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Singapore’s insatiable appetite for egg dishes

SINGAPORE - There is no escaping eggs in Singapore — and it’s not just because we’re seeing them everywhere these days because of Easter. Egg dishes have been around for a long time — whether it is those soft boiled ones we eat for breakfast or the deliciously greasy oyster omelettes we consume for supper. But eggs have gone from being such ordinary dishes to bona fide stars of the dining scene.

SINGAPORE - There is no escaping eggs in Singapore — and it’s not just because we’re seeing them everywhere these days because of Easter. Egg dishes have been around for a long time — whether it is those soft boiled ones we eat for breakfast or the deliciously greasy oyster omelettes we consume for supper. But eggs have gone from being such ordinary dishes to bona fide stars of the dining scene.

The brunch crowd remains obsessed with finding the perfect Eggs Benedict, while ramen lovers discuss where to get the best ni-tamago — and which ones offer a free flow of those babies.

So popular are eggs that we have seen Japanese-styled ni-tamago appear in traditional dishes such as mee pok (at Guan’s Mee Pok at Maxwell Food Centre), while Spring Leaf Prata Place hipster-fies its prata with its Plaster Blaster, an Eggs Benedict prata served with chicken ham. And just when you think the salted egg craze is over, it makes a resurgence with Antoinette salted egg yolk croissants launched last month. Bakery chain Breadtalk also joined the fray with the introduction of its own version called Golden Lava Mini Croissants on March 11. Initially available at only five Breadtalk outlets, these croissants are now available at its 20 outlets island-wide following positive response from customers. Breadtalk revealed that on average, each outlet sells more than 2,000 pieces per day.

Expect more eggs to dominate your food conversations this year. Noted Hong Kong char chan teng Honolulu Cafe — and its famed egg tarts — will be opening at Centrepoint next month; while fellow Hong Kong egg tart institution Tai Cheong has already done a two-week pop-up stall at Takashimaya’s basement, and is setting up shop later in the year.

EGGS AND THE SOCIAL NETWORK

The widespread and long-time affection for eggs is further fuelled by social media. On Instagram, there are more than five million posts with the hashtag #eggs and #yolkporn sees over 100,000 posts.

“Egg dishes have always been popular and more so with social media,” said Shawn Loh, community manager at Burpple, a digital food guide and app with more than four million users. “Eggs look good, they combine well with other elements and they’re often found in many dishes. Moreover, it’s an ingredient everyone can relate to yet it’s intensely personal in terms of how you like it to be cooked. That’s why it gets shared a lot.”

A prolific Instagrammer himself (@larvitar), Loh shared that the egg dishes he keeps seeing locally on Burpple and Instagram tend to be poached eggs and onsen eggs. “Videos are now pretty big on Instagram and users like to use effects such Boomerang for ‘eggporn’ — having the yolk flow out,” Loh added.

For Japanese-American restaurant-bar Tanuki Raw, the combined forces of eggs and social media have helped spike interest and sales after it introduced a truffle yakiniku don with an onsen egg in December 2014 as part of a menu update.

“When I tasted it I knew that it would become a top-seller for us, but certainly didn’t expect it to explode in popularity,” said owner Howard Lo. “We started seeing more pictures of it on Instagram and about two months after we launched (the dish) we had a couple of Instagram folks with large followings and media come in — all within a period of two weeks — to photograph the bowl. After that, our sales sky-rocketed.”

While Lo declined to give the exact numbers of bowls sold a day, he said more than 50 per cent of the orders received at Tanuki Raw are for the truffle yakiniku.

EGGING ON

Apart from Tanuki Raw, many restaurants now offer beef bowls with onsen eggs, including casual spots such as Burning Oak at Bedok Market and the two-month old WAA Cow! at National University of Singapore.

Lo believes that the addition of an onsen egg makes a world of difference to a rice bowl. “It’s visually appealing, it’s tactile and it’s interactive. There’s something quite lovely about shaking the bowl and seeing the egg wobble,” he shared. “On top of that, when you mix an onsen egg into the rice it adds a great lightly creamy texture and enhances the flavour.”

The fascination with eggs takes on a more intellectual slant with an upcoming exhibition on the subject by homegrown design research laboratory HOKO as part of next month’s FoodCine.ma, Singapore’s first food film festival.

Co-founder of HOKO Alvin Ho said the exhibition, titled A Dozen Eggs, was derived from research on human behaviour around eggs and imagines how our interaction with it might “alter its form and characteristic to suit our needs”.

Ho added: “Fundamentally, egg is food but it is important that we also step back and examine humble ingredients and offer another perspective to experiencing food beyond our usual expectations.”

Still, there’s no denying the visceral appeal of eggs or our appetite for them — so much so that The Kitchen Table at W Singapore Sentosa Cove has dedicated the rest of the month to serving them in every style for dinner. That is a whopping 13 different egg dishes for you to gorge on — and Instagram, of course.

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