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When I was young(er), one of my favorite books was Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. I still have the volume — a 1925 edition that belonged to my father when he was a child. I loved the fantastic explanation of "How the Camel Got His Hump," the adventures of "The Elephant’s Child" along the banks of "the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees," the story of "The Butterfly that Stamped," "The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo."

I came to know these stories so well that, even now, it is impossible for me to hear the word "Parsee" without thinking immediately of "How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin." This fable begins, "Once upon a time, on an uninhabited island on the shores of the Red Sea, there lived a Parsee from whose hat the rays of the sun were reflected in more-than-oriental splendour. And the Parsee lived by the Red Sea with nothing but his hat and his knife and a cooking-stove of the kind that you must particularly never touch."

Parsee (or Parsi) is the Persian word for Persian (Persian for Persia being Pars). Today’s Parsees are adherents of the Zoroastrian or ancient Persian religion, and are descended from Persian refugees who settled in India.

In Kipling’s tale, the Parsee eats nothing but cake. In reality, the Parsees are more sensible. Ekuri — a simple dish of scrambled eggs made more exotic with chilli and ginger — is a specialty of India’s Parsees. (This is also a dandy way to disguise egg substitutes, if you’re watching your cholesterol.)

Often, in Indian recipes, you will see coriander leaves and coriander seeds specified. You will be hard-pressed to find coriander leaves anywhere, but don’t worry, we have it, we just have a different name for it. In the U.S., we call the leaves cilantro, and we only call the seeds coriander.

Chilli can be a little confusing, too. Chile, chilli, and chili can all mean the same thing, except chili usually means mixed chili powder or the spiced stew made with chili powder, but chilies always means peppers, while chilli usually means you’re reading an Indian recipe that uses hot chilies.

When a recipe calls for fresh, green chilli, I generally use jalapeño peppers, which are cheap, hot, but not catastrophically so, and easily accessible. Serranos are even hotter, are more flavorful, and are also widely available. The secret to controlling a chilli’s heat is to remove the seeds and membrane from inside the chilli before chopping, since most of the heat is in the seeds. A jalapeño with no seeds is only slightly hotter than plain green pepper. Of course, you can leave the seeds in if you like the bite. Keep your hands away from your face while handling chilies, and wash your hands well when you’re through. It’s not just your tongue that thinks these are hot.

Ethnic food stores carry a wide variety of more exotic, and often hotter, chillis, should you feel adventurous. If you are going to be adventurous, ask questions. Poblanos, which are never eaten raw, are milder than jalapeños, and are good for roasting and stuffing. Thai chilies are intensely hot, and the heat lingers. Habañeros are so hot — 30 to 50 times the heat of jalapeños — that they can raise blisters on your skin (don’t even consider touching them without rubber gloves), and could stop your heart. Never use them straight. However, with more than 100 varieties of chili in the world, you have lots of latitude to experiment without "getting burned."


3 Tbs. cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

½ in. piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 green chilli, chopped

½ tsp. turmeric

2 Tbs. chopped cilantro

½ rounded tsp. salt

8 eggs, beaten

2 tomatoes, quartered

salt & pepper to taste

In a frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and ginger and fry, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden-brown. Stir in the chilli, turmeric, 1½ Tbs. of cilantro and salt, and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the eggs, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until eggs are set.

Season to taste and garnish with tomato quarters and the rest of the cilantro.

Serves 4.

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