Last week I went to Momofuku with my friend, Alice, for ramen at long last. I have been putting this visit off since it opened because it seemed like it was nearly impossible to get a seat at lunch but we happened to be working at the Shangri La Hotel all day so I couldn't not go. More or less living up to the hype, the soup was pretty damned fabulous but the thing I couldn't stop thinking about afterwards was the poached egg they add to it. We get a soft cooked egg in our ramen all the time but it just comes to the table with the egg already in there and I have always just assumed that they poach them the same way I poach them. I bring a pot of water to a simmer, stir the middle to make a vortex - DAMN YOU WINTER VORTEX- and gently slide in an egg that I have cracked into a small bowl. I simmer that for about 3 minutes and gently remove with a slotted spoon and then drain on another paper towel lined slotted spoon. It's not brain surgery but it requires your full attention, it's a bit fussy and you use a couple of slotted spoons and it takes up a burner on the stove. It can be a pain to do this for a noodle soup bowl because every part of the bowl is done so last minute that I don't really want one more pot on the stove. I generally just don't serve our soup with a poached egg at home and reserve the whole egg thing for eating out.
Because it was pretty crowded we had to sit at the bar at Momofuku and watch the sous chef dudes put together all of the orders. Thankfully, I love being able to watch the kitchen work their magic and both of us were enjoying our front row seats to the show when we saw him take an egg in the shell out of a large pan full of eggs, tap the side with a spoon and break it into a bowl. Expecting a raw egg, imagine our shock and awe when a perfectly poached egg slid out instead! What was this food trickery? We talked about it all afternoon because we are losers and clearly easily thrilled.
I googled it as soon as I arrived home and discovered that not only is this "a thing", the technique has a name and that name is onsen tomago (onsen = hot spring and tomago = egg). In Japan, these eggs are traditionally cooked by submerging them, in their shell, into a natural hot spring or "onsen" which maintain a temperature of about 158F. After a cooking time of 30 to 40 minutes, you are left with an egg that has a really special texture that is much smoother and silkier than a traditional poached egg. It is usually eaten in a bowl or on rice with a bit of light soy sauce and perhaps some scallion. Another nice thing about this method is that it produces a much more spherically shaped egg without all the little stragglers that you can get when you poach. And you cook it right in it's shell which is neat and tidy and easier to store for serving later on.
So, I found out that the method found in the Momofuko cookbook requires a pot of water on the stove with a rack inside so that the eggs do not touch the bottom and you must maintain a temperature of 145F for 45 minutes. If I had a gas stove I would totally try this but my electric burners are not consistent and this would require constant attention for the whole time. He tells you to keep monitoring the temp and when it goes up a few degrees to drop a couple of ice cubes in. You can find a really good description of this method on I am a food blog but me being me, I wanted to make it even easier. If you don't have a crock pot, you can totally do it the Momofuku way with a pot on the stove, a clip on thermometer and a rack in the pot but it's fun to experiment too.
So, short of buying myself a sous vide machine, how was I going to do this without having to stand by the stove for 45 minutes, checking the temperature constantly. I did some research and found some other claims that sounded almost too good to be true but I bought a dozen eggs and got down to it.
This guy swore that this method using nothing but a kettle and good quality thermos worked perfectly. WooHoo! Right? Right?
Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Put a room temperature egg in the bottom of your thermos, cover with the just boiled water, cover the thermos and wait 15 minutes. The bad news is that I was left with a perfectly cooked hard boiled egg. The good news is that I was left with a perfectly cooked hard boiled egg and have inadvertently found my new favourite way to make eggs for egg salad. Clearly the just boiled water was way too hot and my thermos is too fabulous and held that temperature too well.
|failed attempt #1 resulted in my breakfast. Waste not, want not.|
This time I grabbed an egg straight from the fridge and put it into the thermos, covered it with boiling water and left it for 6 minutes. It was much closer but It didn't work either. As you can see, the white was too cooked for a poached egg already so a longer cooking time would just produce another degree of a boiled egg that didn't look like it was going to just slide out of the shell so it was time to walk away from this method but at least I have a new, no brainer way to make hard boiled eggs.
Thinking that the water must be cooler after the first egg cooked, I took an egg from fridge and put it in the same thermos with the still super hot water from egg #2 right away and left it for 6 minutes. This was actually getting somewhere and I might still go back and do a variation on this one but I was getting frustrated and took a break. Maybe if I put boiling water in the thermos, let it sit for 6 or 7 minutes, add an egg and then leave it for 10 minutes it might work. It seems that the problem with this whole thermos method is the shock of the boiling water which cooks the outside of the white too much, too quickly so letting the water sit for a bit to cool off slightly makes more sense. If anyone tries this before I do, let me know how it works out.
More reading brought me to another guy who had the bright idea that your hottest tap water in a thermos would do the trick. I put the hottest tap water in the thermos and it was 136F. I left it for 45 minutes and the water had dropped to 125F by then which left me with a raw egg. FAIL
I gave up for the day.
I filled my crock pot with hot water, turned it on to warm and left it for an hour. After the hour the water was 165F so I turned it off and let it sit for another hour with the lid on. After the hour, the temperature had come down to 144F. I put an egg into the crockpot, turned it back on warm and put the lid on. I checked the temperature after ten minutes and then temperature was about 145. I checked again in five minutes and it had gone up to 150F so I turned it off again and closed the lid. In another five minutes it was only down to 149 and then five minutes after that it was 148F. When my time went off at the 45 minute mark, the water was back to 145 and i took out the egg.
I held my breath and broke the egg into a bowl and got this perfect little onsen tomago!!
|sorry for the bad picture of it but I was so excited I lost my mind a bit. It takes so little|
In honour of this perfect little onsen tomago, I built a lovely soup around it. Of course, you can just poach an egg for the soup the way you usually do it but I am pretty happy with this method. Of course, it will all depend on your slow cooker but once you get the hang of it, it will work every time with your crock pot and you won't have to hover over it the entire 45 minutes. After some original messing around with your own crock pot, you will develop a method that won't require so much work down the road. If you are lucky enough to have a crockpot that only gets the water up to 145 or 150F, it will be a no brainer and you will be a lucky duck.
I now know that with my slow cooker it goes like this:
fill the crock pot with hottest tap water
turn on warm, cover and let sit for one hour
add eggs from fridge
cover and set timer for 15 minutes
after 15 minutes, turn the crockpot back off and set timer for the final 30 minutes
remove eggs and crack them into individual bowls.
Red Miso Udon with Onsen Tomagoserves 2
1 cup boiling water
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
4 cups water
4 tsp dashi granules
3 tsp wakame or dried seaweed
4 tbls red miso paste
400g fresh udon noodles
2 onsen tomago or 2 poached egg
8 slices of chinese bbq pork
2 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (the ones you just soaked)
1 bunch of baby bok choy, halved
1scallion, sliced thinly
*furikake garnish optional
cover the shiitake mushrooms with boiling water and set aside to soak for at least 20 minutes.
Get all of your soup garnish ingredients prepared and set each aside so that you can assemble the soup at the last minute right in the bowl. I get out a bunch of small bowls so that I can have my mise en place all lined up and I have a bit of an assembly line going.
Remove the shiitakes from the liquid and set aside, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid and discarding the dregs at the bottom of the bowl.
Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Add your shiitakes to the water because you will let them cook while you blanch the bok choy and the noodles.
Submerge both halves of your baby bok choy into the boiling water for one minute before you remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside, being careful to keep the mushrooms in the water. Keep the water boiling. Have your sliced scallion, egg and sliced pork handy as well.
In a smaller pot, bring your 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the dashi granules, the wakame and the 1/2 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and let simmer for a few minutes to make your dashi broth. Put the miso paste into a bowl and ladle in about 1/2 cup of the hot dashi broth and whisk or stir with a fork until the miso is dissolved. Take the pot of dashi off of the heat and add in this miso, give a good whisk and set aside with a lid on it. You don't want to let it boil again after you add the miso so keep it off the heat now.
Cook the udon noodles in the same pot that you boiled the bok choy by simmering for 3 minutes.
While the noodles are cooking, get your soup bowls out.
Fish out the shiitakes before you drain the noodles and set the mushrooms aside. Divide the udon among the two bowls. Slice your mushrooms. Next, lay out your pork slices, then the mushrooms, carefully lay an egg on top of the noodles and then snuggle in your bok choy. Ladle the hot miso soup over the whole thing until it just covers the noodles. Sprinkle half a chopped scallion over each bowl and then a sprinkle of furikake, if you are using it.