Why You Should Marinate Your Eggs
Good for ramen, but also everything else.
Ramen is a perfect quick snack. It's filling, cheap, and usually delicious, especially if the package contains more than a simple flavor packet. But ramen in the United States is still a relatively simple and tasteless affair compared to the flavorful dish frequently enjoyed in Japan. To transform ramen into the flavorful meal it's meant to be, you need to step away from the microwave. You need a marinated egg. Technically, any ramen dish can be upgraded by simply poaching an egg in the broth while the noodles are cooking. Marinated eggs, though, can make your ramen bowl transcendent. Salty and savory and usually with a creamy center, they pack a flavor punch that will make people forget you used packaged ramen in the first place. And marinated eggs are relatively simple to make at home. With just a couple of teabags, some spices, eggs, and a lot of soy sauce, you can make both ramen eggs and traditional Chinese tea eggs, both of which go perfect on top of a bowl of noodles, or simply serve as a tasty quick bite. Once you learn how to make these delicious toppings, you can explore your own marinade combinations. You could even swap out the tea used for Chinese tea eggs for pickled beets to make these beautiful marbled eggs.
For both ramen eggs and Chinese tea eggs, start by boiling eggs to the doneness you would prefer. Soft boiled eggs generally take 6 to 8 minutes, though it may take a couple more minutes if you're doing more than four eggs at a time. While you're cooking your eggs, prepare an ice bath and steel yourself for peeling shell away from some very, very delicate whites. You'll want to plunge your eggs into the cold bath immediately, which should help the egg's membrane separate from the shell and speed the peeling process. If you, like me, are challenged when it comes to perfectly peeling soft boiled eggs, you might find it easier to peel the shell off under running water. If the whites break while peeling, however, don't worry about it too much. They'll still taste great at the end, even if they look a little messy.
A note: only half of your eggs need to be peeled. Those are the ones that will go in your ramen marinade. For the rest, gently tap them on the counter to break the shell around the egg, but don't remove it. Cracking the shell, but leaving it on, will allow the tea marinade to soak through and leave delightful marbled patterns. If you did fully peel your eggs, no worries. The marbling is mostly for visual effect; they can still be marinated when shell-less.
Now that the eggs are peeled or cracked, you can start making your marinades. First, put the eggs into two Tupperware containers. You can also use quart-sized Ziploc bags. For the ramen egg marinade, put three to six tablespoons of soy sauce into your container or bag, and then add twice as much water as you did soy sauce. If you'd like, add in a couple of tablespoons of vinegar; mirin, a sweet rice vinegar, is usually used here, but white or apple cider should work just as well, just use a little less, as their acidity is slightly more potent. You can also put in ginger, garlic, or any other aromatics that go well with ramen. Close up your marinating container and put the eggs in the fridge for at least four hours. If you've softboiled your eggs, they can marinate safely for up to four days; letting them marinate longer will allow for more flavor, and may allow the marinade to reach the yolk, which will turn darker and more savory as it soaks up the liquid.
For the tea eggs, make tea using whatever variety you have on hand. Black tea is usually preferred, but other teas could lend interesting flavors as well. While the tea is brewing, feel free to toss in some Chinese five spice, a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, ginger, or any combination thereof. Tea eggs are usually infused with a number of spices, so there's room to play around with flavor combinations.
After the tea is done brewing, remove the tea bags and pour the liquid into your second Tupperware container. Make sure, when pouring marinade over your eggs, that all of the eggs are completely covered. Ziploc bags can usually achieve this with slightly less liquid than a Tupperware container, but whichever marinating vessel you use, make sure the eggs are fully submerged. From there, tea eggs will also need at least four hours in the fridge; they can also be left to marinate safely for up to four days.
Once the eggs have been marinated to your liking, you'll either be left with a beautifully patterned, slightly brown egg, or with an egg that has fully been turned dark tan by the submersion process. Either way, the resulting burst of umami will definitely take your ramen bowl to the next level. Marinated eggs may not be the most usual topping in American ramen, but once you try it, you'll find yourself wanting to keep a few of these tasty, salty morsels in the fridge at all times.