Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seriously Sloppy - Çilbir (Turkish Poached Eggs on Yogurt with Spiced Butter and Mint)

Çılbır - Ottoman Poached Eggs

Eggs and I have an uneasy relationship. Actually, eggs can take me or leave me, while I wrestle with an ambivalence that is as melodramatic as high opera. Despite being the first in line to beat them up into a froth for a skillet's worth of frittata or a baked cup of custard, I routinely slink away in horror from the sight of texturally challenged egg whites of the poached or soft-boiled ilk.

Palate peccadilloes are nothing unique, with enough people as put off by the look and mouth feel of some foods as the taste of them, but if you share my fainthearted aversion to particularly sloppy eggs, you might be tempted by the Turks to reconsider with çılbır.

A traditional comfort food of the Ottoman Empire, çılbır pairs poached eggs with dense yogurt, topped with a simple sizzle of spiced butter followed by flecks of mint. The flavors are distinctive, yet they align rather than clash. When presented in a bowl, they are so alluring that diners finicky about their eggs are likely to be dipping spoons to yolks before the cook is seated. A thick and soft tear of bread will clean the curves of your bowl, but if you become as devoted to this dish as I am, you will quickly develop the finesse to spoon-up from the yogurt to capture every golden, smoldering, tangy drop.

It's been four years since I was introduced to çılbır, and it is still the only way I will eat poached eggs. May I be so lucky someday to find a soft-boiled recipe that I can live with and love.

Çilbir (Turkish Poached Eggs) - Slightly adapted from Burcu's Almost Turkish recipe

Serves 1.


4 cups water
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 large eggs
1 cup thick, strained yogurt*
2 tablespoons butter*
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper or paprika
1 tablespoon dried mint flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Bring water to boil in a 1-quart saucepan. Add vinegar. Crack eggs into small bowl and slip them into water, somewhat submerging the bowl to avoid breaking the yolks. Reduce heat to lowest setting possible. Cook eggs undisturbed for 3 - 4 minutes, depending on how firm you like the whites to be. (The yolks will also be less runny the longer the cooking time.) Meantime, line bowl w/ yogurt and create a well in the center with the back of a spoon. Microwave butter and Aleppo pepper together for about 10 seconds. Lift and drain eggs with a slotted spoon, then tip them into and over yogurt. Stir the red butter, then drizzle over eggs. Top with mint and salt.

*To trim calories, you can use non-fat yogurt and reduce the butter down to as little as a teaspoon.

Been There, Done That ~
Parmesan and Pasta Cacciatore Frittata
Ouefs Sur Le Plat
Asian Fried Quail Eggs

Other People's Eats ~
Turkish Eggs with Garlicky Yogurt from Limecake
Beyaz Peynirli Yumurta from Morsels and Musings
Menemen from Binnur's Turkish Cookbook


  1. That is one decadent egg recipe! A fabulous combo. Turkish food is just so wonderful.



  2. That seriously looks decadent! So glad that you finally made it Susan! can I celebrate without friends for the party..:)

  3. Thank you for discussing how a food's texture can turn someone off of an item. My hubby teases me often about not liking something because of how it feels in my mouth! ;)

  4. Very interesting, I like the idea of red butter, though the idea of eggs in yogurt sounds a little - uncertain - to me. That being said, I like Indian-style srambled eggs with a little bit of yoghurt.

  5. This sounds like a great recipe and I love the combination of eggs and yogurt. Very tasty.

  6. I LOVE this dish Susan! Your photo is awesome and I wish I could taste the real dish.

  7. I really like eggs, but I do get goosebumps occasionally from the sight of raw egg white in such a dishes. This one must be very tasty. Turkish food is often a revelation. I have to try it.

  8. I can't say I am a fan of egg white, especially raw, but I see it as a small bump on the road to eating the yolk. This dish is indeed an interest combination of ingredients. I am also intrigued by the contrast with yogurt. I love the photo!

  9. Oooh! So tempting and inviting an egg Turkish food...can I get some of that?

  10. how delicious looks wonderful haven't had like this before

  11. I love this Susan look delicious, gloria

  12. This is such an excellent photograph - it really makes the dish look decadent.

  13. I don't know how I missed this post Susan! Gorgeous and it makes we want to head into the kitchen although it is 3AM!

  14. I too, have mixed feelings about eggs, but this dish looks so delicious and creamy!Love your picture and presentation

  15. I am a big fan of eggs, but never tried to make any kind of poached eggs at home.This is seriously tempting with those mint flakes on top :-)

  16. I adore poached eggs, and that picture is making my mouth water - yum!

  17. They look gorgeous Susan. I am still not sure if I can poach eggs

  18. I know exactly what you mean about the slightly undercooked egg whites... :-)

    When I was a child I would simply refuse to eat the whole egg if I caught a glimpse of that "thing" - now I don't mind too much, but of course, prefer my egg proteins to be fully denatured...

    this recipe sounds incredibly good, thanks for posting, I intend to make it soon, maybe this weekend even.

  19. Thanks, Rosa. Yes, Turkish is incredible.

    Valli - Thank you. And what a party it is!

    Hi, Ruhama! Don't I know it! I got over tapioca and okra, but the egg whites...I'm still working on.

    Sra - The red butter is truly delicious; there is something like a tadka about it, but much more simple. Paprika has a distinctive flavor that is quite nuanced. Yogurt is a natural for many dishes of Middle Eastern/Asia Minor origins.

    Welcome, Azita! Thanks for your kind words.

    Thanks, Anh! I think I did it justice. It's really a fabulous recipe.

    Simona - Thanks. It's one of my favorite photos, simple yet a lot going on in it. I'm not overly fond of hard-cooked whites, either, but that is for another post. ; )

    Thanks, Malli. Yes you can. I'd love to have a gang over for brunch, but in meantime, this dish will take you about ten minutes in the kitchen. : }

    Hi, A. - Thank you. Hope you are well.

    Welcome, Gloria! Thanks so much.

    Cynthia - Thanks, dear girl.

    Lisa - Ta, sweets. Breakfast at 3 is not unheard of. ; )

    Hi, Vanessa! I think egg "issues" are fairly common. Thanks so much for the kudos.

    Gulmohar - Thanks. The mint flakes really are as important as every other flavor ingredient in this. Poached eggs are easy to prepare; do write me if you'd like additional tips.

    Cate - So good to see you. It's been a while. Thanks so much!

    Sure you can, Radhika. It's just boiling eggs in some water for a specific amount of time. I wish I had a second set of hands and good lighting in my kitchen; I'd like to shoot prep photos.

    Welcome, Sally! It started in childhood for me, too. I'm still waiting to mature about the whole thing. ; } Thanks for your kind words. I do hope you enjoy the recipe.

  20. I love soft boiled and poached eggs, love the runny yolks, and don't hesitate to eat the not-yet-set whites (I managed to pass the affinity to all of my girls:), but I understand your pecadillos:)
    We have a lot of Turkish influences in Serbian cooking, but I have not heard of this dish. I have to add it to the breakfast menu soon!