Thai Foods Ep.3


Fast & Easy Marble Eggs with Prik Nam Pla

by Thomas M. Tillman

What is Marble Eggs?

Admittedly, I came up with the name "marble eggs" myself, but I didn't invent the dish. The recipe started to appear on the Thai internet in 2020, and it's called kai yoo yee ไข่ยู่ยี่ which actually means "wrinkled eggs," but I didn't think it translated well in English! The eggs are "marbled" in the pan, and cooked just until the whites are set and the yolks are still gooey, and the whole thing slides on top of hot jasmine rice, drizzled with prik nam pla, a spicy garlicky fish sauce. You can think of it as a Thai omurice! Not surprisingly it quickly became popular in Thailand because eggs and rice is a combination Thai people LOVE. I mean, you could call the Thai omelette our national dish if we were ranking by the dish that's made the most often! The key to this recipe is the sauce: prik nam pla, our national condiment. The combination of eggs and prik nam pla is genius. The moment I saw this I INSTANTLY knew those spicy-salty-sour flavours were going to be amazing with the eggs. And it's so fast and customizable...of course people would love it!

What is Prik Nam Pla?

พริกนำ้ปลา or Prik nam pla is arguably the Thai national condiment! It's our #1 condiment used most frequently as a general seasoning booster, like how salt and pepper is used in other countries. Something tastes a little bland, a little boring? A dash of prik nam pla is all you need. (Note: Some people call it nam pla prik. Same same.)
a bowl of fish sauce and chilies condiment
In Thailand's food courts or self-served restaurants you often see a big bowl of prik nam pla available for people to use to add some seasoning and spice to their food.
At the basic level prik nam pla is simply sliced chilies in fish sauce (prik means chilies, and nam pla means fish sauce). But there are variations, and I think of prik nam pla as having 4 levels:
  • Level 1: Chilies and fish sauce. Simple and easy, but this is pretty intense as the fish sauce is full-strength, so go light when using this. Amount of chilies is to taste.
  • Level 2: Chilies, fish sauce and lime juice. The most common version. Lime juice is added for acidity and brightness, and to lessen the concentration of salt. For an all-purpose prik nam pla I use about 3 parts fish sauce to 1 part lime juice, but you can add as much as you like.
  • Level 3: Chilies, fish sauce, lime juice, and garlic. Thinly sliced or minced garlic; amount is to taste. Allow the garlic to sit for 15 minutes before using.
  • Level 4: Chilies, fish sauce, lime juice, garlic and shallots. Thinly slice the shallots; amount is to taste.
For marble eggs, I'm at level 4, and I've made the it with a lot more lime juice than normal because I want to be able to use a lot of the sauce on the eggs, and the acidity keeps everything bright and delicious. I also added a pinch of sugar to soften the salt and acid a bit, again so that I can use a lot of the sauce without fearing that it will be too salty. It will not (and should not) taste sweet.

Ingredients you'll need:

Here are all the ingredients you'll need...not much! You can add toppings such as meat and veggies, more info on that below. (If you are vegetarian you can substitute soy sauce for fish sauce.)
A tray of ingredients for making marble eggs.
Clockwise: Thai chilies, eggs, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, shallots and garlic.

Step-By-Step:

Here's a bird's eye view of the process, but be sure to check out the full video tutorial in the recipe card below to ensure success!
Process shots for making marble eggs, steps 1-4
1. Make prik nam pla by combining fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. 2. Add chilies, garlic and shallots. 3. Add eggs all at once to a pre-heated pan. 4. Break the yolks and drag out into a marble pattern.
Process shots for making marble eggs, steps 5-8
5. Allow eggs to cook until set to your liking. 6. Slide the marble eggs onto jasmine rice. 7. Drizzle the prik nam pla sauce over the eggs. 8. Enjoy!

Pro-Tip: Hack for Reducing Heat from Chilies

Usually I tell people to add as much or as little chilies as they can tolerate. But for some recipes, such as this one, the FLAVOUR of the chilies are actually important to the dish, not just heat. So instead of putting less chilies, I recommend you either use milder chilies or reduce the heat from your chilies. You want a piece or two of chilies in every bite. The most effective way to reduce the heat from chilies is to cut them open in half horizontally, then use a knife to scrape off the seeds AND the pith (white stuff that holds the seeds in place), leaving behind only the flesh. This can be tedious if you're doing a lot, and you have to be careful where you put those spicy fingers afterwards!

The fastest way to reduce heat from the chilies.

When I don't have time to deal with individual chilies, I simply slice them and put them in a bowl of cold water. The seeds will fall to the bottom, and if you let them sit while you prep, the chilies will release some of their heat into the water. When ready to use scoop the chilies out with a slotted spoon or skimmer (leaving the seeds behind obv.) and ideally drain them on some paper towel so the excess water doesn't dilute your sauce (which I didn't do in the video, but should've). If you want to know if the heat has come out of the chilies...just taste the water! J/k...I mean you can, but you've been warned. This isn't as effective as scraping all the pith out, but if you can tolerate some heat and just need to tone it down, this is waaayyyy easier.
Soaking sliced chilies in water is a quick way to take out some of the heat.

Adding Toppings

If you're feeling more sophisticated than just eggs and rice, this dish is very easy to "dress up." A common topping is cooked shrimp, but you can add any meats, veggies or herbs; think omelette toppings! Some good topping options include:
  • Shrimp or seafood
  • Ham, bacon, sausages
  • Tuna, anchovies, smoked salmon or other cured fish
  • Leftover meats (chicken, beef, pork...anything)
  • Sautéed veggies (e.g. mushrooms, peppers, onions)
  • Fresh herbs: Cilantro, green onions or dill.

How to Add Toppings

Cook or reheat your toppings first as it will not have time to cook with the eggs! If using raw protein or veggies, simply saute them in the same pan you're using for the eggs. Get them fully cooked, then remove from the pan. Tip: Do not clean the pan because you want to keep every drop of flavour! Add a little more oil and cook the eggs as per the recipe. Once you're done "drawing out" the marble pattern, arrange the toppings on the eggs, pushing them in a bit so they stick. Once the eggs are set, sprinkle on any fresh herbs you're using and you're done!

Common Questions

How can I make this vegetarian?

The only non-vegetarian ingredient is fish sauce, so you can sub that out for vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce.

Can I use another type of chilies?

Yes! If Thai chilies are too hot, you can try bigger (which usually means milder) peppers such as jalapeno, serrano, anaheim, or whatever is available in your area. You can still remove the seeds and pith to reduce the heat even more.

I don't have a 10-inch pan, will a different size pan work?

I have found that 3 large eggs in a 10-inch pan yields the best result, but an 8-inch pan can also be used and you'll end up with slightly thicker eggs.

You can also use a 12-inch pan, but in that case make sure the eggs are FRESH. Older eggs have runny whites that will just run all over the place, leaving you with very thin eggs, but fresh eggs will be able to maintain their shape even in a large pan.
Do I need a non-stick pan?

No...but your life will be much easier if you do. Well seasoned cast-iron or carbon steel pans are stick-resistant so that will also work. If using a stainless steel pan, make sure you have enough oil, and the pan should be quite hot when you add the eggs otherwise they will stick, which means you'll have to work quickly.

How long does prik nam pla last?

In the fridge, prik nam pla will not spoil for a long time, however, the flavours will not be as good as fresh. Any leftovers will be fine for 2-3 days, but after that, even though you can still eat it, it won't taste as good.

However, if you're making prik nam pla with very little or no lime juice, it will last much longer because it's the fresh lime juice flavour that deteriorates.

INGREDIENTS

Marble Eggs

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp neutral oil

Prik Nam Pla - Spicy Fish Sauce (enough for about 3 servings)

  • 1 ½ Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 ½ Tbsp lime juicesee note 1
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1-2 cloves garlicthinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp shallotsthinly sliced
  • 3-4 Thai chiliessee note 2
  • 1 portion jasmine ricefor serving
  • Toppings such as meats or veggies

NOTES

  1. If making an all-purpose prik nam pla not specifically for this dish, reduce the lime juice to about 2 teaspoons or to taste. You can also omit the sugar.
  2. If you can't eat very spicy food, don't reduce the amount of chilies because we want the chili flavour; instead, remove the heat from the chilies. You can also choose milder chilies such as jalapenos or whatever is available to you. See the blog post or the video for my shortcut method for removing heat from chilies quickly.
  3. For toppings, you can add any cooked meats, veggies or fresh herbs. See blog post for suggestions.

INSTRUCTIONS

To Make Prik Nam Pla Sauce

  • If you want to reduce the heat from the chilies, remove the seeds and/or the pith; removing the pith will remove the most amount of heat. Then thinly slice into rounds. (See note 1)
    3-4 Thai chilies
  • In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar; then stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Add the garlic, shallots and chilies. You can use this sauce right away, but it's best to let it sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. (See blog post for storage)
    1 ½ Tbsp fish sauce,1 ½ Tbsp lime juice,½ tsp sugar,1-2 cloves garlic,1 Tbsp shallots

For the Marble Eggs

  • Crack the eggs into a bowl; if making multiple portions, keep the eggs in separate bowls.
    3 large eggs
  • Put a 10-inch non-stick pan on medium heat and add the oil, wait until the pan is medium-hot. While you wait for the pan to heat, put a portion of jasmine rice onto a plate and spread it out so the mound is evenly thick.
    1 Tbsp neutral oil,1 portion jasmine rice
  • Test the temp of the pan by adding a drop of egg white onto the pan, and it should start cooking right away, though not aggressively. Once the temp is right pour the eggs into the pan and use your spatula to push the whites around so that you have a circular shape. Then break the egg yolks and drag them around to create a marble look (for this part it's best to see the video for the technique.) Let the eggs cook so that the whites are set but the yolks are still semi-runny, this should take only about 1 minute and a half.
  • Remove from heat and slide the eggs over the rice; you need to do this quickly and with confidence so the egg will not fold onto itself.
  • Generously drizzle the sauce over the eggs and serve immediately!

If you want to add toppings:

  • Cook or reheat your toppings first; you can use the same pan you're using for the eggs, then remove from the pan and make the eggs as per the instructions above. Once you're done drawing out the marble pattern, arrange the toppings on the eggs; pushing them into the eggs a bit so they stick.
    Toppings such as meats or veggies