While the above might not be the prettiest picture I’ve ever taken — heck, it’s probably not even among the top 50 — I’m pretty darned excited about it. Or rather, what it’s showing. Obviously, it’s an egg. More specifically, it’s an egg whose white is set but whose yolk is soft, squishy and runny. It’s also subtly flavoured, having been steeped in a salty-sweet stock for several hours.
Ramen fans out there might recognize this kind of egg, which from the outside looks and feels like your average hard-boiled soy sauce or tea egg, but when bitten into yields a soft and deliciously oozy yolk. I can’t say just how much I love these eggs. I adore the texture and taste and can never get enough of them. Ever since I first had one, I’ve wondered how they’re made. Of course, no amount of asking at ramen stalls has ever worked. Either the chef hasn’t spoken enough English or quite simply hasn’t wanted to share the technique. Of course, some of the chefs could have just been pretending not to speak English in order to avoid turning me down directly.
Fortunately, I’m not the only one really into these eggs. Recently, a chef-buddy of mine (let’s call him “R”) prepared a roasted quail dish for a menu we were collaborating on. Plated with the quail were a couple of hard-boiled soy sauce quail’s eggs. Or so I thought. When I picked one up, he warned me to be careful and advised me to pop the whole thing in my mouth. When I did and bit down, I was rewarded with a marvelous mouthful of runny yolk. I was in eggophilic heaven. And since this buddy of mine (1) clearly speaks English and (2) was working with me, I knew he wouldn’t refuse me when I asked him how he managed to prepare these amazing little eggs.
Like me, after tasting the semi-soft, semi-hard boiled eggs served at various ramen shops, R became obsessed with trying to make them. Unlike me, as a trained chef, he actually knew what he was doing. He and another friend, also a chef, experimented with a few techniques and came up with one that worked. He admits that he has no idea if the method he’s come up with is the same as or even similar to the way that Japanese chefs make these eggs.
Whether it is the same technique or not, R’s method works. I tried it out using some chicken eggs, one of which is pictured in this post. To prepare these, your eggs should be cold, i.e. used directly from the refrigerator. Boil some water. Gently place the eggs in the boiling water, lowering the heat just a tad so that the water is bubbling but not so strong that the eggs are kicking around inside your pot. If you’re using quail eggs, boil for 3 minutes. If you’re using chicken eggs, boil them for 6-8 minutes depending on the size of the eggs. I used medium-sized eggs and boiled them for 7 minutes, which yielded a soft, squishy yolk. If you want a really runny yolk, go for 6. Prepare a malted vinegar ice bath (simply malted vinegar + lots of ice). Transfer the eggs directly from the boiling water into the ice bath. Make sure they’re completely covered. Leave them in the ice bath for between 3-4 hours. Take them out and carefully peel the shells off the eggs. Then place the eggs into whatever liquid you want to steep them in. If you want to make a typical soy sauce egg marinade for example, you can combine 1 cup light soy sauce, 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 10 ginger slices (bring to a boil and then cool). Leave the eggs in the liquid for at least 3-5 hours. You can store the eggs and the liquid in the fridge. But when eating, bring the eggs back to room temperature.