For such a simple and inexpensive food, Spain’s huevos rotos can be surprisingly versatile, with varying methods used to perfect the dish. Though its exact origins are uncertain, it’s a meal that has evolved throughout centuries to become a favorite on menus in restaurants across Madrid. Here’s Culture Trip’s guide to this delectable dish.
Huevos rotos – also known as huevos estrellados – is a popular dish in Madrid, literally translating to “broken eggs.” The dish consists of a few lightly fried eggs delicately placed over fried potatoes. The dish often comes accompanied with bits of chorizo, slices of Iberian ham, seafood, or other types of meat or fish. The plate is served hot, and those consuming it are tasked with cutting up the eggs so the soft yolk spills out over the potatoes, which soak up the yolk and make for a savory, salty meal.
The dish, while common in Madrid, may actually originate from the Canary Islands. Its origins aren’t entirely known, but huevos rotos date back to at least the early 1800s, where it was noted by American writer Richard Ford after spending time in Spain that this particular dish was often eaten in low-income families. This is most likely due to the fact that potatoes were – and still are – an inexpensive but filling food to eat. The fact that the dish can be accompanied by virtually any meat or seafood also allows a family to dig through the pantry or refrigerator to use up whatever meat or fish they have to hand and add it to the eggs.
Actually, fried eggs themselves date back much further, most likely to India or Egypt as long ago as 1000BC. Of course, the Spanish themselves take credit for serving eggs over fried potatoes, though if the dish did actually originate in the Canary Islands, it’s quite possible the plate could have Latin American or Caribbean roots too.
When cooking this dish, it’s important that the eggs are fried in olive oil and not butter. Lucio Blázquez, owner of Casa Lucio, famous for its huevos rotos – the restaurant has attracted people like Bill Clinton, Julio Iglesias and Jane Fonda – explained to Spanish newspaper El País that, while cooking this simple dish isn’t complicated, “only the best quality olive oil and potatoes should be used.”
Although huevos rotos can be found at pretty much any Spanish restaurant in Madrid, Casa Lucio is known have some of the best in the city. So sample them there and everywhere if you can, and find your favorite style of this delectable Spanish dish.