Growing up in Shanghai, I often ate savory egg custard over rice. It was one of the first dishes I learned to make as a child. Eggs were rationed like pork, rice, cooking oil and many other essentials. One of the reasons people made custard with their precious eggs was that eggs seemed to expand in volume when you steamed them into silken custard. I remember very clearly that if I had one egg, I would use a small rice bowl to steam a custard, and if I had two, I would use a large soup bowl. No one used measuring utensils in those days; everything was done by feel and by experience. Most times, we made it simply with minced scallion and a small dollop of lard; sometimes, we would add a little minced pork or thin slivers of ham. Occasionally we would also steam the custard with clams. Clam custard is one of my favorite dishes to order when I eat at a San Francisco Chinese restaurant called the R&G Lounge.
If you have not ordered it in Chinese restaurants, you probably have had it as a warm appetizer called Chawan Mushi in Japanese restaurants. It is prepared in individual cups or bowls with prawns and ginkgo nuts instead of fish.
Today, I prepared the savory egg custard with fresh ling cod fish, shiitake, ginger and scallion. Peter devoured it after a long day being on call at the hospital. He called it delicious and soothing.
Savory Egg Custard with Ling Cod
12 oz. ling cod, cut into bite size
8 dried shiitake mushroom, soaked and rehydrated
4 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 stocks green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1 teaspoon thinly sliced ginger
1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes
Cilantro for garnish
1 teaspoon light soy sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon pure sesame oil
Ingredients for marinade:
2 teaspoons Shao Xing cooking wine
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Marinate the fish for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Beat the eggs. Mix chicken broth and minced ginger with the eggs and pour into a large bowl or a corning ware as I did. Add fish and shiitake into the egg mixture.
Boil water for steaming. When the water boils, lower the container into the steamer and turn stove to simmer.
Steam for 10 minutes. Open the lid and sprinkle chopped scallion, sliced ginger and pepper flakes on top. Steam for another 10 to 12 minutes or until the custard is just set. Do not over steam or the egg and the broth will separate.
Before serving, pour a teaspoon of light soy sauce and a teaspoon of pure sesame oil, and sprinkle cilantro. If you want to enjoy the custard by itself and not with rice, you can omit the teaspoon of soy sauce.