Khai jiaw, or Thai omelette, is a popular dish in almost every kitchen across Thailand. Easy to make, and with just a few ingredients, you can create a Thai omelette to suit your unique palate. It is a versatile dish that goes well with gaeng som, phad kaprao, tom yam -- pretty much everything. This succulent egg dish, from dense and thick to crisp and golden, was once a meal of last resort but is now a constant favourite served and savoured in homes and restaurants, morning, noon, and night.
Omelettes, or similar egg dishes, appear in cuisines all over the world, such as Eggah, an enticing frittata-like omelette served in Egypt. As for the origins of Thailand’s khai jiaw, Krit Laulamai, author of Ton Sai Plai Jawak (an exploration of Thai cuisine), wrote in the Arsom Siam newsletter, No. 28 (December 2004) that the Thai word jiaw (เจียว) originates from a Teochew Chinese word (焦) describing food or other items that are crispy or burnt. He added that as this dish is prepared by frying egg in a small amount of very hot oil, the term jiaw indeed may have been adopted from the Chinese.
Regardless of its origins, we are certain that the rich aromas and crispy fluffiness, piping hot off the stove, will keep diners sated and coming back for more. And what are the secrets to a truly delicious Thai omelette? We asked for tips from these Thai cooking experts: Kasama Laopanich of Thai Niyom (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2021) in Ploenchit and lead singer of a Thai Pop-Rock band Musketeers turned restaurateur, Chakree Lapboonruang of Kiew Kai Ka (MICHELIN Plate, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2021), a popular Lat Phrao eatery.
What sets a Thai omelette apart? What makes it so delicious?
Laopanich: The fabulous thing about this dish is that it only takes a few ingredients to create something tasty. It’s a Thai comfort food that’s so versatile, everyone can have their own unique favourite with ingredients they love. It’s easy to see how omelettes have a special place in people’s hearts far and wide.
Lapboonruang: Fresh eggs are what makes this dish delicious. Duck eggs, chicken eggs, whatever, as long as they are fresh and not stored for long. Otherwise, it may smell and lose its thick consistency.
What’s your signature Thai omelette?
Laopanich: Our khai jiaw condo with pork scratching is an omelette that’s tender inside with a crispy crust all around, topped with freshly made crunchy pork scratchings. With its mouth-watering, savoury aromas and flavours, it’s a good thing we use a lot of eggs so that there’s plenty to share with everyone!
Lapboonruang: We wanted to create a uniquely beautiful Thai omelette -- round, tall, thick. We use both duck eggs and chicken eggs for a distinctive texture and appearance. Then we top it with big chunks of lump crab meat, caught and sent directly from Surat Thani. Our Thai omelette is appetising on the plate and crunchy and lush to taste, with a sweet aroma from the crab.
What’s your secret for a delicious Thai omelette?
Laopanich: When you pour the egg in, don’t forget to stir it a bit to make sure the centre cooks before gently letting it crisp up so that the outside turns golden brown. Before flipping the eggs, check that the centre is cooked. If not, adjust the temperature. If the edges look like they’re starting to burn, lower the heat. The tricky part is the flip. Here at Thai Niyom, we use chopsticks because we use a deep-bottomed pan. But you can use a cake or all-purpose silicone spatula, whichever is convenient. You do need a good rhythm when flipping the omelette with a spatula. Otherwise, it may end up uneven. As for the temperature, we start with very high heat and slowly lower it as we go. With good temperature control, your omelette will stay fluffy and won’t collapse.
Lapboonruang: My secret is using the right amount of oil. Not too much or too little. Also, using the right amount of heat for the omelette to set before it starts to burn. And don’t dump in the egg mix. Pour it in slowly and evenly, and your omelette will come out beautifully even, thick, and fluffy. You can also use both duck and chicken eggs, at a three to one ratio, for a lovely crust and rich texture. When frying, we use high and medium heat on a deep skillet to ensure an appealing shape. We fill about ⅓ of the skillet with oil. Then we carefully pour in the egg evenly. Once the omelette sets, the heat is turned down to medium so it cooks through. Then carefully flip it and cook until golden brown. Finally, turn up the heat to separate away the oil and lift and place to rest on a straining rack. Then serve.
Words of caution when making Thai omelettes
Laopanich: If you want to add ground pork, I suggest cooking it separately and topping the omelette instead. Don’t put it in because pork takes longer to cook than the egg. If you’re deep frying pork scratchings, add a little bit of water. It also needs a little salt. Then add a small touch of vinegar, which will keep the oil from splattering. When you finish frying, the lard will be clear oil, and you’ll have crunchy scratchings to top your tasty Thai omelette.
Lapboonruang: Be careful and find the right balance of cooking time and temperature. If you fry too quickly at very high heat, the omelette’s outside will be crispy, but the inside will be viscous and uncooked. You need to find the right temperature and timing. This is another secret to a delicious Thai omelette.
And what to eat with your scrumptious Thai omelette? The owner of Thai Niyom says just adding fish sauce, squeezed lime with chillies is enough. Or with whatever your favourite sauce is. For her personally, phad phrik, phad kaprao, tom yam, or kaeng kiew wan all complement and enhance the flavours of khai jiaw.
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