Yummy bits and bobs from my kitchen!
The other day a friend posted a photo of her breakfast that she had just made.I instantly got hunger pangs. “Now I want shakshuka. ^_^ mmmmm!” I told her. A few minutes later I got a reply: “It’s huevos rancheros (but they might be the same thing I don’t know xD ) but do it- it’s the best.”
I’d never thought of that- it didn’t look like the huevos rancheros that I usually made for myself (see my recipe here!), but I had seen huevos served like that before. I’d also seen shakshuka and occasionally menemen served that way too. It got me wondering: what are the actual differences between the dishes, are they really all the distinct? After poaching myself some eggs, I got down to a bit of research.
First off they each have really different sounding names (not surprising as they are associated with different parts of the world… for people whose sense of geography is a as bad as mine, check out my handy map that shows the general areas that these dishes are from), which suggests that they haven’t grown from the same root as such. They most likely began out completely independently and have similar (delicious) elements by coincidence.
The first place I looked was at the names. Being an English grad, I know there’s a lot in a name. What does each name tell us about the dish?
Shakshuka means “mixed up” or “shaken up”- this refers to the scramble of fried vegetables in the dish, rather than the eggs.
Menemen shares it’s name with a region of Turkey and is most likely derived from the Greek word “menemenos” meaning to “flood” or “overflow”. This makes sense when you see a nice saucy pan of menemen, with its eggs flooded in tomatoes or fragrent oils. Menemen is one of those dishes which has both Greek and Turkish influences. Since the two countries histories have been so intertwined, this isn’t surprising.
Huevos Rancheros just means “rancher’s eggs”, which doesn’t describe the dish, but more the culture that it grew up in. It suggests that it should be hearty and filling, and that it’s more of a “peasant dish” than a nice refined breakfast. Other than eggs, the name doesn’t give any clue really as to what should go into it.
Ok, so far so good, we know a little more about what each dish’s name means, however there’s still a lot of overlap. All three dishes can be “shaken up” with veggies, “overflowing” with sauce and are hearty and filling like rancheros. The name might not specify, but I decided to look at the ingredients which go into the dishes.
All three dishes contain eggs and tomatoes no matter what. Every recipe I found required that. Some across all the dishes required fresh tomatoes and some required tinned tomatoes, but I’d say that’s really more down to how much time you want to spend on the dish, and doesn’t really define it. All three tend to contain onions and garlic (with one Shakshuka recipe by Honey & Co London calling for a whopping 15 garlic cloves per 8 eggs. I love garlic, but that was more than I expected!) in varying amounts. They also ask for heat in varying ways and amounts, some calling for fresh chillies, some paprika, some ground pepper, and all three tended to call for bell peppers. The differences I found were kind of loose guide lines rather than rules- things that I saw coming up in certain recipes more often than not, but not necessarily.
Shakshuka often includes chickpeas and fragrant Middle Eastern spices like cinnamon in its recipes. Depending on the fragrancy, some of these recipes quite closely resembled rich, heavy tagines that are eaten in morocco as an evening meal.
Huevos Rancheros never seems to be served in the same way twice. What it does always
seem to have is a tortilla as a base. Other than that, it’s differentiated from menemen and shakshuka by sometimes being served with raw salasa, fried eggs and salad rather than being a warming one pot. I’ve also had it with cheese, avocado, kidney beans, salad sweet corn and chorizo in any number of combinations. These may not be the tradition, but they do seem to be common variations now a days.
So by the end of my research all I knew was that… there didn’t seem to be any one answer. There are few general methods that divide Shakshuka, Menemen and Huevos rancheros, but no hard and fast rules about how to make any of them.
When it comes down to it, each breakfast has massive variations on how it can be cooked and presented- they can overlap so much that it’s pretty much impossible to say which one is which. Whichever way they are made though, they are winning dishes. There’s something universally enjoyable about the combo of eggs and tomatoes for breakfast… or brunch… or tea.