Kitchen Tips

Onsen Tamago – Hot Spring Eggs

If you’ve ever wandered into a trendy/hipster brunch spot, chances are you’ve seen slow poached eggs. Slow cooking has come back into fashion in a big way, and even eggs haven’t escaped unscathed. But as much as Australia’s new wave of café owners and breakfast aficionados may try to pass these eggs off as a new trend, the truth is they’ve been around for generations.

Onsen tamago – literally “hot spring eggs” – have been gracing Japanese plates for hundreds of years. The traditional method uses rope nets to lower eggs into the onsen (about 70°C), where they are left to poach in their shells for 30–40 minutes. The result is a silky, translucent white and a custard-like yolk, all golden and viscous and delicious. It’s usually served in bonito dashi (a delicious broth) and is more of a snack or side dish than a breakfast food. But then again so are hash browns.

One of the fantastic elements of this dish is the texture contrast between the whites and the yolk. This is down to simple chemistry: egg yolks solidify at 70°C while the whites solidify at around 80°C. As the cooking temperature hovers around 70°C, the whites and yolk stay a little bit fluid, resulting in the most delightful mouth-feel.

Onsen Tamago

How to make onsen tamago

This recipe will get you perfect onsen tamago every time.

Ingredients

1L water (1L = about 4 cups)
200 ml tap water (200 ml = a little bit less than 1 cup, must be colder than room temp.)
4 large eggs (refrigerated)

Sauce

¼ cup dashi (use kombu dashi if vegetarian)
½ tbsp mirin
1½ tbsp soy sauce
3g katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes, skip if vegetarian)
1 spring onion (to garnish)

Instructions

  1. Add 1L water to a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cover and bring to boil.
  2. Once boiling, remove the pot from the heat. Take the eggs out of the refrigerator. Add 200 ml cold tap water and gently submerge the eggs in the hot water. Immediately cover and set the timer for 17 mins minimum.
  3. Combine the dashi, mirin, and soy sauce in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Add katsuobushi and turn off the heat. Let the katsuobushi sink to the bottom of the pan. After 30 secs or so, strain the liquid and set aside. You can keep the sauce in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
  4. Cut spring onion into thin slices.
  5. Once eggs have cooked for at least 17 mins, gently remove the eggs from the bath and rest for 5 mins.
  6. Crack the eggs and ladle sauce over. Garnish with spring onion and serve.

Onsen tamago can be eaten hot or cold, with the egg split or whole, and can be warmed up gently for 10 mins at 70°C if you prefer. It should be good for up to 2 days after cooking.

Onsen tamago is an ancient look at poached eggs, but one definitely worth trying. Next time you’re headed for brunch, why not give this a go instead!

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