ḴĀGINA (from Per. ḵāg, egg, and -ina, related to), a traditional Persian dish, dating back at least to the 15th century. John Platts defines the term as a contracted form of ḵāya+gina, meaning fried eggs; a kind of dish made of eggs, an omelet, pancake (s.v. ḵāgina). In fact, ḵāya (e) in the sense of an ‘egg’ appears in many early specimens of Persian prose and poetry (see Dehḵodā, s.v. ḵāya).
In Asrār-al-tawḥid (q.v.), composed in the second half of the 12th century, ḵāya-ye morḡ clearly denotes both an egg and the simple meal made of it (Moḥammad b. Monawwar, I, p. 383). In the satirical poetry of the 15th century parodist, Bosḥāq-e Aṭʿema (q.v.), the term ḵāgina appears at least in five places (pp. 19, 46, 82, 155, 241) with no indication of how it was prepared at the poet’s time. The “Fifteenth Plate of the Sixteenth Table” described in Mirzā ʿAli-Akbar Āšpaz-bāši’s Sofra-ye aṭʿema is ḵāgina, which, according to his recipe, is made by beating eggs with wheat flour and pouring the mixture onto preheated fat. Once it has set on one side, the mixture is turned over for the other side to set. Then širini (ground sugar or some syrup-like liquid) is added (pp. 55-56). The 19th-century dictionary, Farhang-e Neẓām, gives a similar description with the additional information that “occasionally sugar is added” (s.v. ḵāgina). In Maḵzan al-adwiya, we read that the Arabic ḵabiṣ al-bayż (literally, halva made with flour, honey, and fat, and sometimes with egg yolk) is the equivalent of Persian ḵāgina. It is very nutritious, hard to digest, stimulant of thick phlegm; and when mixed with certain medicinal substances such as cinnamon, it could increase sexual potency (ʿAqili, p. 2535).
Regarding the ingredients and manner of making ḵāgina in Iran, the recipes vary in different cookbooks; most of the recipes are very similar to those for making a plain omelet, with various parts of the country following their own respective local tradition. While according to certain recipes flour is regarded as an essential ingredient, others, such as Najaf Daryā-bandari’s Ketāb-e mostaṭāb, regard it as a matter of choice. However, he discourages the use of flour in order to avoid too thick a texture. Some cookbooks present more sophisticated varieties of ḵāgina, not only with ground sugar and baking powder, but also with crumbled walnuts and pistachios or coconut, a small amount of powdered ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Mirzā ʿAli-Akbar Khan Āšpaz-bāši, Sofra-ye aṭʿema, Tehran, 1974.
Mir Ḥosayn b. Hādi ʿAqili Ḵorāsāni, Maḵzan al-adwia, Tehran, 1954.
Jamāl-al-Din Bosḥāq-e Aṭʿema-ye Širāzi, Kolliyāt, ed. Manṣur Rastgār Fasāʾi, Tehran, 2003.
Sayyed Moḥammad-ʿAli Dāʿi-al-Eslām, Farhang-e Neẓām, 5 vols., Hyderabad, 1927-39.
ʿAli-Akbar Dehḵodā, Loḡat-nāma, 30 vols., Tehran, 1958-66.
Najaf Daryā-bandari, 2 vols., Ketāb-e mostaṭāb-e āšpazi az sir tā piyāz, Tehran, 2000.
Moḥammad b. Monawwar, Asrār al-tawḥid, 2 vols., ed. Moḥammad-Reżā Šafiʿi Kadkani, Tehran, 1997.
John T. Platts, A Dictionary of Urdū, Classical Hindī and English, 3rd ed., Oxford, 1968.
Originally Published: December 15, 2010
Last Updated: April 19, 2012
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Vol. XV, Fasc. 4, pp. 348-349