Khai Dao Is the Sexy Bad Boy of Fried Eggs

Khai Dao Is the Sexy Bad Boy of Fried Eggs

Eggs almost always have a starring role in my meal rotation. Usually I’ll do a soft scramble, or a low-heat fried egg on toast for breakfast. Most accepted egg advice says to cook it gently so the proteins don’t become tough, but today I kicked “good” advice to the curb. I made a special fried egg that cooks in blistering hot oil and relishes in crisp-cooked protein strands: khai dao. Khai dao is a crispy Thai fried egg and it deserves more than toast to carry it.

Unlike deep-fried eggs, Khai dao is shallow-fried, which makes a huge difference in texture and presentation. It doesn’t require tons of oil, but just enough of a pool where the white billows dramatically on top and crisps to a deep golden brown on the bottom. It’s a simple technique that results in a trio of textures—crispy, chewy, and creamy—and it makes a great companion for nearly any meal. 

If you’ve had some exposure to Thai food, you’ve probably seen this brittle-edged, bubbly fried egg casually reclining on top of pad kra prao, a minced pork dish tossed with Thai holy basil and chopped chilies. If you search the internet for khai dao, you’ll probably see a slew of recipes for a fried egg salad called yam khai dao (or yum kai dao) where the fried egg is chopped and tossed with veggies in a sweet, sour, and savory dressing. 

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How to make khai dao in a frying pan

The beauty of this crunchy-creamy egg is that it only takes a few minutes to make, and you can serve it on top of anything from silken tofu to cheeseburgers, and you’ll always be glad you did.

Some pans suit different styles of eggs better than others. I think khai dao is maybe 10% easier to make in a wok than in a frying pan because the wok’s bowl-shape ensures a small amount of oil is always puddled at the bottom. If you’re using a wok, then there’s no need to mess with the pan while cooking. If you’re using a Western-style frying pan, you can mimic the wok’s depth without dumping a cup of oil in there—just tilt the pan.

1. Heat the oil

Add two tablespoons of oil to a frying pan; a neutral oil, like canola or corn oil. I like to use a pan with taller sloped sides because we’ll be cooking the egg in a tilted pan to replicate the puddle in a wok. If your pan only has short sides, that’s okay, just don’t tilt very deeply. Heat the pan over medium heat for a few minutes. 

2. Prepare the egg

I like to crack my egg into a small, wide bowl while the oil heats. I do this primarily so I don’t have to get my hands too close to the hot oil. When you drop in the egg, the oil is going to spit and snap so holding the far edge of a wide bowl gives you some clearance.

3. Fry the khai (egg)

After about three minutes, check the oil. It should be shimmering. When you tilt the pan, it should quickly flow to one side, not creep like cold oil. The egg crisps and bubbles the best when the oil is screaming hot.

Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Tilt the pan so the oil gathers in a puddle on one side. With your other hand, carefully slide the egg into the hot oil. The egg will begin to bubble and sizzle immediately. Put down the egg bowl but keep the pan tilted. You won’t be flipping this egg, but if you like the top to be cooked use a small metal spoon to baste the excess hot oil over the top. After one or two splashes, you’ll see the yolk start to cloud-over. 

Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

After about two minutes, the white will be cooked and have brown, lace-y edges. The yolk will be medium-runny when you crack into it. This is usually when I take mine out, but you can cook it longer to your preference. Remove the egg with a slotted metal spatula and place it on a paper-towel-lined plate. You can cook more eggs in the remaining oil, or use the oil to start prepping the larger portion of the meal. 

Put this crackly egg on anything savory, like beef stew, a slice of pizza, saag paneer, or finally put the “croque” in a croque madame sandwich. Mama brand instant noodles are already perfect, but the only way to improve them is with khai dao. So I made myself two. 

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