Simple steamed egg dish has strong following
As we ramp up to next week's Thanksgiving eatathon, it's nice to focus a bit of attention on a very simple food.
Leslie Mow e-mailed in search of information on a Chinese steamed egg dish that her family eats with hot rice.
I poked around for notes on this very humble home-style dish and found a number of similar recipes, and also a number of postings on online food blogs from people who seem to yearn for its silky comfort.
It's very much like Japanese chawanmushi, a savory custard made with gently beaten eggs and broth or water in place of milk. The basic technique is simple: Beat some eggs with a few light seasonings and liquid, place in a steamer and simmer until firm.
Achieving the goal of a perfectly smooth surface, though, requires a few refinements. Beat the eggs lightly so there's a minimum of foam, strain to remove any solids and steam over low heat so it cooks up soft and light.
This recipe is designed for a Chinese bamboo steamer, which is porous. You can use a standard double boiler, but if using a pot with a metal lid, be sure to drape a clean dishcloth under the lid. It will absorb condensation which otherwise could drip back onto your custard and pockmark the surface.
I've also seen references to cooking the custard in a bowl placed in the rice cooker, right on top of the rice near the end of the cooking time -- but that's an experiment for another day.
This recipe calls for dried shrimp and a sprinkling of green onions, but other versions use dried shiitake mushrooms, crumbled cooked pork or even chopped salted duck eggs. Once you've gotten the custard figured out, add-ins are at your discretion.
One note: The amount of water might seem like a lot, but it's right for producing a very soft, light custard. The flavor is very mild -- even bland. For something stronger, substitute chicken or vegetable broth for some or all of the water.
Steamed Egg Custard
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1-1/4 cups water
1 stalk green onion, diced
Soak shrimp in warm water until soft. Drain, squeeze out liquid and mince.
Gently whisk together eggs, soy sauce, salt and sesame oil in a heatproof bowl, creating as little foam as possible. Stir in water. Strain into 6-inch wide dish. Skim off any foam.
Bring water to boil in wok or skillet, then reduce to low simmer. Put bowl in bamboo basket steamer and place over simmering water, without letting basket touch water. Steam 15 minutes, until center is set. Remove from steamer. Sprinkle with shrimp and green onions. May be scooped over hot rice. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 70 calories, 5 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 160 mg cholesterol, 375 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 1 g sugar, 5 g protein.
Nutritional analyses by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Send queries along with name and phone number to: "By Request," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana, No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. Or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org