Eggs and Sumac in Pottery – A Lebanese Breakfast

Eggs and Sumac with yoghurt

The Lebanese are bacillophobic, but their fear of bacteria is somewhat selective and irrational. Growing up, most chicken I had was cooked until all trace of moisture had evaporated. Runny eggs? Forget it. Sashimi? Unheard of. Yet, from the age of five, I have been enjoying delicacies such as kibbeh nayyeh (raw minced beef/lamb), liyyeh (raw tallow fat) and even raw liver (which is great by the way, with nothing but finely ground black pepper and a sprinkle of salt). It seemed that lamb and beef were exempt from germs, if your uncle knew the butcher, but a nice fresh piece of raw kingfish was out of the question. Things are changing, and sushi is now all the rage (I have a good story about that, but I’ll save it till later), but it seems there is no convincing my fellow compatriots of the virtues of a buttery, creamy egg yolk that is barely starting to set. For instance, my good friend Ludwig, upon a recent visit to Lebanon tried to make his brother scrambled eggs. The eggs were organic and fresh, and Ludwig cooked them to perfection, but his brother still would not touch them because they were still “raw”! Instead, the normal way of eating eggs would be frying them until the whites were golden crisp and the yolks were completely dry. Then and only then would they be safe! It was only when I came to Australia in 2001 when I saw the lunacy of this approach.

A jar of sumac

Now that I’ve sufficiently ranted, it is worth mentioning that we do have some excellent egg recipes. Eggs with qawarma (lamb preserved in its fat) for instance rivals the best eggs and sausages, truly. Another favourite of mine is eggs with sumac. Sumac is both the sumac plant and the dried crushed berries that grow on it. Sumac, verjuice and pomegranate molasses form a trinity in the Lebanese villager’s mouneh (larder) and they serve the purpose of providing acidity, and are excellent substitutes for lemon juice, especially in the mountains where citrus trees can not grow. The use of pottery to cook the eggs is also traditional, and with sufficiently low heat, you will be able to achieve crisp egg whites, while maintaining a creamy yolk. Sumac sprinkled on top of the eggs is wonderfully decorative, and its acidity is not overwhelming, but is aromatic and interesting.

Eggs with sumac recipe

There is really nothing to this recipe. Put a ceramic fry pan on a low flame and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, crack the eggs on top. After a minute or two, add your salt, pepper and sumac. How much you add depends on your taste, but I’d say half a teaspoon of sumac for each egg. Keep frying until the egg whites have set. Serve with fresh Lebanese bread and Greek-style yoghurt.


  • This is my favorite way of eating eggs! Sumac and yogurt add the best acidity to them.
    We do eat them runny in my family, (I cannot stand the hard boiled yolk) and Lebanese even eat "oeuf à la coque"(bayd brecht)and even raw eggs as long as they are from "known source and are organic (baladeh to set the local feel). I would not eat raw eggs because of texture cringe, or raw meat because I am not really into red meat, not to mention I would not even touch it raw without latex gloves. Although I do love sushi and I am still getting used to the raw fish part. Not always evident.
    But back to the eggs, my dad used to get them from "trusted source" and we would eat them "à la coque" I cannot seem to remember the english word soft cooked maybe?
    Sorry for spamming your blog today, but you seem to talk about stuff I like. Cya!

  • Hi Viviane
    I thought that bayd brecht was actually raw. You are right though, raw or undercooked eggs are popular, but in my recent visits, I've noticed that people are really scared mainly because of the worry about avian influenza. The English eat "dippy egg and soldiers", which is the equivalent of oeuf a la coque.
    Oh, and please don't apologise for spamming my blog. We bloggers live for comments 🙂 So thank you!

  • Bayd Brecht varies from raw to soft boiled. Avian flu days paranoia are gone now, the paranoia trend lately was for H1N1 and even this is fading now.
    So back to normal egg eating. Some restaurants even serve eggs with awerma in clay pans. Quite popular. Next time you visit you should visit some of the diners that have gotten the traditional food in young atmosphere such as Zaatar w Zeit.

  • next time stop by Deir el-Kamar and check this little place with pink umbrellas on the side of the street; they only have outside seating and play nice jazz music (not loud George Wassuf!) and serve all their dishes in the clay pots with eggs and such.

  • Viviane – how good is awarma and eggs? love it. I caught Zaatar w Zeit right before I left for Sydney in 2001. I love their food. Glad to hear that paranoia levels have dropped

    Joumana – I was in Deir el Amar in July. Had ambariz which was tasty. Visited Beit Eddine as well. I'm upset that I missed out on the clay pot cooking 🙁

  • this looks great! wheres your favourite zaatar in sydney? i know a lebanese guy who runs the E lounge in glebe, does an amazing base with jordanian zaatar mix. god, i want some now x

  • Hey Amanda
    I always take my own with if I go to a bakery. Mine is Lebanese zaatar that I have sent from back home especially. I live in Earlwood, so I go a bakery in arncliffe for manakish when I have a craving 🙂

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