Yes, Mr. P did help to cook these eggs for the entire brood but that’s not the reason why this dish is so named. Khai luuk khoei (ไข่ลูกเขย), which translates as son-in-law egg, is commonly featured in Thailand’s raan khaao kaeng (mixed dish food stalls).
Origins of its quirky name are hazy. The version circulating on English blogs–probably because most got the story from the same few sources—attributed it to a Thai mother-in-law who cooked this dish as a warning to her new son-in-law not to mistreat her daughter or else his “eggs”—males testicles are often referred to as eggs in Thai—would be the next to be fried.
Thai sources are equally ambiguous, but pit the story towards the men. In one version, a man sprung a surprise visit on his son-in-law one day. As his wife was out, the son-in-law tried his best to be a good host; he decided to not to cook the usual omelette but an original egg dish using tamarind paste instead to impress his father-in-law. The older man liked the dish very much, which came to be known as khai luuk khoei.
The other version is even more amusing. A father-in-law was competing with his son-in-law—whom he disliked—to cook an omelette for his daughter. After he was done making his omelette, the father-in-law decided to sabotage his son-in-law by boiling the remaining eggs. When it was the son-in-law’s turn to cook, the clueless chap cracked the boiled eggs into the frying pan without knowing they were already cooked. The young man was quick-thinking and tried to remedy the situation on the spot. Seeing some tamarind sauce, fish sauce and palm sugar nearby, he was inspired to create a new dish. Needless to say, the son-in-law won the challenge.
Humorous anecdotes, aren’t they? I like it that Thai boys have to work in the kitchen and impress their in-laws, unlike the male-dominated Chinese culture. And the Thai daughters? They get to keep their husbands in check and eat their eggs too—the dishes, not the family jewels!
Urban legends aside, khai luuk khoei are rather easy to make, but tamarind paste, palm sugar and fish sauce are crucial ingredients—without these three, the sweet-sour-salty balance of the dish can’t be achieved. Duck eggs are the traditional choice for khai luuk khoei but chicken eggs should suffice too. However, chicken eggs have thinner, less firm textures, which make the whites easier to crack while deep-frying and the yolks harder to yield a runny centre. A typical khai luuk khoei made from duck eggs look something like this.
Son-in-law eggs | Khai luuk khoei | ไข่ลูกเขย
Ingredients (serve 4-6)
* 6 eggs, hard-boiled and deep-fried
* 10 shallots, sliced thinly
* 5 dried chillies
* 4 tbsp tamarind paste
* 3 tbsp palm sugar
* 3-4 tbsp fish sauce
* Coriander leaves (optional)
1. Place eggs in a pot of water and bring to boil. When eggs are boiled and cooled, remove the shells. Then deep-fry the eggs until golden-brown and crispy on the outside. Remove from oil, cool and halve the deep-fried eggs. Set aside.
2. Add shallots to hot oil, deep-frying them until golden-brown and aromatic. Remove the shallots and place them on kitchen towels to remove excess oil. Using the same oil, fry the dried chillies for a minute or two. Remove from oil and dab dry.
3. Add tamarind paste, palm sugar and fish sauce to a saucepan on medium heat. Simmer until the palm sugar has dissolved, making sure the dressing is evenly mixed. (Note: it’s up to personal preference on the swett-sour-salty balance of the dressing. I prefer mine less sweet, so I tend to add less palm sugar.)
4. Place the halved eggs on a serving plate. Spoon the tamarind sauce dressing over the eggs and garnish with dried chillies, shallots and coriander leaves (optional). Serve.