Son-in-law eggs have a mysterious name. Some believe the golden eggs symbolize wealth, while others believe them to be a stand-in for a similarly sized male body part. Whatever the real story, the dish itself is a great reason to heat up a pot of frying oil. Leela Punyaratabandhu's recipe in her new cookbook, Simple Thai Food, is fabulously sweet, sour, and sticky, with golden-crisp eggs enveloped in a memorably intense sauce. Yes, boiling and deep frying eggs is kind of a pain, but the textural contrast between the crisp edges and custardy yolks is a fine reward.
Why I picked this recipe: There are very few egg-based dishes that I will willingly pass up.
What worked: This recipe is a great way to use hardboiled eggs that you didn't peel perfectly—the frying process will hide any errant pock-marks.
What didn't: Nothing.
Suggested tweaks: If you don't want to hard-boil and deep fry the eggs, Punyaratabandhu suggests serving the sauce and toppings on sunny-side-up fried eggs. If you want to make the dish vegetarian, you can omit the fish sauce and add salt to taste. If you can't find tamarind where you live, you can order it online or substitute a bit of fruity vinegar or lime juice for sourness.
Reprinted with permission from Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen by Leela Punyaratabandhu. Copyright 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 8 hard- or medium-boiled eggs, peeled
- 1/2 cup fried shallots, plus 1 tablespoon of their cooking oil
- 1/2 cup packed grated palm sugar, or 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 fresh red Thai long chiles, or 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and slivered lengthwise, for garnish
- Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
Pour the vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches into a wok or deep skillet and heat to 325°F to 350°F. To test if the oil is ready without a thermometer, stick an unvarnished wooden chopstick into the oil; when the oil is hot enough, a steady stream of tiny bubbles will rise from the tip of the chopstick. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and place it next to the stove.
When the oil is ready, gently drop in 4 eggs and fry, stirring them as needed to ensure even browning, until they are thoroughly and evenly browned, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the towel-lined baking sheet and let them cool down. Repeat with the remaining 4 eggs. Let them cool down to room temperature.
To make the sauce, in a 1-quart saucepan, combine the shallot oil, sugar, fish sauce, tamarind, and water over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Once the sugar has fully dissolved, check the consistency of the mixture. It should have the consistency of warm pancake syrup. If it is too thin, reduce it a bit more. If it is too thick, add a little more water. When the desired consistency is achieved, remove the pan from the heat.
Working quickly while the sauce is still warm, slice the deep-fried eggs in half lengthwise and arrange the halves, cut sides up, on a serving platter. Pour the warm sauce over the eggs and sprinkle the shallots over the top. Garnish with the chiles and cilantro and serve.