Chinese Steamed Egg Custard 蒸蛋
By Ellen L. Published: 2012-02-18
Smooth, creamy, warming, comforting and quietly good tasting - that is a food to die for, is it not? One of my personal favorites in this category of comfort foods is the Chinese Steamed Egg Custard or 蒸蛋, which most Chinese probably grew up eating at the family table. But come the time for me to make it by myself in my own grown-up little kitchen, I discovered to my dismay that this deceptively humble little dish is much more elusive than its simple appearance warrants. I made it again and again, but alas could not achieve the glass like smoothness that should have been. Confused, I thought longingly back to my Grandma, seeing her in my mind's eye as she casually whipped this dish together: me, helping to stir the eggs, Grandma adding the water and salt by eye and then lowering the bowl into our old beat up rice cooker that still required water to be added around the cooking container. And then, presto!, the perfect steamed egg custard time after time. I didn't even know that there were other steamed egg textures possible! But then, there you go, that's Grandma magic for you.
|Local Free Range Eggs|
Finally at long last I discovered a method that allowed me to make the smooth egg custard that I so fondly remembered. The method was different from everything else that I had tried, or been told to try: instead of low or moderate heat, the heat recommended was high heat with a technical point of letting the steam escape from the lid by leaving a gap. Well, golly gee, it worked a charm and now I can finally present this simple charming steamed egg custard dish with the proper smooth blemish free surface and delightful jellyish quiver.
This steamed egg custard is an excellent dish to make if you have children as they love the smooth yummy taste (just like an eggy jello!) and you can also mix up some of the custard with rice and then they will always eat all of their rice cause it's just so yummy and easy to eat. Great for feeding when little ones not feeling so well too. And finally, the kids can help sprinkle on the spring onion rounds (see very top photo above for example of over enthusiastic child sprinkling of spring onions).
Another great thing to note is that in the making of a Chinese dinner, you really need to have at least three dishes plus rice, even for a two person meal, in order for it to seem like a proper dinner. In this case, dishes like these are priceless because you probably have the ingredients on hand (eggs, water and salt) and once you master the technique you can just stick it on the steamer and forget about it til it's done and ready to serve. Therefore you can concentrate all the better on whatever other delicious dishes you are making. An easy third, I guess you could call it.
As for the eggs we used free range eggs that we recently bought from our local wet market and discovered to our delight that they are absolutely delicious! The shells of these free range eggs were harder than your usual egg. You really have to give them a good crack. We have decided after making Tomato Egg Stir Fry and of course this dish that these local free range eggs have even better texture and taste than the imported organic eggs that we had been buying. Maybe because they are much fresher as they are local. For Hong Kong foodstuffs, buying local ROCKS!
2 eggs (free range, organic eggs)
1 cup water
1 tsp sea salt
Sesame oil to taste
1 stalk Spring onions, cut to rounds
Crack eggs into bowl and add all other ingredients. Mix together gently and try to avoid making too many bubbles. Once pretty thoroughly mixed pour into the steaming bowl. Use a spoon to remove the surface bubbles as much as possible. Add water to steamer and heat over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the egg custard. (I remove the bamboo steamer basket, place the custard in carefully and then put whole thing back over the boiling pot of water. You have to be careful of the steam: it can get very hot!) Put the lid of the steamer back on but leave a gap for the steam to escape. (You can stick a chopstick in-between the lid and the steamer basket). Leave the heat on high and steam for 20 minutes. To test the custard shake gently. You should be able to see the custard quiver (like jello) if it is done. Remove from heat, add a few drops of fragrant sesame oil, sprinkle with spring onions and serve hot.
More Eggy recipes at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Tomato Egg Stir Fry - Grandma's Style 蕃茄炒蛋
Tomato Egg Drop Soup 番茄蛋花湯
Steamed Dungeness Crab and Egg White