The Peterson Farm blog Joleen Oshiro wrote benefited many people, as she was kind enough to offer to get additional eggs for some of us to share, and I decided to make two things. A frittata was one, onsen eggs, or ajitsuke tamago, a.k.a. ni tamago, was the other.
Using old eggs is better for this method of making soft-boiled, "ramen-style" eggs at home. Habanero is a totally optional marinade ingredient.
Betty Shimabukuro gave me a tip about boiling half an inch of water, adding eggs, covering the pot and reducing the heat to medium, and removing the eggs to an ice bath after six minutes. I’ve tried other methods and cooking durations before, but she’s my boss now, so I thought it wise to try her method for this blog post.
These eggs are being soft-boiled in about half-an-inch of water. You do need to cover them. Once six minutes is up, remove them immediately to an ice bath.
The ice bath helps stop the cooking process ensuring a liquid-y yolk. Remove when they're cool enough to handle, then peel.
Clearly I’d forgotten that it’s exceedingly difficult to peel soft-boiled eggs that are super-fresh. It was. Of the six I soft-boiled, two did not survive the peeling process.
Super-fresh, these soft-boiled eggs didn't survive the peeling process.
Note the two older eggs at center, which I soft-boiled to make an even half-dozen. The air pocket in older eggs is larger, and the membrane comes away from the white more easily.
For the marinade recipe, I turned to J. Kenji López-Alt, managing editor at Serious Eats, author of James Beard Award-nominated column “The Food Lab,” former editor at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and restaurant-trained chef. He has actual culinary street-cred, whereas I’m just a home cook educated by newspaper food sections, people like López-Alt, Food Network, Bravo Top Chef, PBS, etc. His method for soft-boiling eggs calls for you to pierce the wide end of the eggshell with a thumb tack. The American Egg Board does not approve, saying the practice may introduce bacteria into the egg. His recipe and method can be found here: Ajitsuke Tamago - Lopez Alt
His recipe calls for water, sake, soy sauce, mirin, far more sugar than I wanted to use, and of course, eggs. I omitted sake, and decided to use ume vinegar because I love it and I still have some. I also thought I’d add some heat, so I bought a single Habanero pepper. It cost all of 20 cents.
I did all my marinade prep in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Poured in 1/2 c shoyu, and 3 Tablespoons of ume vinegar. Yum! I added the 1/2 cup of mirin, and tasted the mixture. I was instantly sorry I added the full amount of mirin because it was so sweet. There was no way I was going to add 1/2 c sugar. I put in a scant teaspoon, then filled water to the 2-cup line. I then cut open and seeded the Habanero and sliced half of it into thin slivers. I added the six slivers to the marinade, let it sit for 20 minutes, tasted it, and the heat level compelled me to immediately remove three slivers of the pepper.
Three slivers of Habanero pepper actually wound up not being enough to spice up the aji tamago.
After a subsequent stir and taste, I not only added back the three slivers I'd taken out, I added one more from the remaining half. The finished eggs had no discernible heat -- a bit of a disappointment.
López-Alt's method calls for putting the marinade and eggs into a container and covering the eggs with paper towel, which will absorb the marinade and make sure the eggs don't wind up with "bare spots." I didn't like the idea of any chemical flavor in the paper towels infusing the marinade, so I poured the marinade into a zip-top bag and gently lowered the eggs into it, squeezed out as much air as I could, and put the bag into a shallow bowl for refrigeration.
I gently turned the zip-top bag over once an hour for four hours, which helped with the consistency of the exterior color. They spent the rest of the night in the fridge.
This morning, eager to taste a shoyu-ey egg that was spicy and not overly sweet, I removed the beauties to a bowl. Note the two older eggs I soft-boiled, on the right, which were SO MUCH EASIER TO PEEL! (The Habanero sliver is pointing to them.)
The finished eggs. The four super-fresh eggs on the left seemed to absorb the marinade better than the two older eggs on the right.
I was paranoid that I'd overcook the yolks, so I pulled these out of the simmering water earlier than six minutes. The yolk is a little runnier than I wanted it to be. I've grown accustomed to my paranoia working against my best intentions.
The American Egg Board and health officials caution against eating undercooked eggs. The yolk is runnier than I'd have liked, but the egg was delicious! As I write this, a couple hours after eating the egg, I feel fine.
Notes for next time: Use old eggs. Use less mirin. Use all of the Habanero. Maybe use sake. Remember that Vino Chef Keith Endo made seven-minute eggs at his "Slurp" pop-up ramen shop, and they were perfect.