This half-boiled eggs recipe makes the classic kopitiam eggs tailor-made for having with kaya toast in a Singaporean or Malaysian coffee shop. The just-set, still runny yolks and milky whites are perfect for dipping toast ‘soldiers’ into. The secret is getting perfectly soft eggs every time. My technique is flawless for achieving the perfect soft boiled eggs every time.
This half-boiled eggs recipe for classic Singaporean and Malaysian kopitiam (coffee shop) eggs, like many of our recent Weekend Eggs recipes, is now coming from a place of missing our former life of travel and the opportunities it gave us to experience local rituals, particularly of the culinary kind.
We’ve especially been missing the experience of lingering over a long, slow, weekend breakfast or brunch at a local cafe or coffee shop and whatever that entails wherever we are in the world, and this half-boiled eggs recipe is a result of us craving the quintessential kopitiam breakfast in Singapore and Malaysia.
If you’re arriving here for the first time, we recently revived our Weekend Eggs series of the quintessential breakfasts of places, which we started when we launched Grantourismo ten years. We picked things up again with Calabria’s take on ‘eggs in purgatory’, followed by Thailand’s son-in-law eggs for kai look keuy (fried soft-boiled eggs), the puffy Thai omelette kai jiaw, and Cambodian steamed eggs recipe.
But before I tell you about this half-boiled eggs recipe for classic kopitiam eggs, we have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-supported, which means we rely on income generated from readers of this site to continue to share recipes and food stories. If you’ve cooked any of our recipes and enjoyed them, please do consider supporting Grantourismo if you can.
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Now let me tell you about this half-boiled eggs recipe for classic kopitiam eggs.
Half Boiled Eggs Recipe for Classic Kopitiam Eggs to Go With Your Kaya Toast
I’ve been testing half-boiled eggs for weeks to try and find a foolproof technique to get perfect soft-boiled eggs every time, just like they serve in a coffee shop in Singapore or Malaysia. Plenty of dark soy and white pepper have been sprinkled over countless eggs resulting from endless variations of the cooking methods traditionally used to make these eggs.
The best bit about these half-boiled eggs is that they require very little attention. If you start these eggs on a timer, by the time your alarm goes off you could have toasted your bread, slathered on some kaya and be ready to dip those toast fingers into your eggs.
What I found during my research was that many half-boiled eggs recipes out there are just too vague about temperature and timing, and many don’t even give you the size of egg that’s desirable to make the recipe work. I tried very hard with our perfect soft boiled egg recipe to explain everything, so with this half-boiled eggs recipe I decided to go back to basics.
I liked the idea of the old-fashioned Malaysian way of making the eggs by placing them in an enamel tin cup – like the kind you might have found in the back of a cupboard in your grandmother’s kitchen or in a camping kit you only use once a year.
But the problem with timing eggs in these cups is that they don’t hold the heat very well. They’re almost as bad as ceramic cups, but that’s another story.
What makes this method even less reliable is the ambient temperature of the room where the cups are placed and how firmly the cups are covered during the cooking period. This will mean the difference between runny everything and firm yolks with really firm whites. But still, the simplicity of the idea was very alluring – no sous vide machine and no standing over a pot of water with a stopwatch.
numerous countless tests, I settled on a vessel that not only would retain heat well but with repeat cooking, the eggs would remain at the same level of doneness. And that vessel is a stainless steel vacuum insulated coffee mug.
Pouring just-boiled water into the mug with an egg placed inside and sealing the lid gives you an easily reproducible benchmark. The main variables left are the timing of the cooking of the egg and stopping the cooking process.
Tips For Making Half Boiled Eggs
During testing, I found that letting the water go off the rolling boil for 15 seconds before pouring the hot water into the mug reduces the likelihood of the raw egg cracking.
For the sake of accuracy, when it comes to the water bath, to stop the cooking of the eggs, I like the water to be around 10°C.
I found that the optimal time for half boiled eggs with a soft yolk was 8 minutes. Any shorter and the egg yolk was consistently not firm enough to hold together. The whites were sometimes a little runny, but for us these kopitiam eggs are all about the yolk.
If you like your half-boiled eggs to be a little more cooked so that you have a yolk that’s still soft but firm enough so that you can cut into it, I consistently found that 9 minutes was the perfect timing.
We’ve been served eggs like this a lot in Malaysia and Singapore, where the yolk had to be scooped out of one half of the egg shell when the egg was cracked. This is great with the toast ‘soldiers’ as you can spread the yolk like a jam over each piece.
Speaking of cracking the eggs, the classic technique is to hold the egg in your hand and crack it with the back of a spoon in the centre of the shell while holding it over your bowl. This method makes it easy to open the egg from the centre and ‘pour’ the egg into your bowl.
And speaking of jam, if you really want to be transported back to an old-fashioned kopitiam in Singapore or Malaysia then you’ll need to make a pot of kopi and our recipe for kaya coconut jam.
One last point. Some people have asked on social media why we have not recommended one of those electric egg cooker-boilers that a lot of kopitiam places use to make their half-boiled eggs.
This gadget might get used daily in a kopitiam, but unless you become addicted to these eggs, this device will end up in the back of the cupboard competing for storage space with that automatic bread maker.
Half Boiled Eggs Recipe
- 2 eggs - around 57 g (2 oz) per egg
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp dark soy
- Bring water in a kettle or on the stove to a rolling boil.
- Place each egg gently into an individual stainless steel vacuum insulated coffee mug.
- Take the water off the boil for 15 seconds and then pour the water gently into each coffee mug covering the eggs fully. Put on the lid and set a timer for 8 minutes.
- Fill a mixing bowl with cold water and a couple of ice cubes. We want the water bath to be around 10˚C.
- When the timer is up, remove the eggs from the mugs with a large spoon and gently place them in the water bath.
- When the eggs are cool enough to touch, remove them from the water bath and dry them off.
- With an egg in your palm over the serving bowl, gently crack the centre of the egg.
- Tip out the egg from the shell into the bowl. If the yolk stays in one half of the shell scoop it out with a spoon. Remove any extra egg white from the shells and add to the serving bowl.
- Serve with white pepper, dark soy and toast fingers.
Do let us know if you make this half-boiled eggs recipe for classic Singaporean and Malaysian kopitiam eggs as we’d love to know how they turn out for you.