Onsen Tamago, or poaching eggs in their shells

Onsen Tamago, or poaching eggs in their shells

Learn about onsen tamago, a Japanese egg poaching technique used in ramen and other dishes. Discover the history behind onsen tamago, how to replicate it at home, and some delicious serving ideas. Find out more at Japanese Food Report.

My God, it has been ten months since I last posted a recipe on the JFR! Well, I launched my restaurant in September and now it's back to cooking, finally. Nice to be back.

Recently a TV reporter visited Ganso and asked a typical reporter question: How many distinct ingredients do we use to make a bowl of ramen? We scratched our heads bit and came up with an estimate: Close to 30. Amazing. As I thought about our complex ramen, I realized we could deconstruct elements from it to use in other dishes. I want to talk more about this, so let's start with onsen tamago, or "onsen" egg.

Onsen tamago is a technique for poaching an egg inside its shell. While we add onsen tamago to certain styles of ramen here at Ganso, Japanese owe this cooking method not to noodles, but to the country's bountiful natural hot springs. Hot springs or "onsen," dot volcanic Japan from tip to tip (dipping into a steaming onsen one of the great pleasures of visiting Japan), and a custom for cooking eggs at these springs evolved over the years -- toss them into the hot water, wait a bit, and the egg magically poaches. The secret is the onsen's water temperature, which causes the egg's yolk and albumen congeal into a nice sphere on the outside, and beautifully creamy and tasty on the inside. It's a great way to cook eggs if you're a stone's throw (or make that, an egg's throw) from an onsen. But supposing you're not, how do you replicate this at home?

I asked Chef Rio and here is his easy technique: Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and add 4 eggs. Leave the eggs in the water for about 30 minutes. Remove the eggs, crack them open and -- viola! -- you'll have nicely poached onsen tamago. (For those of you who demand perfection, maintain the water temperature at exactly 145 degrees F (or 65 degrees C), which will yield an impeccably spherical poached egg.) So now you have a beautiful onsen tamago, what do you do with it?

Here are a few ideas: Eat with grated daikon and shoyu (Japanese soy sauce); make a indentation in a mound of steaming rice, lay an onsen tamago in it, drip in a few drops of shoyu, mix up and eat; place on top of a frisee salad; float with soba or udon in a hot broth; mix with natto (fermented soybeans) and shoyu; mix with yama imo (grated mountain yam) and shoyu; or rest atop a beautifully grilled ribeye and eat together -- the egg serving as a rich, creamy "sauce" for the steak.