These beautiful eggs are the result of serendipity.
A friend was coming to London and happened to want delicious noodles of some sort; since this ramen place was the only one in the desired location which had a decent vegetarian section, we went there. I wondered about the huge soup spoons, which occupied a place in scale and form between normal short spoons and those hideous water-dippers which seem to be standard in most (I truly hate to say this) Westernised ramen places.
But of course, what matters is the soup itself. I added a poached egg to my order, being that I’d already enjoyed delicious shoyu marinaded eggs elsewhere.*
I ate everything in that bowl and was happy, particularly with the egg.
It was not poached egg as you might know it, but onsen tamago. I’m sure you know what that is, I’d certainly heard about it but hadn’t been particularly moved to try it, being highly content with the charms of medium-boiled eggs (in Thai, betel-sap eggs, khai yang matum). Onsen tamago are eggs which have been gently poached in their own shells. Upon cooking, you crack open the egg and it slides out in one piece, the whites perfectly and softly set throughout, the yolk liquid gold. The whole thing quivers on the spoon.
They’re not hard to make, really–eggs pretty much always require precise timings, and this is no different. There are many very easy, detailed recipes to be found on various blogs and on cookpad. You need only eggs, a stove, and a pot of water. I thought I might possibly try it one day. Possibly. I am very lazy, you see.
But then Mandy posted a recipe for a baked version of these eggs, which she’s named sauna eggs. It is very hands-off. I did it, of course, and was delighted. Now, I must stress this method is not necessarily better for everyone: not every household has an oven, it uses up more energy, and not every oven is as good-natured as mine. You may be much more comfortable with your pot of water.
In which case, this post still has a point, for a quick recipe involving brown butter, gold-edged mushrooms, and a dash of mellow salty-sweet shoyu is my suggestion for topping your egg. I’ve had it with rice and with soldiers. Both are pretty perfect. I’ve included more suggestions and recipes at the very bottom of this post, after my recipes, as I’m sure to keep these babies in my fridge.
* For what it’s worth, my thoughts on London ramen: Ippudo is very good, if relatively pricey. Sasuke is also very decent (I’d like to try the mazemen), while my favourite homey bowl of ramen comes from Ramen Seto in Camden–a lovely clear gold chicken broth and goodly amount of springy noodles. As of the time of writing, if you go for lunch, a huge bowl of ramen and a drink is £8. Make yourself happy and top your order with an egg (fried in butter!) for an extra quid.
PERFECTLY BAKED SAUNA EGGS via Lady & Pups
Eggs can go from raw to overdone in the space of 2 minutes, so a timer is particularly important here. If you prefer a medium baked egg, bake for 55 minutes.
Store chilled and whole in the fridge for up to 3 days. Take as much care as you would storing raw eggs–I had a sad, wasteful accident on the day of writing…
4 – 8 eggs, size and temperature don’t matter too much. I used room temperature UK medium-sized eggs.
Preheat oven to 100 degrees Celsius (80 fan)/ 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a timer ready, plus a tub (or, if cooking a large batch, a sink) full of cold water.
Once the oven’s at heat, quickly put the eggs inside, setting each egg straight onto the oven rack at least 5 cm (2 inches) apart. Shut the door and turn the oven down to 80 degrees Celsius (60 fan)/ 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
Leave everything completely alone to cook for 53 – 54 minutes. Mandy suggests cracking an egg open to see if you want to cook them an extra minute.
When the time’s up, immediately take out the eggs (you should be able to handle them without gloves) and leave them in the cold water until they’re completely cool.
EGG + BROWN BUTTER SHOYU MUSHROOMS
I’m embarrassed to even call this a recipe, but here we are. Precise amounts go against the spirit of the thing: these were ingredients I meanly scratched out of the corners of my kitchen in order to test the recipe twice. The amount is small, but the flavours are bold and satisfying. This makes a light meal in the amounts given and can of course be accompanied with whatever you like (soup, pickles, something crunchily fried).
1 sauna egg
4 medium-sized button mushrooms, well cleaned and sliced (around 50g, or 1 cup sliced; I would have enjoyed a little more, so you should use however many mushrooms you feel constitutes a serving)
1 small clove garlic, squashed flat, peel left on (optional)
1 small spring onion, finely sliced, light green and white parts kept separate from the deeper green.
Large knob of butter (1 tablespoon or thereabouts)
At least 1 tsp shoyu, more to serve if desired
A couple of slices of bread or 1 serving rice, kept warm
If your sauna egg is chilled, put the uncracked egg into a mug full of hot water for at least 10 minutes. This should bring it up to room temperature while you prepare the rest of the meal.
Get a well-seasoned/non-stick frying or saute pan nice and hot. Add all the mushrooms, making sure they’re all in one layer, and leave them alone to brown, turning once or twice to ensure even cooking. Keep the heat around medium-high, adjusting if it smokes or scorches.
Crack the sauna egg into your serving bowl.
Once everything’s browned, add the garlic, white and light green spring onion parts, and the butter, stirring to coat the mushrooms. The butter should foam and smell nutty. Turn off the heat and add the shoyu, stirring well. Pour everything over your sauna egg and eat immediately.
MORE IDEAS FOR YOUR EGGS
- The traditional way, with a little seasoned dashi as part of Japanese breakfast
- With a dish of Japanese curry rice (Flory’s recipe is my favourite)
- Topping a bowl of potato puree with mushroom jus (OH MY GOD)
- Blanketed with burnt butter hollandaise sauce
- With simply dressed soba
- Added to winter squash soup
- As part of the many joyful things in a bowl of rice congee