Crispy Salt and Pepper French Toast
Savoury, crispy French toast. Salty, with a heavy hit of black pepper. This was one of my favorite Sunday breakfasts growing up, the smell of the toasts frying up a scent memory that still takes me back.
This fried bread I grew up eating, called khara pao (khara means “spicy”), is South Asia’s answer to French toast, typically served with a kicked-up tomato ketchup. My family was partial to black pepper, but I’ve seen turmeric, chili powder, cayenne and even cumin added. And South Asia’s not the only one that goes the savoury route. In other cultures, they do similar-style “eggy toasts” – Italy’s has mozzarella and tomato sauce, Russia’s is simple salt, egg and milk, and Hungary serves theirs with onions, tomatoes, ketchup and even mayonnaise…
This version is so ridiculously easy to make, and requires ingredients we all usually have on hand. I’m a savoury brunch person myself, and this is such a delicious alternative to sweet French toast. The crispy, salty, pepper-heavy toast dipped in a cool, spicy, slightly sweet, tomato-ey ketchup is a truly heavenly combination that will quickly move into your go-to, I-have-leftover-bread-and-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-it rotation. Breakfast or even as a mid-afternoon snack – enjoy!
Serves 4 to 6
3 tbsps half-and-half
1 tsp salt
2 tsps black pepper
1 ½ tbsps green onions, finely chopped (optional)
1 ½ tbsps cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
8 (½”) slices day-old bread*, cut on the diagonal
Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
In a bowl or baking dish, beat together eggs with half-and-half, salt, pepper, green onions, and cilantro.
Heat a medium or large skillet over medium-high heat. Cover the bottom of the skillet with vegetable oil and add a tablespoon or two of butter for taste.
Dip the bread triangles into the egg batter, drain off any excess, and place straight into the hot pan. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side – you want to develop a golden-brown color and the texture should be crispier than traditional French toast. Place cooked toasts on a paper towel-lined plate or rack to drain.
In a small bowl, mix together ketchup and hot sauce to your desired heat tolerance.
Serve toasts warm with a side of the spicy ketchup.
*I like to use a country or pullman loaf for this. You want it to stand up to the egg batter and not get mushy, so I always go for a day-old loaf.