My Perfect Soft-Boiled Egg

Degree of difficulty:
VERY LOW.  Especially when the soft-boiled egg maker is put to use.

Will do again?
YES.  It’s a favourite lunchtime protein source.

At Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets at Flemington, you’ll find free-range eggs that cheap, fresh and direct from the farm.  Details below.

One of my earliest memories…

….is when I was about 5 years old.  We’d just moved into our new home at Jalan Chengkek, happily located right opposite my cousins’ house.  I was starting kindergarten.

It was early-ish in the morning.  I remember this because the air was still cool in the endless summer that is Singapore.

If you were wearing the same kindy uniform as I was, you’d feel every zephyr too.  I wore roomy bloomers, with a  dress was held together by a single press stud.  It was more surgical gown than school uniform, really.

It was Ah Soh’s first day with us.  Both my parents worked full-time, and Ah Soh (not her real name; it’s a respectful term) was our home help, and much more, until I turned 18.

I’ve realised with a start that I am now older than Ah Soh was when we first met.  Ah Soh told me countless stories, took me to the market via the playground, and filled the house with divine cooking smells and food.  And she never scolded my brother or me.

Ah Soh was the original reverse engineer.  Cantonese by heritage, she cooked all manner of Chinese and Malay dishes and desserts.  She was also adept at cooking Western food, thanks to having spent time with a British army family.  Ah Soh’s shortcrust steak pies and southern fried chicken were peerless.  She’s responsible for my lifelong preference for chunky chips over shoestrings.  Yep, we were well taken care of.

On that first morning, my guard was up.  With good reason too, as Ah Soh’s predecessor was a fierce woman who terrified even my big brother.

After my mum’s introductions, Ah Soh bent down, said hello, took my hand and led me into the kitchen for breakfast.  Breakfast was a soft-boiled egg: a runny egg yolk, a just-turned-opaque egg white, a little soy sauce and a sprinkle of fine white pepper.  Perfect.

That is a treasured memory.  It wasn’t all about the egg either, despite its perfection.

My soft boiled egg

Speaking of perfection, it seems this state of egg can be elusive.  I have mastered it.

Personally, I stick to my method purely out of habit and convenience.  I don’t malign all other doubtlessly effective methods out there, which include:

  1. My Mum’s Way:  Immerse a room-temp egg for 10 minutes in a covered vessel of just-boiled water.
  2. My Mum-in-law’s Way:  Cook the egg in an uncovered pot of water over the stove, for 3 minutes starting from when the first boiling bubble appears.
  3. The 3rd Way:  See this egg app.  If cooking got any more scientific than this, they’d be quoting Einstein instead of Brillat-Savarin on Iron Chef.
  4. Melvin’s Way:  Crack the egg into a bowl, cover it and microwave, first for 20 seconds, then in spurts of 10 seconds until egg is cooked to your liking.
  5. The Pro’s Way:  The 63-degrees-Celsius egg.  This one is in a league of its own.  And it takes a l-o-o-o-o-n-n-g time to cook.

As for My Way?  I use the…(drum roll)…Half-boiled Egg Maker (what else).  It’s so effective that it deserves the title case in its name.  It works on the timed immersion principle (I can sound scientific too).

See the tiny hole in the transparent vessel – allows water to slowly drip into the green container.


  1. Put the eggs in the top container which has a tiny hole at its base.
  2. Pour boiling water up to the correct line of the top container.  1st line for 1 egg, 2nd line for 2 eggs…you get the idea.  Add extra water for larger/colder eggs.
  3. When water has completely drained into the bottom container, the eggs are ready.


  1. No need to monitor the cooking time.
  2. No stove cooking.
  3. No need to fish out the eggs immediately for fear of overcooking, since all cooking water has drained away.
  4. Eggs stay warm for a while, bain-marie style, from the gentle heat of the water collected in the bottom container.

Such a brilliant invention.  Only $5 from a suburban shop in Singapore.

What to do with what’s left:

Get rid of unwelcome visitors.  This is how:

  1. Effective, pesticide-free weedkiller. I might have hot water remaining in the kettle.  While waiting for the eggs to cook, I pour that water on the hard-to-pull juvenile weeds lurking between the driveway pavers.

    No more weeds in the pavers!

  2. Chemical-free pest repellent.  I scatter the crushed egg shells in my veggie patch.  DirtGirlWorld (it’s a completely wholesome kids’ program; despite the name, banish all naughty thoughts at once) says the pointed shards of shell deter snails.

Egg shells keep snails away from my veggies.

Sacrosanct condiments

I eat my soft-boiled eggs with soy sauce and fine white pepper.  It’s an all-time favourite of mine.  I don’t have it daily, but it’s utterly sublime every time I have it.

I am inflexible about the above combination.  That means no substituting with fancy Maldon sea salt or freshly cracked pepper.

For this purpose, the white pepper must be the cheap stuff that comes pre-ground and powder-like.  Some chefs pooh-pooh it for being as flavoursome as cupboard dust.  They are entitled to their opinion.

Red eggs

Red eggs for baby Max’s first month birthday. The pseudo-ladybirds are actually quail eggs collected from Max’s backyard, courtesy of big sister Chloe’s pet quails.

Writing about this tradition gives me an excuse to show you this delightful eggy foursome.  Don’t you just dig the red quail eggs?

There’s this Chinese tradition that applies to new babies.  When the baby turns one month old, the family celebrates the baby surviving its first month, as that was kiddo’s most vulnerable period, at least before the days of modern medicine.

To celebrate, new parents give red-dyed hard boiled eggs to family and friends.  Red is an auspicious colour, and the egg is the universal symbol of fertility.  I should add that chicken eggs are the norm, lest there be any confusion about the exceptional quail eggs above.

The eggy present often comes with cakes.  Ahh, my favourite part.  Growing up, I relished eating the customary rich butter cakes that indicated yet another family expansion (together with my imminent waistline expansion).

These days, though, I gather things have moved on in Singapore, in that:

1)  Today’s first month cake is more elaborate.

2)  Instead of battling traffic across the island delivering gifts, many a modern Singaporean parent sends vouchers issued by a chain bakery.  Recipients then collect the cakes from the branch nearest to them.  For instance, Bengawan Solo, one of the best-known bakeries, has a brochure devoted to new doting parents (check it out just to see the mouthwatering array of cakes).

Kudos to the person who conjured up this first month cake voucher idea.  Modern day people on relentless schedules could do with all manner of conveniences to keep age-old traditions alive.

To market, to market, to buy a fresh egg

At Flemington “you-haven’t-been-to-market-till-you’ve-been-to-Paddy’s” Market (visit their website and you’ll be hit by what I mean), I routinely pay $7.50 for 30 free-range eggs.  Egg size is the equivalent of 1 dozen eggs in a 700g carton – a decent 57g per egg.

It’s mighty fine living near this ode to fresh produce that is Flemington Market.  More of that in another blog post coming up.

I leave you with a favourite picture from that market:

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