Steamed Custard from Hong Kong
It was months ago that I asked my colleague Kloud, who hails from Hong Kong, to teach me to make a dish from his native land. I suppose I thought he would prepare something Chinese (or Cantonese), probably a rice- or fish-based dish. What I did not expect was the delicate custard that I can only describe as a like a steamed flan. Which is actually a terrible description. Trust me, if you make it yourself, you will see that it eludes characterization in terms of European traditions. Things and experiences that defy my expectations usually also delight me, as was the case with this smooth, not-too-sweet dessert custard.
Kloud explained that the kinds of food now popular in Hong Kong actually come from very diverse culinary traditions, Eastern and Western. From the direct region, not only Chinese but also Thai and Japanese cuisines are ubiquitous. Even ‘tea time’, seemingly a hangover from British colonial times is a must in Hong Kongers daily schedule.
May I suggest, then, the following steamed ginger custard with a cup of white tea at around four in the afternoon?
For those of you out there like me, who are not expert in the art of steaming, this dessert might take some practicing to achieve the correct consistency. But luckily, the ingredients are very simple and usually ones you have sitting around anyway, so a couple of wasted batches will not break the bank. Set in a ramekin with a leafy garnish, or even in teacups, steamed custard can be uniquely and beautifully presented as little individual desserts to end a dinner, as well. (Note that I wouldn’t necessarily call the version that I present here beautiful… On the contrary, the containers that I used were a bit too tall for steaming and thus needed more time than they should have.) If you are cooking for a larger group, you can also just use one big bowl, as Kloud did.
Recipe: Steamed Custard
approximately 3 servings
1 ¼ cups (300 mL) milk
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons of ginger juice* (optional)
1. Whisk milk and sugar together in a small saucepan and heat on medium until just before it begins to boil. (Don’t let it boil, as it will not become solid later!) You will see a lot of steam coming from the mixture when it’s the right time.
2. Whisk the egg whites with a fork until light and frothy, about one minute. Temper the egg whites with 1/4 of the hot milk mixture, whisking quickly. Then add the rest of the milk mixture and whisk again.
3. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and skim any bubbles off the top. Ladle or pour mixture into ramekins or heat safe bowls (with ginger juice already inside, if using). Cover the ramekins with foil and steam for 10-15 minutes, or until the custard has set but is still jiggly. Note: I don’t have a real Chinese-style steamer, so I just used a deep pan with a cover. I filled the pan with water a few centimeters in height, brought to a medium boil, placed the foil-covered ramekins inside and then covered for the duration of the steaming time.
Serve immediately or let cool and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
*Peel skin off a small knob of ginger and run it through a grater. Put the grated ginger in a fine mesh sieve and press ginger with the back of a spoon to release the juice. Put ½ tsp in the bottom of each ramekin before pouring the milk mixture inside.