After returning home from a pretty bankrupting trip to Japan, it was difficult to fathom not going back. It felt like someone I loved had gone away forever. It was the kind of vacation experience you talk to people about in an overly emotional way while their eyes glaze over in boredom. No one ever understands, but that’s okay.
In an insane effort to retain my memories from Japan, I scurried around Miami shopping at every Asian and Japanese market I could find to purchase things that would make me feel like I was still there. I even bought Masu Boxes, which are traditional square sake cups that you’re supposed to pour sake into until they overflow as a symbol of good luck. It’s the Japanese equivalent of showing everyone how much of a baller you are.
They’re extremely awkward to drink from and for someone who constantly spills stuff all over their shirt, they’re probably the worst purchase I could possibly make. But it made me happy to remember.
The best thing I could do at this point was learn how to cook the food I had eaten in Japan. I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that I just started cooking about six months ago. Since food memories are some of the most vivid memories, I was determined to make this work.
And as such, Shoyu Ramen was the first Japanese meal I learned to make. Pretty aggressive goal, huh?
This post will be the first of several posts of a new series you’ll find on this blog called Anatomy of Ramen. Ramen is made out of a million parts, or at least that what it feels like when you find yourself in the kitchen simmering chicken bones in a pot, boiling your noodles, blanching spinach and slicing bamboo shoots all at the same damn time. But each part is equally important into creating a memorable meal that leaves you sweaty, exhausted and totally fulfilled.
Today, we’ll start off with my favorite part of ramen: Shoyu Tamago, or Soy Sauce Egg.
This egg is typically found sitting in a big bowl of steaming hot Japanese ramen, barely needing the poke of your chopstick to spew delicious, salty egg yolk all over your soup.
The soy sauce egg is not this mystic thing you can only get at a restaurant or made by some sort of Japanese Ramen God. They’re actually made with regular ol’ eggs found at the supermarket with regular ol’ ingredients you can get just about anywhere. They only require a couple of hours in a Soy Sauce Marinade that they’ll absorb to gain their magical powers.
And better yet – if you make yourself a big batch of soy sauce eggs, you can keep them all in your fridge for about a week. Making that the most awesome week ever.
This recipe is adapted from Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Ono, which has been my guiding light in learning how to cook my favorite recipes at a really low difficulty level. It’s a fantastic book to help you understand the essence of real Japanese home cooking — in fact, I don’t think there’s a single sushi recipe in there.
Shoyu Tamago (Soy Sauce Egg)
Makes about 2 ¾ cups of marinade and 4 eggs.
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup soy sauce
- ½ cup sake (I like to keep a huge jug of cheap sake for these situations)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 scallions (about 2 ounces), trimmed and coarsely chopped
- 1 ounce ginger, skin on, crushed
Add all of the ingredients (minus the eggs) into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
Remove from the heat and let the marinade come to room temperature. Smell that, isn’t that deliciously potent?
Fill another saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat a little once it starts boiling.
Here’s a fun trick I didn’t know until I followed this recipe. Use a pushpin to gently open a small hole on the bottom of each egg (the rounded side is the bottom, not the pointy side). This helps loosen the egg white from the shell during cooking, making it easier to peel.
Gently (seriously, watch it, buddy) place the eggs in the boiling water.
Set a timer for 6 minutes. These will be the most important 6 minutes of your life, so pay attention.
During the first 2 minutes, you have a critical job. Grab a chopstick or a spoon and spin the eggs around in the saucepan for the entirety of 2 minutes. The centrifugal force will make the yolks set in the center of the egg, making it the prettiest egg in the entire planet.
During minutes 3 to 6, stare lovingly at your boiling eggs.
Once your timer beeps, pour out the boiling water and run cool water to cool the eggs.
When they’re cool (no cheating, your fingers will hate you), peel them.
Pour your marinade into a bowl along with your peeled eggs. Marinate them in your fridge for up to 12 hours. The longer they marinate, the more pronounced the soy sauce flavors. I’ve left them marinating in the fridge for 24 hours and no one died, so go nuts.
When you’re ready, slice the eggs longwise. Wow. Just, wow.