Maangchi’s Volcano Eggs Will Make You Feel Like a Scientist

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Maangchi is a legendary YouTube cook, known for her winsome, cheeky style and fun recipes that shed light on Korean cooking — both historical and modern. Sporting blue and pink wigs, neon makeup, and flowered aprons, Maangchi flits about like a joyful sprite in the kitchen, sprinkling her exuberant commentary in every video. With her bright personality and mouthwatering recipes, it’s no wonder that she has more than 2.5 million subscribers.

A particularly colorful recipe of Maangchi’s caught my eye a couple of weeks ago — one labeled “Volcano Eggs,” a spicy version of gyeran jjim (steamed eggs), in which red eggs bubble up like lava. When I was a kid, the infamous exploding volcano science experiment fascinated me, and I would also glue myself to the screen during apocalyptic natural disaster films. So I knew I had to try this food science experiment the moment I saw the recipe name.

What You’ll Need to Make Volcano Eggs

Once you’ve assembled your simple list of ingredients (eggs, chicken broth, soy sauce, chile pepper flakes, toasted sesame seeds, green onions, and sesame oil), most of the work is just mixing. What’s tricky about Volcano Eggs is sourcing your cooking equipment and some of the more unique ingredients like gochugaru, Korean chile powder.

(Image credit: Dakota Kim)

The recipe also requires that you have an earthenware or stone pot. You can get these earthenware (ttukbaegi) or stone (dolsot) pots online or in Asian grocery stores. To clean them, avoid using dish soap and opt for salt or coffee grinds for tough stains (read more from Maangchi on dish care here).

I Tried Making Maangchi’s Volcano Eggs from YouTube and Here’s What Happened

My volcano eggs got off to an easy start. The chicken broth was resting patiently on my stovetop in my super-heavy stone pot, awaiting its moment to shine.

(Image credit: Dakota Kim)

The first few steps were easy: I cracked my four eggs into a bowl (hoping they were large enough to fill my dolsot) and measured out my soy sauce. I was using regular soy sauce instead of the dark soy sauce Maangchi used, but I figured it’d be fine since it was only a tablespoon and a teaspoon.

When Maangchi prepped the sesame seeds, though, I was flummoxed. She ground them up in her mortar, but advised that you can use your fingers. I tried this and found it ridiculously hard — the seeds weren’t grinding down to a powder even after two minutes of awkward attempts. I gave up pretty quickly and turned to my wooden mortar and pestle, concluding that even using a blunt object or knife handle to grind the seeds to a powder would be better. If you have a wooden bowl or a cutting board, use those as a mortar instead of trying to grind tiny sesame seeds between your poor fingers.

Her command to stir the eggs, soy sauce, sesame seed powder, chili pepper, and chicken broth mixture together 100 times proved exactly right — even though I was tempted to stir more.

(Image credit: Dakota Kim)

I turned on the heat on the chicken broth and started chopping up my green onions as directed, but wondered why she chose that moment to chop them. Unlike my younger chop-as-you-go years, I’m now a mise-en-place kinda gal; I want everything to be ready when I start cooking a new recipe, lest all hell break loose. So I felt a bit frantic trying to chop them before the chicken broth started bubbling. If I make the recipe again, I’ll chop the green onions at the very beginning before starting the recipe, or during the 10-minute egg-cooking period, so I don’t feel rushed.

After pouring my egg mixture into my dolsot I had a moment of panic where I realized I’d need to find a stainless steel bowl the size of my dolsot — or any kind of cover that was round, heatproof, and just the right size for my dolsot. You see, the dolsot’s stone lid is heavy and flat, so it won’t allow any puffing up of egg into the round, beautiful red dome we were looking for. I’d watched the video several times, but doing it was different. I was frantically dashing around my kitchen looking for something, anything, like a chicken with its head chopped off, when I realized my idiocy, calmed down, and turned off the heat. I began to systematically search for the stainless steel bowl I was sure I had. Luckily, I found a steel bowl that worked.

(Image credit: Dakota Kim)

The key thing here is that your pot size, your bowl size, and your flame size all need to be right. The pot needs to be about 2.5 cups. The bowl needs to be small and deep, its circumference the same as the pot so the steam doesn’t escape. And the flame size needs to be small, but not too small — my smallest burner proved perfect on a medium setting.

And then came the waiting for 10 minutes, which was excruciating. Gazing at the microwave timer, I imagined what was going on inside my silver science experiment dome. Was steam heat accumulating to push the eggs up, or were the eggs flopping down like a lifeless soufflé?

Maangchi promised there would be steam, and prompted me to listen for it. She even imitated the “sssss …” sound that her volcano eggs made as they rose to their lofty, near-exploding peaks. So I waited, my ear perched near the Korean stone pot like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. At eight minutes in, when there hadn’t been a hiss, I turned my very low flame on my small burner up to a medium flame. I knew there would be a hiss. There just had to be a hiss. And there was a small hiss that got louder and louder and HISSED. But was it the right hiss? Was it the final hiss? At 20 seconds until the buzzer, like any kid who can’t wait for Christmas, I nervously popped the lid off my volcano eggs, and there they were — little yellow-red bubbles resplendent with steam, puffed up like little proud peacocks into a dome shape.

(Image credit: Dakota Kim)

The Results of My Food Science Project

Adding the chopped green onions on top makes a huge difference in the flavor. Sesame oil and that last teaspoon of chile powder add a lot of flavor too, and I opted for some Sriracha drizzles. The savoriness of the chicken stock really comes through, adding a punch of umami to the egg. This concoction comes out almost like a sponge cake, and exhibits what I see as the Korean fascination for eggs that are light and airy like a soufflé, instead of heavy, solid, and grounded. Maangchi sliced her eggs almost like you would a pie, and so I followed suit.

Eating airy slices of my Volcano Egg Pie with scallions nicely warmed by the dolsot, I couldn’t imagine a better science experiment than one you get to eat.