It's been raining all day and I love it, especially when it rains in the morning. I think of all those people who have to go to school or work, and I curl up and smile under my comforter. Yeah, make your millions but I get to sleep in, I wanted to message to all those working friends whom I'm sometimes envious of. Cloudy days and cool weather are a great change to heat, humidity and sun. I was driving along the Likas coastal highway (our prettiest stretch of road) this afternoon and the wind was whipping up the sea and the palm trees and I had this feeling of freedom and joy. Weird, I know. I've lived in the tropics for too long. As I write this post, it's 11 pm, a cricket is chirping somewhere outside and there's a wind blowing through the house (my windows are always open; I hate air-con), making me chilly. The thermometer says 24 C on my window sill so I know it's colder out especially with the soft breeze. In such moments, I just feel so happy and blessed.
I am on an exciting project that will culminate this Saturday: I'm decorating 320 cupcakes and making a small cake for the first tier of a 5-tier cupcake cake for a friend's 25th wedding anniversary! I'll be cooking the simplest of meals this week so hang in there with me.
Plain Chinese savory egg custard is a humble home dish, a standby for times when there's nothing but eggs available. A more luxurious version of the steamed egg custard is the salted egg and pork egg custard, a crazily delicious dish that nobody can resist extra helping of rice to go with. Inspired by the tofu custard I ate in New Wong Kok Restaurant last week, where the meat and veggies are not stirred into the egg but are placed on top of the custard, I came up with a similar dish but instead of tofu custard, I made egg custard because it was a lot less work. I used whatever ingredients I had in the kitchen but I wish I had some carrots because the dish would've looked a lot prettier. The only thing I'll do differently next time is to cut the mushrooms smaller to go with the silky fineness of the custard.
I've found that the best egg to water ratio for soft, silky steamed egg is 1 large egg to 1/2 cup room temperature water. This makes very soft steamed egg, good for Japanese chawan mushi which is served in individual bowls. Chinese dishes are served as shared dishes while Japanese food is served western style, in individual portions. Since Chinese egg custard is steamed in one large dish and spooned out, the amount of water should be reduced slightly to give a firmer custard. For four large eggs (enough for a family of 3 to 4 people, for a meal of three dishes), 1 3/4 cups water would make a custard that's smooth and soft but firm enough to hold up in a spoon. Steam at low heat for a smooth custard without holes and turn off the heat when custard is just set.
Eaten steaming hot, this is the perfect dish for a cool rainy night. Try it. Vary the topping to your preference. It's really good.
Savory Egg Custard With Topping
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups water (1 1/2 cups if you prefer a firm custard), room temperature
pinch of salt and white pepper
--put the eggs, water and seasoning (very light on salt because the topping will be seasoned with light soy sauce) into a heat-proof dish and beat the eggs with a fork until well-mixed with the water. Steam at low heat for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the depth of your dish) until custard is set. Leave covered in the wok or steamer.
--while egg is steaming, cook the topping:
1/2 cup meat (chicken, pork or beef), chopped finely
1 cup mushrooms (mixture of shiitake, white button or crimini), diced
1/3 cup peas/gingko nuts/baby corn/carrots/corm kernels/bell peppers/any suitable veggie
1 t minced garlic
2 T light soy sauce
1/4 t caster sugar
1 T cornstarch + 2 T water, mix well
1 to 1 1/2 cups water or light chicken stock
oil to fry
spring onions, cut finely
1. Put 1 T veg oil into a frying pan, add the garlic, then the meat and stir, breaking up the meat to prevent lumps. Add the mushrooms, other veg, light soy sauce, sugar and white pepper and fry until meat turns white. Add about 1/2 cup water or stock. Stir well, cover and let simmer for about 2 minutes.
2. Stir in the cornstarch water and add another 1/2 to 1 cup water/stock, depending on how much sauce you want. Taste and season if necessary.
3. Carefully spoon the cooked meat and veg onto the cooked custard, sprinkle spring onions over and serve immediately. Goes well with rice.