Menemen is a Turkish breakfast dish made with tomato, eggs, and peppers. Its name derives from the central Turkish district in which it is believed to have originated, but its popularity is ubiquitous throughout the country. Menemen is often likened to either an omelet or a scrambled egg dish, depending on how it is prepared. Cooks can either scramble the eggs before adding them to the peppers and tomatoes, or add them whole, then wait for them to set. Both versions are considered traditional.
The key menemen ingredients are few: hot peppers, onions, fresh tomato, and egg are essentially it, plus oil and spices to taste. Most menemen is made in cast iron or tin-lined copper skillets. The onion and peppers sauté first, then the tomatoes are added to thicken things up. Eggs, usually between four and six, are added last.
For a scrambled egg menemen, cooks blend the eggs before adding them to the skillet, then quickly stir them in, being careful to coat all other ingredients. In an omelet-style menemen, the eggs are cracked directly into the skillet and are allowed to set briefly before serving. The eggs should be slightly underdone and soft in either iteration.
Menemen is usually prepared family-style: that is, one dish for an entire group of people to share. In most homes and restaurants, the pan is taken directly from the stove to the table, where it is placed in the center. It is traditionally served with flat bread and often also a yogurt sauce, depending on how spicy the peppers are. Dairy products like yogurt tend to counteract some of the heat from spicy foods.
Cooks often personalize this Turkish dish by adding other ingredients. Spicy Turkish sausage, known as sucuk, is a popular addition, as is flat leaf parsley, green onion, mint, and feta cheese. Herbed or flavored flatbreads also make unique accompaniments.
Menemen has long been one of the most cherished breakfast foods in Turkish cuisine, but it is popular at many times of the day. Many families prepare the eggs as a simple summertime dinner, and it is a perennial late-night favorite for young people in Istanbul. It is widely considered a comfort food, particularly among expatriates.
Turks living abroad have introduced menemen to a host of other cultures, often seeking to recreate the dish’s flavor using local ingredients. Many Western European versions use canned tomatoes in place of fresh, for instance. It is also common to substitute the traditional slender hot peppers for the more readily available bell peppers.