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How Bengalis made French Toasts their own

How Bengalis made French Toasts their own
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A good, fluffy French Toast is what Sunday is all about. Photo: Kalyan Karmakar

When my friends return home to Kolkata, their Facebook pages are filled with pictures of luchi alur dom homecoming breakfasts.

I don’t come from a luchi alur dom house though. While my grandmother makes luchis, my mother does not.

The equivalent of luchi alur dom in my life would be what we know as French toasts while growing up. Bread soaked in egg, sprinkled with salt and pepper, deep fried and served. A working mother’s go-to dish. This is what I ate for breakfast everyday while growing up. This is what I get for breakfast when I go to Kolkata even now.

Before I left Kolkata, even I would occasionally make these for my mother and brother on weekends, and would experiment by adding some leftover chicken liver from the previous day’s chicken curry or perhaps some chopped capsicum.

It was much later that I learned that these are not actually French Toasts. That French Toasts are not savoury, but sweet. I had read an article by food writer Vikram Doctor who described the version I had grown up on as Bombay toast. It seems that we have Indianised the French Toast in our own ways.

I have tried the sweet French Toast at restaurants, and even at Sydney’s Guylian Café, but have never really taken to it. A question of conditioning you would say. I would though like to believe that the Bengali version I have grown up on, is the superior tasting one.

There are times now in Mumbai when I fix myself a comfort breakfast. Something to make me feel good about life. To kickstart my day in a happy way. In such cases, French Toast is always my go-to option.

I am not a morning person, and yet there is a smile on a face when I begin to make French Toast for breakfast. The smile becomes wider as I take a photograph once the dish is ready and then sit down and take my first bite.

Here’s my recipe for making a guilt-free French Toast. The Bengali version, of course.

Recipe for French Toast

Ingredients

3 slices whole wheat bread

4 tablespoons (approx) olive oil

2 eggs whites (It's very easy to get egg whites. Crack an egg and let the egg plop into a bowl. Take a spoon and carefully scoop out the yellow and put it into another bowl, the bin, whatever. What remain is egg 'whites')

Add a dash of salt, pepper powder and (optional) oregano and chilli flakes, and half a tea cup or a third of a coffee mug of milk to the egg and beat it.

Condiments: A teaspoon each of finely chopped chillies, tomatoes, capsicum/ bell peppers and green chillies. Other suggested additions are grated cheese, chopped ham or bacon, leftover liver from chicken curry (I used to do that in Kolkata). Keep the condiments to a minimum as it will be difficult to manage the toast if overloaded.

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a non stick pan for 1 minute.

2. Put in the condiments (onion, chilli, etc) in the oil and fry them for 1.5 to 2 minutes.

3. Dunk the bread in the egg and smear both sides of the slice with the egg mixture.

4. Place the egg smeared bread on the condiments in the pan, let it fry on low flame for a minute or so, and carefully flip it over with a ladle. The surface facing you should have hardened a bit. Flip this after a minute and repeat the cycle for 5 to 6 minutes.

5. You could indulge yourself, and add a cheese slice or some grated cheese on the toast towards the end.

6. Garnish with some chopped coriander. Alternates would be finely chopped curry leaves (very South Indian flavour) or basil.

7. Take the toast out when you feel it is crisp enough.

8. Have it with ketchup as you would as a kid though it is flavourful by itself.

Kalyan is a Mumbai-based food blogger and columnist who loves to travel in search of local tastes. He is at his happiest when eating at small, family-run places. His blog Finely Chopped won the Best Food Blog Award in 2013 and 2014 at the Food Bloggers Association of India awards. He is the lead critic for Mumbai at EazyDiner and is a columnist for Femina. He is also the Chief Chowzter for Mumbai, and conducts food walks in the city.

Follow Kalyan on Twitter @finelychopped

Kalyan Karmakar

Kalyan Karmakar

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