Japanese ramen eggs. Nitamago. Ajitama, or Ajitsuke-tamago. These are the different names these Japanese-marinated, soft-boiled eggs go by. Runny, but not too runny, soft but not overly soft, these savoury, creamy eggs that come with your bowl of ramen in Japanese restaurants taste so good that you have to resist ordering another.
The perfect nitamago is a soft-boiled egg where a completely liquid yolk spills out when you cut the egg in half. However, they can be maddening to get right. Many, many eggs were sacrificed in this quest for easy-to-peel nitamago with squidgy yolks that are liquid in the centre.
Plus, unlike the Singapore-kopitiam soft-boiled eggs, the tamago requires a marinate of cooking sake, Japanese soy sauce and mirin (mirin is a sweet cooking rice wine that is used as a seasoning and glazing agent).
The most important tip for success is to “age” the eggs for at least six days before cooking as older eggs are easier to peel. Now, ramen eggs, here we come.
- 6 eggs, each weighing about 60g, at room temperature
- 150 ml water
- 150 ml sake
- 150 ml mirin
- 75 ml shoyu
- 1.2 litres of water
Pour the water, sake, mirin and shoyu into a small saucepan set over medium heat.
Tip: Buy the eggs six to seven days before you want to cook them.
Bring the marinade to a gentle boil, turn off the heat, take the pan off the stove and let cool completely.
Tip: Heating the marinade burns off some of the alcohol, allowing the shoyu flavour to come through.
Bring 1.2 litres of water to boil over medium high heat in a small pot. I used one that is about 16 cm in diameter. Set a timer for 6 minutes.
Using a thumbtack, make a small hole in the rounded, fatter end of the egg. The thumbtack should just break the shell. Do not drive it right into the egg.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, carefully place the eggs in the pot. I used silicone-tipped tongs but a slotted spoon will also work.
Start the timer when all the eggs are in and let them cook uncovered over medium high heat.
For eggs with a soft, fudgy yolk, cook for the full six minutes.
For eggs with yolks that are fudgy on the outside and liquid in the middle, cook for five minutes and 45 seconds.
For eggs that have more runny yolks and with whites that are just barely set on the inside, cook for five minutes and 30 seconds.
With three minutes remaining, make a ice bath for the eggs.
Turn off the heat and transfer the eggs to the ice bath. Let them sit for five minutes (until eggs are just slightly warm)—this stops the eggs from cooking further and makes them easier to peel.
Using the back of a teaspoon, gently crack the shells. Place each egg back in the ice bath after they are cracked. When they are all done, start peeling them, making sure you remove the membrane.
Pour the cooled marinade into a container that will hold the eggs snugly. Place the eggs in that marinade.
Fold a paper towel into quarters and submerge it in the marinade, making sure it is totally soaked in the liquid. The paper towel will stop the eggs from bobbing up.
Cover the container and marinate in the fridge for four to eight hours. The longer you soak, the tougher the whites become. Discard the marinade.
If not using immediately, store the eggs in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days. Warm the eggs in ramen broth before using, or in warm water if eating as a snack.
This post was first published on November 14, 2017, and updated on August 31, 2020.