I started to feed my son Leo this Chinese steamed egg custard since he was 10 months old. He is 16 months old now and he loves this silky smooth tender egg custard. He always opens his mouth widely when he sees a spoonful of egg approaching. He knows it’s yummy.
In the 80’s, eggs were considered as a valuable food in China; “valuable” means: 1) expensive; 2) not commonly available; 3) valuable nutrition. My grandma and mom cooked this steamed egg custard for my brother and me, when we were young. They served it for breakfast to make sure we had good nutrients to help us get through the morning classes (Our schools always arranged major classes in the morning, such as math and Chinese). This steamed egg custard is a perfect solid food for babies because it is so soft and barely needs chewing. This is essential when preparing solid foods for babies when they don’t have too many teeth or are just learning how to handle solids.
Some of my friends told me their babies don’t like boiled eggs and asked me how I cook eggs for my baby. My No.1 suggestion is this steamed egg custard. This is a very simple recipe to make. I whisk one egg in a bowl using chopsticks in a stirring motion in one direction (clockwise or counter clockwise) until the egg white and egg yolk are totally combined. Add 3 oz water for one egg. Sprinkle a very small amount of salt (because babies don’t need much salt in their diet; sometimes I skip the salt) and then briefly stir in one direction. Place the bowl with a cover in a steamer and steam for 7 minutes. Add a few drops of sesame oil and garnish with green onions before serving. It is simple, right? However, I have to mention a few tricks on how to make the egg custard silky smooth.
Trick #1. The Stirring Motion : Stir in a circular motion instead of back and forth motion. A back and forth motion creates lots of air bubbles which will prevent the surface of the egg custard from being smooth. If it does end up with having a lot of bubbles, use a small spoon to scoop out the bubbles, or set aside and wait for a few minutes for the bubbles to go away. I noticed in most recipes they required using a fine mesh strainer to filter out the membrane of egg yolk in the egg-water mixture. I found this is unnecessary if you stir the eggs well.
Trick #2. The amount of water added: For each large egg you should add 3 oz of water. This ratio is important.
Trick #3: Add salt just before cooking the eggs. There is a chemistry term called Hofmeister series. It describes certain salts will make protein more soluble in water (salting in) while some salts will tend to decrease the solubility of protein in water (salting out). Egg white consists of water (92% by weight) and protein (8% by weight). The chloride anion from the table salt will tend to make egg white protein less soluble in the water. So if I add salt to the egg long before I am going to stir and mix it, the egg white protein will not mix well with the water. So remember add salt at the very end or just right before you are ready to cook it.
Trick #4: Cover the container while steaming. Condensed water vapor on the steamer lid will drip down into the bowl. If there is no cover on the bowl, the water will make the surface of the egg custard uneven and look like honeycomb.
Trick #5: The steaming time: 7-8 minutes for one egg. Add 2 more minute for each additional egg. If you steam too long, the egg will be over cooked and tend to be tough.
Here are a few choices for a steamer (see pictures below). The first option is a steamer with two removable steamer plates. I bought this from a Chinese grocery store. It is good to have a big steamer in my kitchen because I use the steamer quite often. The second option is a homemade steamer. In the pictures I used two bowls. Put the first one upside down in the bottom of a pot and the second one (the one with egg you are going to steam) on top. I did use this set-up also and it works just as well as the first option.
Keep these tricks in mind when you are going to make this savory steamed egg custard. The aroma from the sesame oil and the smooth and tender texture make this Chinese egg custard super baby friendly and a great appetizer for adults.
- 1 large egg
- 3 oz water
- ¼ tsp sesame oil
- (Optional) pinch of salt
- (Optional) green onion for garnishing
- In a small mixing bowl, use chopsticks to whisk the egg in a stirring motion in one direction (clockwise or counter clockwise) until the egg white and egg yolk are totally combined.
- Add water and sprinkle salt; then briefly stir in one direction.
- Pour the egg mixture into a heat-proof container, cover with heat-proof lid or aluminum foil.
- Fill the steamer with cold water. Place the bowl in the steamer. Bring the water to a boil then turn down to medium heat with gentle boiling. Steam for 7 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, the egg custard should be slightly firm and wobble in the center. Test by inserting a toothpick; it should come out clean.
- Add sesame oil and garnish with green onion. Serve warm.
2. Add salt just before cooking the eggs.
3. Cover the container while steaming. Condensed water vapor on the steamer lid will drip down into the bowl. If there is no cover on the bowl, the water will make the surface of the egg custard uneven and look like honeycomb.
4. Add 2 more minute for each additional egg. If you steam too long, the egg will be over cooked and tend to be tough.