Menemen: The Turkish Scrambled Eggs That Will Spice Up Your Breakfast

Turkey is a stunning country that has a blend of both European and Asian elements. Being spread across the two continents has made it a nation of duality. And, not only that, but Turkey is located at the crossroads of the Balkans, Caucasus, Middle East, and the eastern Mediterranean, making Turkey uniquely situated geographically and culturally, according to Britannica.

Because of this, many aspects of Turkish culture, such as their food, can be found as variations in neighboring countries. Too Istanbul says, "Six centuries of Ottoman regional domination and the reciprocal influence between Turkey and its neighboring countries ... is the reason why we find so many common dishes in those cuisines." One of those dishes is menemen.

Menemen is a popular Turkish dish, often eaten for breakfast. This filling breakfast meal is made from eggs, peppers, and tomatoes with various spices. It is similar to shakshuka, the Moroccan cousin of menemen. The same ingredients are used in both dishes, but in shakshuka the eggs are poached whereas in menemen they're whipped. Shakshuka also has a slightly different flavor due to the inclusion of spices, such as cinnamon and harissa paste, which are absent in menemen, as noted by World Food Story.

With a long history and current hold on Turkish breakfasts, this dish doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

History of menemen

According to The Mediterranean Dish, this beloved robust and hearty dish gets its name from the Turkish town of Menemen. This tiny market village is located in north Izmir, Turkey, located on the country's famed Aegean coast. The name of the town may be descended from the ancient Greek word "mainómenos", a word that means "furious, raving, out of one's mind," as per Place and See. Although today Menemen is a quiet, agricultural town, Greek mythology says that this is where the legendary hero Hercules went into a deadly frenzy.

However, little is known about the specific origin of the dish. Regardless of where it came from, the dish has become one of Istanbul's staple dishes, but it is ubiquitous throughout the country. Munchery credits the popularity of this dish with the need to use the surplus of fresh tomatoes that Turkey produces during the many months of Mediterranean summer.

Ingredients in menemen

As with any dish, it is important to start with quality ingredients. However, with menemen especially, this dish relies on good ingredients to hold it together. According to The Mediterranean Dish, starting with firm green bell peppers, fresh non-wrinkled tomatoes, and quality extra-virgin olive oil will make a big difference in the final product.

The ingredients list is full of fresh veggies and spices. Serious Eats includes extra-virgin olive oil, hot paprika, dried oregano, a small onion, shishito, Chinese green long pepper, salt, black pepper, tomatoes, eggs, and chives.

However, there is a big debate about adding onions to the meal. World Food Story says the debate has become so intense that a poll was created by journalist and food critic Vedat Milor. This poll had over 430,000 people contribute their opinion, and it was almost perfectly divided. The site says that 51% of people were pro-onion while the other 49% said onion should not be included.

However, with or without onion is not the only ingredient substitution that can take place. Some variations served in Turkey include suduk (a spiced beef sausage), pastirma (cured beef), or minced lamb, according to World Food Story. Cheese, like feta, can also make an appearance, as per Delighted Cooking.

How menemen is prepared

Whether you're enjoying this as a big breakfast or quick dinner, The Mediterranean Dish says it's easy to bring this one-pan recipe together.

The first step is to cook down the trifecta of veggies: onions, peppers, and tomatoes. The green peppers and onions are added first and sautéed for about 5 minutes. Then the tomatoes are added with all of the seasonings. Once soft, beaten eggs can be added in.

At this point, it is important to remember not to overcook the eggs. Serious Eats says, "the key is to cook the eggs very gently, removing them from the heat well before they finish cooking so they can continue to cook on the way to the table." This will keep the eggs moist and soft when they are served.

When the eggs are just set, everything can be mixed together slightly before serving. An added drizzle of olive oil, gently placed garnishes, and a sprinkle of extra seasoning add the perfect touch to this dish. And, don't forget to pair this with some crunchy bread for dipping!