Onsen Eggs of Phang-Nga
The hot spring trails of Phang-Nga in the south of Thailand provide perfect setting of a real, immersive relaxation. But this mountain-hemmed location also explains the myth of the onsen eggs.
There’s a sensation of late, about onsen eggs – the ones that are cooked in the hot springs (of Japan, among other places, hence the name). The ones with perfectly custardy yolks, and still melting and runny whites. Something you can really not achieve should you stick to the normal kinds of egg cooked on a regular stove. Until, that is, you got yourself a revelation. At a mountain-trimmed hot spring, no less.
Our recent trip to Plai Poo Hot Spring of Kapong District in Phang-Nga got me noticing how eggs, when cooked in slow and low temperatures of hot springs, can result in that perfect consistency unlike others. The discovery began, simply, with a casual conversation with a stranger.
Whoever heading to Plai Poo Hot Spring, you will be greeted with rugged terrains of Phang-Nga. Tropical forests here are dense and wild, the way you would imagining a tropical forest to be. Although there are quite a number of constructions along the way, this part of town is still preserved, mostly and thankfully by its remoteness and, well, nothingness. But this is exactly how I love it. Pure, untainted, au naturel, green, lush. Precious.
It is mandatory, when you come to such a place, to support as much you can local businesses. Just off the parking lot is a small number of stalls selling foods and fresh eggs for the onsen purpose. The most prominent in terms of availability is the one of Go Tin or Brother Tin; ‘Go’ is ‘Bro’ in southern dialect. He is selling not one, not two, not three, but four types of eggs! Local free-range, regular, duck eggs, and quail eggs. Soy sauce, available in tiny portable bottles, costs bit extra. A mandatory option should you wish you enjoy your onsen eggs cooked right here at this paradise.
Paths to the hot springs are still dirt, shored up by grassy trails. Steps are made of connected pieces of wood that can be slippery when wet. It is not a long walk, and as soon as you pass the first curve, you will hear people chatting from afar. Those assembles, large or small, are all lounging along the trail of hot springs. Above them, rain clouds are hanging low, ready to pour at any second. But obviously, these folks came well-prepared. Plai Poo Hot Spring’s main stream is the mixture of hot spring and regular stream, creating a perfectly, humanly-comforting warm water to soak into the natural minerals.
Not too far of the main stream are a few aquamarine ponds of pure hot springs. These ponds, with vapour rising above, can be as warm as 75 or more degrees Celsius. This is where you put your eggs into, and wait. In general, the whole thing should take about 12-15 minutes. But if you want to be precise and meticulous, for the perfectly custardy yolk that is, here are some tips from the pro.
“If you want the eggs to be extra soft, I’d say poaching them no longer than 13 minutes,” says Go Tin, the egg-stall owner, who lives on the premises days in and out. “All except for the regular eggs, which should take about 15 minutes to reach that coveted consistency.”
And the myth that onsen eggs are cooked from the inside out is real. I got tipped off by a small conversation with a local who came my way to pick up her eggs. Looking at me, she couldn’t help sharing.
“This is a magical place,” she spoke my mind, her tee and shorts dripping from the dip. “It is said to cure a lot of physical problems, be it joints and muscle aches. But you need to be aware though, people with metals in their body, for example, they could get into trouble in these waters. The heat slowly happens from within. Look at these eggs, they are cooked from the inside out.”
She then peeled me her eggs. To my amazement, they are actually, truly, cooked from the inside out. The yolks are custardy, thick, and just right at a perfect ooze. The whites are softly set, with a little bit of the runny part.
So, I was on a search, and it seems that the best explanation for this situation comes from this a Japanese blogger (justonecookbook.com) who explained that the reason to be is that egg yolk and egg white solidifies at different temperature. Egg yolks solidify at 70 degrees Celsius, whites at 80 degrees Celsius. By cooking the eggs in a 75 degrees Celsius water, the yolk solidifies first, hence explaining the myth.