A lactose-intolerant man tries Colombian changua

EC: Raw Egg in Milk: Is It Gross?
Credit: Photo and Video by alex Tepper

In the realm of potentially gross breakfast items—bugs! Embryos! Dog treats!—changua may seem like an outlier. It’s a Colombian dish, typical eaten in Bogotá and the Andes Mountains surrounding it, that consists of equal parts milk and water, heated to a bare simmer, into which you crack an egg. Add some scallions, cilantro, and stale or toasted bread, and that’s breakfast in a bowl.

But if you’re lactose-intolerant like me, changua is basically barf in a bowl. The thought of consuming milk, directly, is horrifying; the nearly raw egg—a treat I normally love—doesn’t make it any more appetizing. Luckily, I’m not averse to cilantro, but in this case it doesn’t really help.

It’s frustrating! Deep in my memories, I recall a love of milk. I drank it at dinner every night till I turned 18, and I particularly remember one summer in New York’s Union Square Greenmarket, when I bought and chugged an ice-cold pint of particularly good full-fat milk. Ahh… Now, though, that same treat would leave me miserable for hours.

And so I approach this changua with trepidation: Can I set aside my foreknowledge of its surely gross after-effects, and try to enjoy it as is? Or will the mere thought of lactose entering my body set off a chain reaction of convulsions? Is it gross—or is it me?