I’m going to teach you how to boil an egg. No offense, but you probably aren’t doing it right. I didn’t do it right for, oh I don’t know, my entire life. My mom taught me the best way to boil eggs was to put them in a sauce pot filled with cold water, heat the water to boiling, cut off the heat and let them hang out for 15 minutes-ish (who cares, you can’t screw up a boiled egg right? wrong). Remove from hot water, stick ’em in the fridge and allow to cool before peeling. No soft simmer, no ice bath, and obviously no delicious marinade.
Naturally, I hated boiled eggs. That green ring? That sulfur smell? That rubbery white and dry yolk? No thank you, not interested, it stinks and it doesn’t taste good, what’s the point? And so, I went through life boiled egg-less until a couple of years ago.
No one ever told me about a soft boiled egg. No one told me that the yolk could be a soft custardy consistency. No one told me that the egg whites could be the perfect texture and bear no resemblance to rubber. And certainly, no one told me that I could marinate them and give them the most amazing, rich, umami flavor. I had to figure it out myself, after experiencing ajitsuke tamago in my ramen.
Thank God for the ramen trend, were it not for ramen’s increasing availability I might have continued through life boiled egg-less. Perhaps I would have scraped enough money together for a Japanese vacation, and perhaps I would have discovered them there, but who knows when that would have been, or if it would have happened at all. Thankfully ramen pierced the hearts of America’s food trendsetters and allowed me, in quiet Sarasota, FL to have access to what I consider the pièce de résistance of any good ramen.
Making ajitsuke tamago isn’t as “easy as boiling an egg” (har har). But in all seriousness, it does take some careful monitoring, but only for 6 minutes. There are a couple of essential steps that ensure an excellent boiled egg experience. The first is the temperature of the water, a rolling boil is a bit too hot for the tender egg white and can turn your boiled egg into a rubber shoe sole quickly, instead keep the water at a low (very low) simmer. The second essential component is the time to cook the eggs, six minutes. Six minutes will give you a creamy but not runny yolk and a perfect white. Don’t walk away, don’t start a new task, just set your timer, stand over your pot of eggs and wait 6 minutes. The final vital step is the length of time you marinate your eggs for. The marinade is full of salt and that salt will pull moisture out of your egg and alter the texture you’ve already worked so hard to achieve. Marinate between 4 and 12 hours and not a minute more. You’ll achieve maximum flavor while preserving perfect texture. I’ll go into more detail below, but I want to reiterate the special attention you must pay to your eggs.
You do not need to wait until ramen night to enjoy your ajitsuke tamago. I use them in a variety of applications, from a quick morning breakfast enjoyed on their own, to substituting them in potato salad to adding them to congee when I or my husband aren’t feeling well. These eggs have fully replaced a regular boiled egg and perhaps they will do the same for you.
- 6 Eggs
- 1/2 c Water
- 1 c Cooking Sake
- 1/2 c Mirin
- 1/2 c Soy Sauce
- 1/2 c Sugar
- Heat a medium sauce pot full of water to a low simmer. Adjust heat to maintain the temperature at that low simmer. While waiting for it to heat make an ice bath (very cold ice water) in a mixing bowl
- Add eggs and set your timer for 6 minutes.
- After 6 minutes remove the eggs and transfer to the ice bath
- While the eggs are cooling combine 1/2 c water, sake, mirin, soy and sugar in a bowl and stir until sugar dissolves.
- Peel your now cold boiled eggs and transfer to a refrigerator container that just fits all 6 eggs in one layer. Add marinade until it covers the eggs.
- But LJ, the eggs are floating, and not fully covered!! That’s ok, we’ve got a trick for that. Take a sheet of paper towel and fold it to fit in your refrigerator container. Place over top of the eggs and allow it become fully soaked with the marinade. Now the tops of your eggs are covered with marinade and will come out evenly coated.
- Marinate for 4-12 hours. Remove from the marinade and keep in the fridge, covered, for up to 4 days.
I’ve had some readers reach out to me in regards to the Japanese, Korean and Thai ingredients that have appeared in some of my recipes. Some items can be found at your local grocery store in the Asian section, while others require a little searching. The good news is, you probably don’t have to search far. Most cities have an Asian market that offers a sampling of ingredients from several Asian cultures. For this specific recipe I source the mirin and cooking sake from the local Asian market. If you are able to find these ingredients at your regular grocery store, by all means pick them up, but a pro tip from me: Asian markets are often far more affordable and because they are family owned the money you spend there is directly benefiting your local economy.