The south Indian Karandi omelette is a dish shaped like a ladle

The south Indian Karandi omelette is a dish shaped like a ladle

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The south Indian Karandi omelette is a dish shaped like a ladle

A fluffy patty, eaten best with rice and lentil stew…

Karandi omelette for a warm winter…

There is always something magical about Chennai (the capital city of Tamil Nadu in India) in December. For most of the year, the city’s scorching heat has always left its residents complaining, whereas the winter presented itself with delicious opportunities.

While most people stayed in the comfort of their homes enjoying a steaming cup of brewed filter coffee, a few of us grabbed our umbrellas and raincoats to head to the nearby ‘Anna’s’ stall. His warm smile and hard work took its form in a glass of ‘cutting’ tea and a plate of hot and tasty karandi muttai – an omelette made with coriander, chopped onions, green chillies and spices such as turmeric, salt and pepper.

This dish is highly underrated, because not a lot of people notice what goes beyond just the process of making it and serving it on a greased banana leaf. For starters, the city teaches you that the people of Chennai value their vessels as much as family, and each vessel – be it a pot, a pan or even a ladle – has a purpose. You could say that cooking and food was more of an act of devotion than just a chore.

At the break of dawn, women would wash their vessels or clay ovens, say a small prayer and then begin their cooking for the day in the kitchen. Some would even go the extra mile and illustrate a small pattern on the doorstep from rice paste, or kolam as they call it, to begin. At a restaurant, the men followed the same process and then opened shop.

karandi-omelette
The nearby ‘Anna’s’ stall had the perfect glass of ‘cutting’ tea and a plate of hot and tasty karandi muttai, served hot on a greased banana leaf

Travellers on their ways to treks, college students who skipped breakfast at the mess hall, employees heading to grab a quick bite before work… you would find people from all walks of life at a street stall, enjoying the same dish of karandi muttai among other things.

So, what makes this dish so unique?

Karandi muttai isn’t your regular omelette. The name is derived from the Tamil word karandi or karandai, which translates to ladle. And as its name suggests, an egg or two is cracked into the ladle when cooked. It is this unique technique, which enhances its texture and layers.

However, adding the egg is actually the last step.

First, a dollop of ghee or clarified butter is added to a pan or ladle. Once melted, chopped onions fill the vessel, followed by green chillies, and spices. The mix is then sautéed until golden brown. Remove and keep aside.

Next, an egg is cracked and beaten until fluffy with coriander leaves and salt. The sautéed onions are then added to the egg and a few drops of oil is added into the ladle before cooking it. Once the oil is heated, the egg mix is poured into the ladle and cooked until golden brown.

You should end up with a patty-like omelette, crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. However, the karandi omelette can vary in shape and size depending on the number of eggs and the ladle used. The omelette made using a flatter ladle is called muttai paniyaram.

karandi-omlette
Karandi omelette is a patty-like omelette, crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside

Often served as an accompaniment to either dal or lentil curry, rasam or soupy tomato curry, rice or even biryani, true happiness of eating karandi muttai comes when you eat it as is with a cup of tea or coffee.

For those in Tamil Nadu, karandi muttai is a dish surrounded by memories, and is found commonly in street food stalls, where vendors serve it fresh on a cold winter’s day. The dish is said to have come from Dindigul in Tamil Nadu.

If you are looking to try out the dish at home, here is our Editor’s recipe for it:

Prepation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: 1

Ingredients: 

  1. 2 eggs
  2. ¼ onion, minced
  3. ¼ tomato, deseeded and diced
  4. 1 tsp coriander, chopped
  5. 1 green chilli to taste, chopped
  6. Salt to taste

Method: 

1. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients with ¼ teaspoon of butter and whip it till air bubbles are formed. Keep it aside.

2. Grease a ladle with a little bit of cooking oil and scoop up the required amount of egg batter into the ladle.

3. Let it cook over a low flame.

4. If this seems like too much effort, you can use a pan to make the omelette. Cover and cook it for 45 seconds to a minute on a low flame. Flip the omelette over to cook the other side.

5. You can also take this recipe further by slicing the cooked omelette and adding it to onion or ulli theeyal.