In the west we usually eat our eggs either scrambled, fried, or hard boiled with very little ornamentation. Sure we add salt and pepper, but not much else, unless you’re at a Sunday brunch and are enjoying Eggs Benedict. The following Thai recipe for Kai Look Koie gives hard boiled eggs a special kick with the addition of dried chili and a savory sweet and sour sauce that is, in my opinion, to die for. Kai Look Koie literally translates to Son in Law Eggs, and I’m uncertain where the name came from and so is my wife. Being the curious type, I started searching for the origins of the name for this dish. I actually came across several, but the actual truth of the matter will remain hidden. Choose YOUR favorite explanation for the name “Son in Law Eggs”.
- Theory #1: The frying of the hard boiled eggs gives them a golden brown color that is reminiscent of the color of gold. Thais are quite superstitious in nature, and colors are commonly associated with events, people and desired outcomes. Because every daughter’s parents want their new son in law to become wealthy, these eggs are served as a symbolic gesture to increase the son in law’s chance of finding wealth.
- Theory #2: One day a new groom’s mother in law came for a visit, but her daughter was out. The new groom wanted to be hospitable and also impress his new mother in law, so he headed to the kitchen to whip up a snack for her to eat while she waited for her daughters return. Unfortunately, the young man had no idea how to cook! He grabbed some hard boiled eggs that were left over from breakfast and threw them in some hot oil to reheat them. While the eggs were frying, he grabbed whatever happened to be close at hand and tossed in in the wok. Shallots were followed by tamarind paste, fish sauce, dried chili’s, and palm sugar. He stirred these all together and then sliced the now hot eggs and tossed them into the mixture. Proud of himself at this point, he remembered that there was no rice cooked. He scrambled to get the rice together, and while doing so forgot all about the mixture bubbling away in the wok. The sugar began to caramelize and by the time he got back it was nearly, but not quite, burned. Scooping the thick gooey mess out of the wok, he poured it over the rice and served it to his mother in law with a prayer to Buddha. Turns out he created a new and delicious dish!
- Theory #3: This theory is a bit gruesome, but considering the history of intentional castrations in Thailand I think it might be the closest to the truth. You see, Thai is a tonal language and the word “kai” can mean both egg and testicle, depending on the tone used. Ironically, the dish originated using quail eggs, which are roughly the same size and shape as human male testicles. Following along with the Thai tendency towards symbolism, what better way for a mother in law to warn her new son in law to behave himself than to serve him a dish of symbolic testicles covered in a sticky, hot, bubbling sauce? Make a wrong move son and these “kai” could be your “kai”.
Whatever the truth, these son in law eggs are universally loved by all classes of people in Thailand. You won’t find them in upscale restaurants, they are a common dish, best enjoyed from a streetside vendor or a food court. You are also unlikely to find them in any Thai restaurant in the West, so your best chance to give them a try is to make them at home yourself.
Kai Look Koie Recipe (Serves 3)
- 6 boiled eggs
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallot
- 1/3 cup Thai Palm Sugar
- 1/4 cup tamarind juice
- 3 tbsp Thai Fish Sauce
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cups cooking oil, for deep-frying
- 5-10 dried Thai bird chillies, crisp-fried
- coriander leaves for garnish
- Heat a wok over medium high heat and fry the dried chili’s in the dry wok until they begin to darken and become fragrant. You’ll know they are ready because you will be coughing violently in most cases.
- Remove the chili’s from the wok and set aside for later use.
- Turn the heat down to medium and preheat the oil over medium heat.
- Deep-fry the boiled eggs until the whole egg turns golden brown.
- Remove the eggs from the oil and drain on an absorbent paper towel.
- Fry the shallots in the same vegetable oil over medium heat (~2 minutes) until golden and fragrant.
- Remove the shallots and drain on an absorbent paper towel.
- Prepare the sauce by using the same oil (from frying the shallots) over medium heat.
- Add palm sugar, tamarind juice and fish sauce. Stir well until the sauce thickens (5-10 minutes) and then turn off the heat.
- Cut the fried eggs into halves and put them on a serving dish, sprinkle with fried shallot and crisp-fried chillies.
- Pour the sauce over the eggs generously. Garnish with coriander and serve!
For a twist on this dish, try using shrimp in place of the eggs. We use roughly 1 pound of cleaned and deveined shrimp for this recipe, and I have to say they are much better than any sweet and sour shrimp from a Chinese restaurant. Sweet, sour, spicy, and savory, this dish is sure to please.