This is one of the earliest desserts I remember having as a kid. My mom was a skilled cook, but she definitely made more savory foods than cakes and desserts. Occasionally though, she would make this super quick, but amazingly tasty custard.
The secret to the custard (video link here) is the technique in which you mix the eggs with hot milk before steaming it. Because you are essentially cooking the eggs before steaming them, you are breaking up some of the protein bonds before the egg coagulates during the steaming process. This results in a softer and smoother custard.
Along with using steam - a gentler method of cooking, the custard is definitely less dense and much softer than western custards. This is also the case because the ingredients are much lighter - mainly eggs and milk, with no cream.
It’s quite traditional in Chinese desserts to pair everything with a ginger syrup. My mom put the ginger flavor right into the custard and it pairs perfectly together. Because the custard is traditionally eaten warm, you get the warming sensation from the ginger and custard as you eat it. It’s quite the comforting dessert.
Tips for the recipe:
Make sure to whisk quickly as you pour your hot milk into the egg mixture. You can strain out some particles (the finer the seive, the better), but this step is important to ensuring a smooth custard.
Don’t over-steam your custard. I know steam is a gentle heat, but the longer it cooks, the tougher it gets. You want the middle to still be soft when you take it out. It will firm up after. (And the cooking time is obviously dependent on how much mixture is in the bowl.)
Don’t skip steps with the ginger. I originally got lazy and put everything in a blender and strained afterwards. The fibers from the ginger makes the custard way too grainy, so stick with filtered ginger juice.
1. Start by scalding the milk in a small pot.
2.Meanwhile, whisk together eggs and sugar.
3. Once milk is heated, turn off heat and slowly pour into the eggs while whisking quickly.
4.Strain mixture several times for lumps. Set aside.
5. Grate a 1-inch piece of ginger into a coffee filter. Press juice into the custard mixture and mix till combined.
6. Divide mixture between 3 small bowls.
7. Put tinfoil over each bowl.
8. Place the bowls into a pre-heated steamer and steam for 5 minutes over medium heat. Turn off the steamer and leave custard in for another 5-7 minutes.
Custard will be wobbly in the center.
8. Take out and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
(Makes 3 small bowls)
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 inch of ginger, peeled