April 10, 2012

Half Boiled Shoyu Tamago

Until a couple of years ago, I didn't know that ramen could be anything more than a package of dry, curly noodles microwaved in a bowl with hot, salty water.  Then our friends Grant and Eric from Portland took me and Amanda to an amazing Japanese restaurant called Biwa where we had a life-changing ramen experience.  The broth was so deep and rich, the noodles so tender, the pork belly so thin and perfectly crisped.  It was during that dinner at Biwa that I learned for the first time that ramen was so much more than those dry, salty noodles.

All of a sudden, I started noticing ramen everywhere.  The former Namu in San Francisco only made six bowls of it each night because it was so labor intensive.  On a business trip to Tokyo, my clients made sure to take me to their favorite ramen joint in Shibuya.  And then, of course, there's the movie Tampopo, a Japanese foodie western (yup) all about ramen and the love of food.

After watching Tampopo with our friends Stephanie and Mike a few weeks ago, Stephanie decided that it was time to try to make ramen -- the real deal ramen, the ramen that involves scrubbing pig bones until they're ivory white, the ramen that has you prepare a broth over a period of 12 hours at just below a boil, the ramen that is essentially its own type of cuisine within a cuisine.

Fortunately, Stephanie was nice enough to invite Amanda and I over to sample the results of over 24 hours of culinary labor.  Our contribution? The soy sauce-marinated soft boiled egg that gets dropped into the steamy broth just before serving.  It's called Shoyu Tamago: shoyu meaning soy sauce, and tamago meaning egg.  It's a soft but solid white that has taken on the flavors of a sweet and salty marinade, and a rich creamy yolk that you'd find in a perfectly poached egg, all in one delicious package.  While they're excellent in ramen, I can imagine many more great uses.

Half Boiled Shoyu Tamago (makes six eggs)
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- Ice water

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and prepare a separate bowl filled with ice water. Lower the eggs gently into the boiling water, making sure they don't crack. Boil the eggs for 6 minutes and then transfer them to the ice water. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the marinade by mixing the rest of the ingredients together.  Transfer the marinade to a storage container, and then take the eggs out of the ice water and peel off the shells. Place the peeled eggs in the marinade and cover with a paper towel to assure that all parts of the eggs are covered in marinade. Alternatively, you could put the eggs and the marinade together in a large plastic bag.  

Place the container or bag into the fridge, and let it sit for at least 3 hours, up to 8. When you're ready to use the eggs, remove them from the marinade, slice in half (paying careful attention not to spill the soft yolk), and then add to a dish of your choice. Ramen would be a great choice.

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