The perfect Singapore style softboiled eggs

I remember a few years ago, going to the venerable Alain Ducasse in Paris, sitting amidst all the flounces and gilt Louis XVI furniture in tremulous anticipation, and then being presented with an amuse bouche of a wobbly softboiled egg topped with a tiny mound of shaved truffles.

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I took one bite, clutched the Irishman’s arm and squeaked “Jesus, I can’t believe we’re dropping 2 grand to eat kopitiam food!”. For every self-respecting Singaporean would be familiar with that humble homestyle breakfast of 50-cent softboiled eggs, available at kopitiams (coffee stalls) around the island. I would later taste the same dish in Joel Robuchon’s Atelier.

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Wobbly eggs have been something of a culinary trend in recent years and I’ve seen them in numerous incarnations, hailed as “the 65 degree C egg” in The Splendid Table’s cookbook which requires the eggs to be baked for hours in a precisely 65 degree C oven, “The 6-minute egg” by the Voltaggio brothers, and of course the French call their version Eggs en Cocotte and bake theirs with cream or gruyere.

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But having sampled all of the above, I still yearn for Singapore style softboiled eggs. Quivering gently, as Nigella says “like the inner thigh of a 17th century courtesan”, with just a trail of soy sauce dribbled over the top and a sprinkle of white pepper powder.

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It is perfection in its simplicity but devilishly hard to execute. After countless experiments which resulted in a mess of curdled eggs, half-cooked trailing transparent whites and many stomachaches, I can finally announce my formula. It is as follows:

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Softboiled eggs – my style

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1) Take 2 eggs out of the fridge and either bring them to room temperature by leaving them out on the counter, or by warming them gently under the hot water tap. If they are cold, they will crack when introduced to the boiling water.

2) Boil water on the stove in a pot large enough for the 2 eggs. But not too large that heat would dissipate too quickly. When the water comes to a rolling boil, turn off the flame and leave the pot on the stove.

3) Using a pair of mini-tongs or a large spoon, carefully lower each egg into the water.

4) Small streams of bubbles should now start to emerge from each egg, along with a tiny “eeeee!” sound. Boil some more water in a kettle. You will need it later.

5) After about 8 minutes, the stream of bubbles will slow down and stop. When this happens, tip the water out of the pan and refill it with boiling hot water from the kettle.

6) The eggs should produce micro bubble streams again. Wait another 5 minutes for the eggs to stop making bubbles.

7) Take the eggs out gingerly, run them under the cold water tap and crack them into a bowl. If you are extra cautious or if the eggs are too runny, you could bung the bowl into the microwave for another 10-15 seconds.

8) Devour the eggs with soy sauce and white pepper! Other options include truffles, butter, with asparagus or smoked trout.

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Enjoy!

x,
C

7 thoughts on “The perfect Singapore style softboiled eggs

  1. It’s true – Singapore’s soft-boiled eggs are ridiculously delicious and cheap. One time in college, I decided to make the eggs in the dorm, and I kept messing up the eggs because I didn’t realize I need to bring the eggs to room temperature before I cooked them. It felt like such a waste to just throw out the imperfectly cooked ones, so I ate them all the same. Before I knew it, I had devoured all 12 overcooked eggs, ugh.

    I make some passably good soft-boiled egg at home now. I don’t think I leave them in for 13 minutes though. I think I just do like 4.5 minutes. Perhaps my eggs here are smaller.

    • jit, it’s only 4.5 min if the water is on the stove and boiling. The 13 mins is for when u pour boiling hot water over them and leave them off the heat (with a second top up of boiling water halfway).
      ma – the best way to prepare eggs for lots of people is by using the two hours in a 65 degree C oven method!

  2. I think my husband has just become your biggest fan. I look forward to soft-boiled eggs next week, yum!

  3. I just had a dinner party in late Nov where one of the items was soft-boiled egg with steamed asparagus and a dash of truffle oil; can’t afford the truffles.

    So, how hard can soft-boiled eggs be , I thought ? We made them and ate them for eons when the kids were young. So…dinner guests were ready for the course and the water was put to rolling boil and the 12 eggs at room temperature were dumped in and maid was told to watch the clock like a hawk for 4 mins ( double-checked many recipes to get the timing correct ).

    Well. …. those eggs came out looking perfectly fine when the first one was cracked open but horror of horrors , when they reached the dinner table , they were all hard-boiled!!!!!

    Did not know where to hide my face . Sigh….

    Preparing perfect soft-boiled eggs for 10 guests is damn bloody hard !

  4. Would it work to remove the eggs, reboil the water and put them in again after the water has boiled (instead of having boiling water standing by i.e.) – am trying it now… will let you know how it goes. Just discovered the amazingly delish butter kaya toast + soft boiled egg breakfast close to work and now waking up to an early morning start is so much easier!!

  5. They over-boiled… 😦 my fault – I covered them in the first round. Guess will try again tomorrow!

    • Probably easier just to top up using the water from the kettle which is easy to have standing by….!

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