Do you live in fear of salmonella, or otherwise fear eggs that have not been 100% cooked through? Do you scramble your eggs until they almost have some bounce to them? If so, you may find the following ramblings disturbing. However, if you crave the richness of a soft-boiled egg and just generally relish the runniness, you have come to the right place, because it is here that we discuss eggs which are coddled (or was it “become coagulated”?) by the pampering waters of a natural hot spring, or some practical substitution of sorts.
Onsen tamago (the “onsen” means hot spring, and the “tamago” means egg) are eggs that, strictly speaking, have been slow cooked in the near boiling waters of a natural hot spring. The mineral water imparts a subtle but unique flavor profile, and the soft boiled nature also allows the yolk’s rich flavor to shine. In practice, most “onsen tamago” are not really made at hot springs. Instead they are simply steamed or boiled, and can essentially be thought of as soft boiled eggs that come out like poached eggs.
Onsen tamago have more uses than you can shake a feather at when it comes to Japanese food. Once you pierce the skin, a golden river of yolk gushes forth, spreading deliciousness to whatever food awaits beneath. Particularly well poised for this metamorphosis is gyuu-don (beef bowl). The egg and beef & onion mix most supremely with the rice beneath. The Japanese noodle dishes of soba and udon also take quite kindly to the onsen tamago, as does even a dish of curry rice. (Curry, at least a variant of is, has essentially become Japanese food at this point.) Being that onsen tamago are indeed eggs, they work well at breakfast too, especially when added to a natto (fermented soy bean) topped bowl of rice. With the incredible, non-patent infringing egg, anything is possible.