O Tama Carey's fried eggs with seeni sambol, coconut and turmeric

"I first cooked a version of this dish - inspired by the excellent deep-fried egg dish at Billy Kwong - while working at a restaurant in Sri Lanka," says O Tama Carey. "The lattice-like eggs are doused in a creamy turmeric curry sauce and topped with seeni sambol, a sweet-spiced caramelised onion relish. This dish is equally perfect for an indulgent breakfast as it is served as part of a larger meal." The recipe for the seeni sambol makes more than you need, but to get the right balance of spices you need to make at least this much. It keeps refrigerated for up to three weeks; use as an onion relish. The curry sauce can be made a day or two ahead.

You'll need

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying 4 - 6 eggs, at room temperature   Seeni sambol 2 cm piece cinnamon quill 2 cloves Seeds from 4 cardamom pods 3 tsp Maldive fish flakes (see note) ½ tsp hot chilli powder 2 tbsp ghee 400 gm (about 3) Spanish onions, thinly sliced ½ cup (loosely packed) fresh curry leaves 10 gm ginger, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped 1 tbsp brown sugar 1 tsp tamarind concentrate Juice of 1 lime   Curry sauce 1 tbsp ghee ½ onion, thinly sliced ½ cup (loosely packed) fresh curry leaves 5 gm ginger, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped 1 long green chilli, thickly sliced 1 tsp coriander seeds ½ tsp fennel seeds ½ tsp cumin seeds ½ tsp ground turmeric 2 cm piece cinnamon Pinch of fenugreek seeds 400 ml coconut milk


  • 01
  • For seeni sambol, finely grind cinnamon, cloves, cardamom seeds, 2 pinches of coarsely ground black pepper and a pinch of salt with a mortar and pestle. Add Maldive fish flakes and pound until they break up (a few chunkier pieces are fine), then stir in chilli. Warm a wide saucepan over medium heat, then add ghee. Once melted, add onion, curry leaves, ginger and garlic, and sauté until onion starts to soften (4-5 minutes). Add spice mix and stir until fragrant (about a minute). Stir in sugar and tamarind, then increase heat to high and cook, stirring often, until onion starts to caramelise but retains some bite (6-8 minutes). Remove from heat, add lime juice and stand to cool.
  • 02
  • For curry sauce, melt ghee in a saucepan over low heat, then add onion, curry leaves, ginger, garlic and chilli. Season well with salt and coarsely ground white pepper, and sauté until onion softens (5-6 minutes). Add spices and fry until they’re fragrant and start to stick to the bottom of the pan (5-6 minutes). Add coconut milk, stir to combine and bring to the boil, then remove from heat and blend in a high-speed blender until smooth. Keep warm.
  • 03
  • Half-fill a wok with oil, ensuring wok is stable, and heat until oil starts to shimmer. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into small bowls. To see whether the oil is hot enough, drop a little eggwhite in the oil – it’s ready when the white immediately rises to the surface sizzling and browning. If the oil isn’t hot enough you won’t get the perfect crisp bits; too hot and they will darken too fast. Slide the eggs gently into the oil (cook eggs in 2 batches) and fry until they rise and start to set, then carefully spoon hot oil over eggs and cook until eggwhites are lacy, golden brown and crisp (1-2 minutes). Lift eggs from oil, drain on paper towels, then transfer to plates.
  • 04
  • Cut eggs to release runny yolk. Ladle warm curry sauce over and around them and serve topped generously with seeni sambol.

At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

Additional Notes

Maldive fish flakes are available from Sri Lankan grocers.

Drink Suggestion

Cloudy prosecco col fondo.

Featured in

Apr 2017

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