“Late night drive, on a mission
With a bunch of kids huddled back,
Screaming & shouting, excitement galore
On getting a late night snack.
He flips, then sprinkles some spice
And smothers butter on the bread,
Oooooh, we squeal, “bhaiya aur (more)”..
After all, it’s not a daily treat!
Mom laughs, says hers tastes the same!
But look at our starved, drooling plight,
We love her, but it’s not the same
As the street corner Bun Omelette tonight..”
Bun Omelette, true to it's name, is a soft bread roll smothered in butter and stuffed with the most delicious, spicy, omelette ever. It's a common street food in Northern India (although not the most hygienic!) and was a sporadic late night treat for us when my brother & I were home for the holidays from boarding school.
Now, those who know me know I am not an egg person. So why the fuss? Well, more than the taste, we used to love the anticipation and excitement of it all. It was a tradition to take the car out late one night (almost always my uncle's suggestion - an ex boarding schooler himself he used us as an excuse to get what he craved...), get all the kids packed in at the back, and drive around in search for the most obscure, dimly-lit, dirty-looking street food corner. Kind of a cousins-uncle expedition if you may! Although, my mom who adored her street food, mostly always gate crashed the [secret] party. Or definitely asked for a take-out if she wasn't 'allowed' to join in on the ride.
Our favorite - a spot under the bridge near the New Delhi airport, where you could see the planes take off. There were a bunch of vendors at the same spot, but you knew the most popular by the line and the number of omelettes they churned out every minute. Watching the speed, style, technique was all a piece of art. A chop here, a drizzle & sizzle there, sprinkle of spices and voila!
Grey days remind me of those fun childhood trips, and looking out today, I needed to re-create that magic. Here is my [slightly] healthier version of the road-side spice-kicking classic.
For the Omelette
3 egg whites
4-5 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 green chili, chopped (more if you like it hot!)
½ cup baby spinach leaves, roughly torn
2 stalks of fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon chaat masala (available at most Indian grocery stores)
¼ teaspoon garam masala (available at most Indian grocery stores)
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 teaspoon whole milk
2 tablespoons aged cheddar or gouda, grated (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 Bread Roll (I used Challah, but you could also use regular Burger Buns or Potato Rolls)
Butter to toast
Cilantro chutney, Sriracha Mayo or your favorite hot sauce
Make the Omelette
Beat the egg whites lightly with a pinch of salt, pepper, and milk. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan. Once hot, add the chilies, tomatoes & onions, with a pinch of salt. Cook till the onions are translucent and the tomatoes are soft enough to crush. Stir in all the dry spices, and cook for a quick few seconds. Add the spinach & cilantro, and cook till the leaves wilt. Add the beaten egg white, stir a little and then let it set. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top (if using) and let the egg cook completely on medium-low heat. Once done, fold it in half, and then half again, so as to form a triangle. If you can, flip it over to brown the other side. And it really doesn't matter if the omelette looks imperfect or breaks - the taste is all in there trust me. Remove from heat.
Put it together
Cut the buns in half. Butter them (generously?) and put face down on the same pan you cooked the egg. Lightly toast each half, and then remove from heat. Add a teaspoon of cilantro chutney on one half, followed by the omelette, and close with the other half. Cut into half and enjoy hot. A cup of masala chai on the side might not hurt.
What favourite childhood classics have you re-invented? Leave a comment!