There are so many Cantonese desserts such as ginger milk curd (薑汁撞奶), steamed white sugar cake (白糖倫教糕), mango mochi (芒果糯米糍), peanut mochi (花生糯米糍), claypot pudding (砵仔糕), sesame glutinous rice balls or jin dui (煎堆), Cantonese-style and other types of mooncakes (月餅) originating from Guangdong, black sesame-filled glutinous rice balls (擂茶湯圓), Hong Kong-style egg tarts (蛋撻), etc. Well, I can still keep the list going but guess I should better stop here.
One of them that I grew up having every so often was steamed egg custard (鮮奶燉蛋). Yet, I've only come to appreciate it after I'd left home for the States.
A while back, I got hit by a craving for steamed custard badly. So, I tried to replicate the smooth, silky and yet not-too-heavy, not-too-sweet custard that I remember. I failed in my maiden attempt. Motivated by my kiasu (meaning afraid of losing in Hokkien,) no-die attitude, I was determined to get it right. So, I turned to my wise Mom for rescue.
I eventually got it right during my second attempt and it's never failed me since then. I've made it so many times that I've lost count of it! The recipe is alright except for its method--perhaps, it just doesn't work for me. It was adapted from Siukwan's. I realized the principle is the same as the one for making Chinese steamed eggs (蒸水蛋) and Japanese chawanmushi. These babies are too fragile for super high heat: they're meant to be cooked slowly under gentle heat to achieve that signature smoothness and silkiness of steamed eggs and custard. Thanks Mom! So, here's the recipe with my modification.
Cantonese Steamed Egg Custard 鮮奶燉蛋 (adapted from Siukwan's)
4 tsp sugar, or to taste
1 large egg, at room temperature
- Heat (A) together till the sugar has fully dissolved. (Because it's such a small recipe, I do this in the microwave.) Set it aside to let cool completely
- Place the serving bowls or ramekins that you'd like to use for steaming the custard in the steamer or a wok that has a steaming rack set over it; cover the steamer or wok with its lid.
Then, bring the water in the steamer or wok to a full rolling boil over high heat--this is also to heat up the ramekins besides getting the water ready for steaming
- Slightly beat the egg to break it, then whisk it into the cooled milk to combine well.
When the steamer or wok has come to a full rolling boil, pour the egg-milk mixture through a fine sieve and into the ramekins--this is to strain out bubbles and some other solids in order to get a smooth, silky surface and texture
- Immediately turn the heat down to low, place a chopstick (or something similar if you don't have it) underneath the steamer's lid to create an "exit" for excess steam/heat to escape--this is to prevent the mixture from getting overcooked and thus, wrinkled!
- The entire cooking time takes quite a while depending on how big of a batch it is and how much each ramekin is filled. This recipe normally takes between 30 and 45 minutes, it's done when the surface of the custard looks barely set and still jiggles a bit when gently tapped. So, please check every so often to avoid overcooking the custard.
- Uncover the steamer/wok and let the ramekin of custard sit in it for a while till it's become not-too-hot before removing the custard from the steamer or wok.
- Serve it warm, at room temperature or chilled, depending on your preference.