Savory egg custard with clams.
Hub's cousin, who loves crabs, likes to tell us about the RMB500/RM240/USD80 steamed savory egg dish that she ate in a restaurant in Shanghai. Eggs are cheap but the whole flower crab that sat in the middle of the dish was not because it was flown in from Borneo. Now I loathe to tell her that flower crabs are cheap here and that the same dish would cost probably less than RMB80. The crab better had been flown in on business class rather than coach, given the high price.
Flower crabs are known as blue swimmer crabs in other parts of the world. We used to get them live but now they come mostly frozen so I eat mud crabs instead. Mud crabs are hardy, surviving for days on nothing as long as the mozzies don't get their eyes.
Instead of a crab, which I imagine would be messy to eat with steamed egg, I used clams to create the same dish. As a rule, I add 1/2 cup (125 ml) water to every large egg when making savory Japanese steamed egg (chawan mushi) but for Chinese steamed egg, which is steamed in a large dish to be shared by the family, I use a little less water for a slightly firmer custard. I first steamed the clams, since I wasn't eating all of it the same day, and used the juice from steaming as part of the liquid to make the custard. The resulting egg custard was unbelievably delicious! If you can get hold of soft-shelled clams, all the better. This dish was absolutely one of the best dishes I've eaten and you won't be able to make the same dish because my secret ingredient was some liquid that came from steaming the Chinese sausages that Lily's mom made this winter. Lily's parents live in Jiangxi (or Jiangzi?), China and they operate a restaurant. Their sausages this year are the fattest I've ever seen and I was doubtful whether I was going to eat them or throw them to the dogs. I tested one today and am absolutely speechless with wonder. You really can't judge a
A note about steaming eggs: high heat will puff the eggs up and result in a rough surface (like my dish today). Steam gently and slowly and the custard will have a perfectly smooth surface.
Lily's mom's sausages--the best (so are Leila's mom's but they are from different regions so they differ in flavor).
Savory Egg Custard With Clams
4 large eggs, beaten well
1 3/4 cups clam stock*
1/4 t salt or to taste
some white pepper
400 to 500 gm clams (preferable soft-shelled)
*liquid from steaming the clams + water
1. Wash clams well and steam** at high heat for 5 minutes until just opened. Retain the liquid. Keep the steamer on.
2. Top up the clam liquid with water and add to the eggs. Add salt and pepper and beat well with chopsticks or fork. You can strain through a fine sieve for a finer and even texture if like. I don't.
3. Pour the egg mixture into a heat-proof dish, arrange the clams in the dish and steam at medium low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until just set.
**steam the clams first just in case you get sandy ones. Also, the clams give out liquid which can mess with the texture of the eggs.