Now that so many places are focussing on eggs, here is a rough guide to the kinds of eggs you will find at restaurants.
Watery white and pale yolk --- this is an industrial egg hatched by battery chickens and served at 95 per cent of India’s most expensive hotels. Why do they serve it? Well, because it is cheap and they don’t think we care enough to complain.
Free Range Egg
An egg hatched by a chicken that has actually walked around on a farm. Firm white, orange yolk and lots of flavours. Some hotels care enough to buy them. When the Four Seasons opened in Bombay twelve years ago, its chefs approached Delhi’s Keggs to supply free-range eggs. More expensive, so hotels and restaurants avoid them.
Most commercial eggs are as vegetarian as, say, milk. They come from a member of the animal/bird kingdom. But consuming them does not entail a loss of life or potential life. The eggs we usually eat are unfertilised, which is to say that they will never hatch.
But sometimes when birds mate, they produced fertilised eggs which will, if not fried or poached, end up hatching. These 'desi eggs' have a strong taste and many people prefer their flavour though there are those, like me, who find the taste too overpowering.
Usually larger than a hen’s and with a distinct flavour, these are not particularly popular in India though they can make for interesting omelettes and are much used in European and East Asian countries.
No great improvement in taste over free-range hen’s eggs in my opinion but much prized by chefs because they are small. So if you want to put a dainty little fried egg on top of a dish or pack a salad with small boiled eggs then quail’s eggs are perfect.
Quail is farmed in India so the eggs are easily available to the catering industry.
Vir Sanghvi is India's best-known food writer and TV host. His book, Rude Food won the Cointreau Award for Best Food Literature book in the world and his food and travel shows on channels such as TLC and NDTV Good Times have won numerous awards and continue to be watched by millions.
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