- The Dish: Jungle Eggs
- The Place: Mo’s Eggs
- The Chef: Mohammed Rahimeh
It’s not often a chef can say his signature dish originated in a refugee camp. Mohammed Rahimeh, founder and head chef of monthly brunch concept Mo’s Eggs, fled civil war-ravaged Syria in 2016 and, after traversing Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, the Balkans, and Austria, found temporary sanctuary in the Calais refugee camp: the Jungle.
Food Spark actually visited the Jungle after being tipped off that the troubled camp was a breeding ground for Middle Eastern fusion food, very simply prepared, with a number of chefs found among the 3,000-odd asylum seekers.
What we found was a ‘restaurant district’ of sorts, with Iraqi, Afghan and Syrian staples part of a smorgasbord of dishes prepared daily, and sold for pennies, for refugees and volunteers alike.
Among the ‘operators’ was Mohammed Rahimeh, who had had no actual chef training, with ‘jungle eggs’ a thoroughly popular dish throughout the camp.
These jungle eggs are essentially baked eggs with tomato, garlic and onion in a secret spicy sauce, with all produce at the time sourced from the Jungle's northern French surroundings.
Having pitched up in London after the closure of the Jungle at the end of 2016, Rahimeh started up Mo’s Eggs, London's first Syrian brunch popup, which showcases jungle eggs (as well as an expanded Syrian-inspired menu) with the sociability of traditional Syrian sharing mealtimes very much a hit with diners in the capital.
Rahimeh has recently been found in Spitalfields in east London and in Archway in north London (always with a sell-out crowd), with his Ain al-Fijah-style Syrian menu designed to be shared on large tables, either by friends or complete strangers.
The jungle eggs, which are placed in the middle of the table still in a pan and are enjoyed with khubz (a round leavened Middle Eastern flatbread), are joined on the menu by three versions of hummus (traditional chickpea, beetroot and avocado), Syrian salads, green and broad beans cooked in garlic and coriander and ‘asylum’ eggs.
These eggs are baked with fresh chillies, chopped tomato, parsley, lashings of melted cheddar and a slightly spicier mix of herbs and spices.
There’s lots of play here, aside from the particularly on-trend brunch popup concept, with the noticeable rise in popularity of eggs in the UK worth mentioning.
Recent data from Kantar reveals that retail sales of eggs were up 3-4% last year in what was a 13th year of consecutive growth (the equivalent of 220m more eggs purchased than in 2018), with the versatility and affordability of the humble foodstuff said to be partly behind the recent surge in sales.
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has suggested the rise in the number of people adopting flexitarian diets is also a big factor in the egg boom, while Waitrose have said that the brunch movement has had an impact on not only eggs, but also sourdough.
“With brunch becoming one of the most popular meals over the last couple of years and eggs being a staple item, we’ve seen sales of sourdough, the bread favoured for brunch by millennials, increase by 30% too.”
Flavours from the Levant, meanwhile, are very much on our radar at the moment, with a number of Middle Eastern spices (secret or otherwise) either now part of the mainstream consciousness or very much on the way, with today’s curious UK consumer allowing for greater exposure for regional Middle Eastern cuisines.
Over the past year or so, we’ve seen an increase of Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish dining operations in the UK, with the pairing of Syrian with brunch (considering recent Streetbees stats that say 49% of Brits are eating more brunch than a year ago) an interesting tangent for the Levantine eating out arena.
And everyone loves a good backstory.