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.
1. 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.
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.
I like this!
You are fascinating. This blog is awesome too!
To do the homemade steamer…Do you need to cover the bowl and the pot or just the pot?
Thanks so much!
If you are going to make the steamed egg, you need to use aluminum foil to cover the bowl and use a lid to cover the pot.
Thanks for replying.
One more question: How much water? Halfway up the pot?
For steaming less than 10 minutes, 2 cups of water in the pot will be enough.
Where did you buy your bowl from? It is very cute!
Sorry, I don’t know. I borrowed it form my mother-in-law. It is a gift from her friend. It is a Chinese tea cup. Search you local Chinese store see if you can find something similar.
Thank you for a superb and perfect recipe. The custard is delicious! Is it possible to add ingredients to make it like “chawanmushi”? If so, when would they be added, should they be parboiled first, and is more water or broth necessary? And, are there any particular ones you might recommend?
Sorry Meg, I haven’t made chawanmushi before. It sounds interesting and I think I should give it a try. I’ll let you know if I have any good result.
Thank you for your reply, Joyce. I attempted chawanmushi 10 times, using various timings (usually 15 minutes) and heat settings, and it never set properly below the top half-inch. The recipes all call for 3:1 liquid to egg. The other night I put a prawn and shiitake mushrooms on the bottom of the cup, used your proportions of 1:1.5 (actually, I used about 1:1 egg:dashi), steamed for 7 minutes, and it was a very nice fairly firm custard! I am wondering if my chawanmushi was actually the way it’s supposed to be, with the egg getting broken up in the broth. Am looking forward to your trying it and hope to hear how it turns out! Thanks again, I love your Chinese steamed egg custard recipe.
I tried it today and it was silky smooth. Never successful with my steamed egg before. Thank you for the wonderful and simple recipe.
Hi! Can I use milk Or breastmilk inStead of water?
Yes, you can. But in my opinion, the essential nutrients and antibodies in breastmilk will be destroyed when you cook it with egg under steam. So I’d you milk. The product will be a little bit sweet though.
I use the same method to make custard pudding using milk instead of water and a little sugar syrup (about a teaspoon per egg; simple syrup blends in better than plain sugar). Works perfectly.
I made this twice this morning for my son. He is not gaining enough weight, so I thought he might eat egg this way ….anyway it turned out watery both times.
Having read other comments, the only thing I did not do is put in 2 cups of water, I did 1 cup.
Could that be the reason? Pls advise.
Thx. So much.
Hi Trisha, in the recipe, adding 3 oz of water to 1 egg. If you add 1 cup of water (approximately 8 oz), there is going to be too much of water and that’s why it is so watery. I hope you can try again and let me know if it’s working.
Thx for replying. I meant I add 8oz of water to the pan for steaming. I add 3oz to the egg.
Today I added as much water to the pan as was needed to bring it up to half the height of the top ramekin( I’m using the bowl method)
It was better than before, still not perfectly set in the center. Maybe it’s my ceramic stove? And I made it with milk.
Will keep trying, it’s a good breakfast food, I’m determined to get it right?
Any tips will be appreciated?
Maybe you did this, I just want to make sure you stir up the egg first, add water/milk, and then stir briefly before put it in the steamer (you can add more than 1 cup of water in steamer, it won’t affect the result). If the egg is not down in 7-8 minutes, you can give it an additional couple of minutes until the center is set. Sometimes the dish you use can make difference, for example, metal dish can transfer heat much quicker. If your dish is made of thick glass or ceramic, it takes much longer to be heated by the steam. Please feel free to let me know if you have questions.
Just wanted to thank you for your input. It was the thick ceramic ramekin I was using. I give it more time now and it turns out fine, my son still doesn’t eat it but there’s nothing we can do about that?. But thx again for your help:)
You are welcome. I’m glad it worked. Don’t give it up, he may not get use to the flavor and texture, you may want to try a few more times. It always takes me a few times to get my son to eat something new. BTW, how old is he?
Hi Joyce, how do you make sure there’s no egg white lumps when you stir with a chopstick? I can never get rid of them! thanks 🙂
I know sometimes it is hard to get rid of. You can slowly add a small amount of water and then stir to help dissolving the egg white protein in water. Or you can use a fine mash strainer to filter it if you really don’t want any lump. I hope this answer will help. 🙂
Thank you for this recipe! I’m very excited to give it a try since my attempts so far have been unsuccessful. One wheaton, when you day to steam for 7-8 minutes, is it 7-8 minutes including time it takes to hear up? Or 7-8 minutes after the water in the pot has come to a boil?
You are welcome! I mean after the water is boiling, it takes 7-8 minutes to steam. 🙂
I tried to make Chawanmushi with various online recipes, but they all failed miserably. Then I followed yours. Your proportions ( 3oz liquid/1egg ) are perfect, as are your cook times. I steamed one in a small bowl for eight minutes, and it set beautifully. Then I did three small ramekins at 12 minutes. Again, they were perfect.
To make a delicious Chawanmushi, I simply substituted broth (should be dashi but I used chicken) for the water, and added soy sauce, salt, and mirin.
Also, I made sure not to add those salty ingredients until the very end.
Thank you for your most informative and helpful recipe. I finally nailed it thanks to you!
You’re very welcome, Marlene! I’m so happy that you found the recipe and information I put in the post are useful.
I usually order this fave from Chinese fastfood for 3 cny/bowl, they put some vinegar too. Some oily, some watery, some firm, depends on the style. Thanks for the recipe! I used 6 tbsp for 1 egg. I will make my own, with my own garnish from now on!
I’m glad you enjoyed it. I rarely go to Chinese restaurant here in US because of my gluten-free diet. I would not have any idea they put some vinegar in the egg custard. I guess different regions may use different garnishing/flavor.
Hi, can I use microwave to steam egg?
For my experience, microwave doesn’t work very well. It always explode and left a messy microwave to be cleaned.
It’s a very nice and delicious recipe to try and it looks wonderful
This is hands-down my favorite savory egg custard recipe in terms of proportions of stock to egg.
Question, do you ever put the custard into a preheated steam? Is the purpose of starting it in cold water to heat the contents evenly so as not to have hard edges?