’s perfect nasi goreng includes an egg as an optional topping, and it’s an essential component of her pad kra pao.
A Thai fried egg salad consists of pieces of fried egg – torn, sliced, quartered, shredded, however you want – and tossed with onions, tomatoes, celery, coriander and peanuts in a chilli and lime dressing. Thomasina Miers’ fried brown rice with kimchi and leek is served, as she puts it, “with an egg astride”.
Gyeran bap is a Korean breakfast staple thrown together with steamed rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds and an egg, as ever, fried and astride. Optional toppings include roasted seaweed, spring onions, kimchi, avocado and fish roe.
Finally, I give you a recipe that is both basic and a little jarring: spaghetti with smoked anchovies, chilli, breadcrumbs and a fried egg. At first it looks like a typical, midweek, store cupboard pasta dish – until that fried egg goes on top. Then it looks as if someone has tried to make breakfast while taking strong painkillers. It’s got to be worth a try.