A healthful Asian home-cooking blog isn't proper if such a simple yet nourishing dish as steamed eggs isn't covered. Everytime when I return home, I would behave like a spoiled kid and have my parents and my grandma cooked steamed eggs for me, as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Theirs are always the best.
Steam two eggs mixed with water that doubles the amount. Seems easy enough? But it can be the most puzzling dish to a home cook. The Chinese call it steamed "watery" egg, stressing the fludity that melts in your mouth, as opposed to the unyielding flavor and texture of an overcooked egg. So how to achieve an impeccable "watery" sensation?
It came to me as a big revelation one day when I prepared lunch with my grandma. I always knew her as a meticulous person. As one of the few women to receive education in a rural Chinese town back in the 30s, she went on to become the first female teachers in her village. But never did I know that a dish as seemingly easy as steamed eggs would trigger her "teacher" spirit in front of her granddaughter.
"You must use boiled water," she said seriously and as an 80-year-old, ran as swiftly as she could to stop me from using tap water.
"Don't you see there are still air bubbles on the surface?" which implied more work from my end when I was about to put the dish into the wok for steaming.
Deep down I thought those were merely gestures used by cookbook authors or food show hosts to establish their authority. But now these instructions came from my grandma, which meant I had to listen. The end result? It's steamed eggs in its best form I've ever achieved.
It was such a liberating moment to finally find out the keys (laid out below) to making this classic dish and that, these tips came not from cookbooks but from my very own family.
Here, I'm sharing with you three steps to impeccably silky steamed eggs: (1) use previously boiled water at room temperature; (2) scoop away air bubbles after eggs are beaten with water; and (3) leave a 1/4 to 1/2 inch gap between the lid and the wok or whatever pots you're using when steaming to let out steam, thus preventing bubbles formed on the surface of the finished dish.
Steamed eggs can also be a great canvas for your imagination, such as Japanese chawanmushi, Korean gyeran jjim, with filling like minced pork, or toppings like cavier. Or you can mix the eggs with clear noodles (pre-soak it with hot water before mixing with the egg) and dried shrimps, which puntuate the egg dish in a pungent flavor and chewy texture. It's the Hong Kong classic style: 蝦米粉絲蒸蛋。
Time: 20 minutes (cooking time depends on the type of steaming set-up and the size of the serving dish)
Yield: 2 servings
2 eggs, egg shells reserved for measuring water
8 half-egg-shells boiled water at room temperature. If you don't have boiled water, boil some real quick and freeze it immediately for roughly 15 minutes or until chilled.
pinch of salt
water for steaming
1 mushroom, soaked (or microwave with water for 1 minute to reconsitute quickly) and sliced to as thin as possible
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp green onions, julienned
2 tbsp soy sauce
- Bring a pot/wok of water to a roaring boil on high. (See my steaming set-up).
- In a shallow and wide bowl/serving dish (mine was a 2.5" x 7"), beat two eggs. Reserve the egg shells for measuring water.
- Choose a half-egg-shell as your measuring cup. Measure previously boiled water up to twice the amount of eggs. For every one egg used, add four half-egg-shells of water. In this case, eight half-egg-shells. Add a pinch of salt. Beat well. Scoop away air bubbles on the surface.
- Turn the heat down to medium. Place the egg dish on a steaming rack. Cover with a lid but leave a ¼- to ½-inch gap. Steam for about 10 minutes.
- Open the lid and check for doneness with a fork. The eggs should have achieved a stable consistency. Add mushroom slices on top and steam for 3 more minutes.
- In another pan, heat 2 tablespoon oil to the point of just before getting smoked.
- Open the lid and check for doneness again. If the egg is not set, steam for another minute. Otherwise, pour away the water settled on top of the dish and garnish the dish with julienned green onions.
- Pour the heated oil over the dish and dress with soy sauce. Serve with plain rice.