It doesn't take much for a dish, a meal, the act of cooking to be transporting.
January in New York is glorious. A loosening of commitments. A sequestering as the barometer plunges. A tightening in the kitchen as I focus on length rather than speed. Braises and roasts become the default meals.
On occasion, the cold's persistence turns weighty, and I start fantasizing about warmer climates.
My friend, the cookbook author Andrea Nguyen, has been traveling across Southeast Asia for the past week or so. Her sun-drenched tweets have instilled a pang of jealously. They have also ignited reminiscences about a trip to Hanoi that my boyfriend and I took a little more than a year ago.
This morning I craved eggs with the spirit of Vietnam.
I slivered a long red chile. I sliced scallion whites into diagonal lengths and cut the greens into thin rings. Often, a recipe will demand only the whites or the greens. Best to use all at once, I think.
I beat the eggs in a bowl, seasoned them with a wallop of fish sauce. Then scrambled them in a hot skillet with the chile and scallion whites. To finish, a drift of scallion greens and an ample flurry of freshly ground black pepper.
Pepper is well-loved in a variety of Vietnamese dishes. It felt well-placed in my improvisational eggs. There's no Hanoi in my near future. Only in my eggs, which will do for now.
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs with Chile
If you have cilantro but not scallions, add a bit of chopped leaves when the eggs are finished. Fish sauce is wily: Better to add less early on, then adjust the seasoning when the dish is done cooking.
- 2 eggs
- Fish sauce
- 1 fresh chile
- 1 scallion
- Neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
- Flaky salt
Beat the eggs gently in a small bowl. Add a drizzle of fish sauce. Slice the chile into thin rings. The hotter you like your food the more chile you should slice. Peel off any grimy outer layers of the scallion. Cut off the hairy end, then slice the white and light-green portion into long diagonals. When you reach the dark-green part of the scallion, adjust the knife and cut into thin rings, as you did with the chile.
Have your bowl or plate ready: This all goes fast. Heat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it is quite hot. Add a large glug of oil. When the oil begins to ripple, after about 30 seconds or so, add the chile and long pieces of scallion. Cook, stirring, until they turn fragrant and slightly translucent. Add the egg and let sit for a few seconds, until the edges begin to turn opaque. Keep stirring, scraping all the cooked bits into the raw bits. The eggs will cook quite quickly at this point. As soon as the curds form but are still ever so slightly wet, turn the eggs out into your bowl. They may seem undercooked when you do so but the residual heat will keep setting the eggs even off the heat. If you wait to turn the eggs out, you risk letting the eggs overcook into a pile of rubber.
Taste a bit of the egg. Add some flaky salt or a dash more of fish sauce, if needed. Grind a bunch of pepper on top. Eat with chopsticks or a fork. Your call.