A simple egg dish originating in France, the unassuming Omelette has always been ubiquitous in global cuisine. Each part of the world has curated local variants of it that beautifully highlight the flavour aesthetics of their people. The etymological roots of the word come from Frenchalumelle which translates to ‘knife blade’.
Though foreign, Indian variants of the Omelette have been recorded for centuries. Kashmiri Pandits, a community also known for its love for meat, were known to prepare the ‘Pircham’, a dish believed to be the Omelette’s relative. An ancient scripture on Kashmir, Kalhan’s Rajatrangini, mentions the detailed recipe of Pircham that involved the breaking of the eggshell (strictly by married women, since men and maidens were a strict no-no around the kitchen) and then mixing the egg white with various spices. In fact, an academic at the Madurai Kamaraj University was known to have chanced upon a bygone Tamil note from 700 BC which described a recipe similar to Omelette’s. The interesting bit was the fact that the Tamil community were not known to have historically consumed eggs at the time, yet this recipe’s mention unsettled known accounts.
The other lesser-known source of the Omelette in India is through its Persian roots. The recipe of Khagina, an egg dish originating from Persia, dates back to 1831. The dish was known to be a popular dish in the Mughlai cuisine and may have been picked up by the states of Delhi, Lucknow and Hyderabad during the long and influential Mughal tenure. Iranian food, to this day consists of a plethora of egg dishes (from scrambled to fried) that resemble the Omelette.
A rather interesting historical account related to the Omelette even involves the infamous statesman Napoleon Bonaparte. When the French military leader was stationed at St. Helena, exiled by the British forces, he apparently went on a strict vegetarian diet owing to his failing liver. The British were rumoured to be smuggling small amounts of arsenic in the emperor’s food. It is then that a compassionate English doctor suggested that he consume the more forgiving Spanish Omelette. This move was to ensure that the Omelette would fight the cankers of the poisonous chemical. Even though it’s not known whether Napoleon ever received the news that his food was being poisoned, he did have the required additions made to his diet.