Sunday, January 26, 2014

Steamed Comfort Eggs from Ovidia Yu


Please join us in welcoming first-time guest Ovidia Yu.

Ovidia Yu lives, writes and eats in Singapore. Aunty Lee’s Delights and its sequel, Aunty Lee’s Special Poison (William Morrow, Fall 2014) feature Aunty Lee who loves Singapore and food as much as Ovidia does, but who cooks far better.


One problem with giving ‘traditional’ recipes is that every family has its own traditions. I remember once triggering what almost escalated into a fight at the market because I asked the vendor which vegetables to put around a steamed ‘lions’ head’ (really a giant steamed pork and mushroom ball). The vendor showed me a couple baby bok choys (“See so pretty. Organic some more!”) her old mother pushed her and them aside in favour of full grown pale green bok choy saying large vegetables would bring better luck. Another customer said in her mother-in-law always used napa cabbage and then an old lady in a wheelchair started flailing at everybody within reach with a bunch of snake beans because we ‘young people’ (note: I’m in my 50’s) didn’t see that kailan, with its little yellow flowers, was the perfect ‘mane’ to put around the lion’s head.

So I’m stressing upfront that my Steamed Comfort Egg is not ‘traditional’ dish. It’s a comfort food my amah jie made for me when I was ill or as a special treat and that my father makes for my brother’s children. At its most basic it is simply a mix of egg and water with a pinch of salt and sugar for each egg. For children it is usually made with the same amount of water as egg, the water measured into the bowl in half eggshells which rinses the shells while adjusting water to the size of the egg. After steaming, soya sauce and sesame oil are trickled on top.

 
More sophisticated versions use chicken or pork broth instead of water, at a broth:egg ratio of up to 2:1 and may have minced meat, half prawns and shredded ginger embedded in them, with spring onions scattered on top. If you use dashi and mirin for the liquid and immerse sliced shitake mushrooms, lily root and crab cake in it then you have made Japanese chawanmushi and if you are watching Korean dramas while eating it you can call it Gaeran Jim. But once you have the basic recipe, what goes into your steamed comfort egg depends on what is in your fridge or freezer. I have seen curried versions with strips of ham and chicken meat and topped with crab meat and pork floss.


(Basic) Steamed Comfort Eggs

Ingredients: Eggs, Water, pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil to serve

Utensils: Bowl, Sieve (if straining), Steamer with boiling water/Rice Cooker with an inch of water set to ‘cook’ for 5 minutes (or a big pot containing water up to half the level of an upside down bowl that forms a DIY steamer base).

Crack eggs. Add water and stir to mix. Try not to have as many bubbles as I have here.


My father, cooking for his grandchildren, always strains the egg mixture through a fine sieve. I use a coarse sieve. My always busy amah didn’t strain (“what for waste”) the egg unless company was expected. So straining the egg mixture is optional—but it does look better without bubbles on top


If using a narrow cup instead of a wider bowl, it is better to pour in the half the egg first, steam it for about three minutes then remove and pour in the rest. (This is also a good idea if you are include mincemeat or prawns that you want to remain at the bottom and want to make sure are cooked)

But for myself today, the plain egg and water (with pinch of salt and sugar) is steamed for about 7 minutes until it is a perfect soft jelly, then flavoured with soy and sesame oil to taste.


How to steam with the rice cooker: In the days of giant rice cookers when I was young, a little metal dish of beaten egg and water was often placed on top of cooked rice and left to steam while the rice ‘fluffed’ as the family was called to dinner. My current rice cooker (perfect for two people) is far too small for that. I put some water in and press ‘cook’ till it boils. Then my egg mix containing pretty tea cup goes in and the rice cooker is switched to ‘keep warm’. This takes a bit longer (this too almost 15 min) than cooking it in the steamer but the egg comes out softer and it doesn’t need watching as closely as it will stay warm and soft till you want it—just make sure there is water left in the bottom of the rice cooker!


 
 







Aunty Lee's Delights was released in September 2013. You can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at independent bookstores.



Ovidia will be giving away one copy of her book to someone who leaves a comment, so be sure to welcome her.  (You'll really enjoy the book!)

49 comments:

  1. Welcome, Ovidia Yu! My Korean mother used to make us a comfort food egg dish we called a "rice egg". It was just eggs beaten with a little water and cooked omelet-style, filled with rice and topped with soy sauce. I still make it for myself occasionally (usually adding some sesame spinach to the rice filling), but it really has to be made by one's mother to get the full comfort effect! I will have to give your steamed egg a try. Thanks for the recipe!

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    1. Hi Cee Pluse, I think I know what you mean--when I was living in a retreat near Wonju on holidays when others went home we foreigners sometimes got 'omurice' (probably I've got the wrong spelling) but it was a fried vegetable rice wrapped up in an omelette skin and delicious! I know mothers do it best, but a motherly cook is a close second!

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  2. Welcome Ovidia--so nice to have you visiting! Love the idea of the soy and sesame flavors...and Cee, you're right, best made by one's mother:)

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    1. Thank you Lucy! I love this site, thank you for having me here today!

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  3. Not sure I will be making you dish. I found it fascinating reading. Strange...I do find myself hungry now.:).

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    1. Hi cmgren, thanks for that! It's not a fancy dish or a company dish but for me at least it carries memories of loving pampering and feeds all kinds of hunger so... :)

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  4. Hi, Ovidia! I won your book elsewhere, and enjoyed Auntie Lee so much. Is there another in the works?

    This sounds delicious, sort of like a custard, yes?

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    1. Hi Karen, I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed Aunty Lee! And yes, thank you for asking :) Aunty Lee's Special Poison should be out in Fall 2014 and I'm working on the third book right now!

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    2. That's wonderful news, thank you!

      Best of luck with the series. Auntie Lee is a hoot, and it's such fun to see a mature crime solver.

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  5. This is fascinating! Perfect for someone who is feeling a little under the weather I imagine. Thanks for joining us today on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!

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    1. Thank you Peg! I really like this blog and I'm so glad I got a chance to 'meet' you. Someone gave me a copy of Allergic to Death when I was in hospital a couple of years back and that was when we first 'met'. I love the idea of fresh made healthy convenience meals and wish someone would do that here!

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  6. I'm so glad that there are more Auntie Lee books to come and hopefully, it will be a long series. I read Auntie Lee's Delights a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it so much. I don't have a steamer like those pictured, but I know I like the flavors, especially green onions and sesame oil.You've given me a new idea - vegetable rice wrapped in an omelet! That sounds so good.

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    1. Hi Nancy, thank you so much! :) Actually almost any kind of rice or leftovers mixed with rice wrapped in an omelet tastes pretty food.

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  7. Welcome to Mystery Lovers Kitchen, Ovidia! What a wonderful recipe and commentary. I feel like I've had a mini-vacation. I look forward to trying this (who doesn't need comfort?) and can't wait to read Auntie Lee's Delights.

    Thanks so much for perking up my day.

    MJ

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    1. Thank you Mary Jane! You just gave my day a lovely perk too, and I hope you like Aunty Lee's Delights!

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  8. This egg sounds really good but I don't know if I will make it for myself or not.

    nlb1050@yahoo.com

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    1. Thank you, Nancy. If you're ever in this part of the world you'll see a version of it at most 'economy rice' stalls... a way of sampling without making it, though it's not the same as homemade of course!

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  9. Book sounds deliciously unusual. I will definitely be buying it. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you Valerie, I do hope you enjoy it!

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  10. That looks just great. I have a boiled egg every morning, so tomorrow I'm going to try to do it your way.

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    1. Thanks Vicki, I do hope you like how it turns out!

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  11. It sounds like an egg custard. Maybe a little cinnamon on top?

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    1. Hi Linda, that sounds like it would be an interesting taste and yes, exactly! It's a savoury egg custard even though there's a bit of sugar in there. But then a lot of dishes here (even vegetable & meat dishes) get a dash of sugar thrown in during cooking. You can't taste it, or at least I can't, but apparently it rounds out the other flavours.

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  12. I am going to try steaming the egg in a bowl in the rice cooker on top of the rice. Such a great idea! I would love to be entered to win this book.

    Harvee
    harvee44@yahoo.com

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    1. Good luck Harvee! (both for the steamed egg and the book!)

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  13. Hello Ovidia: I really enjoyed the interview/posting today as I had heard about Auntie Lee's delights and being a cozy mystery lover, just knew that with sleuthing and food together, this was going to be another of my favorite series. I am so happy to hear that you will have more books coming up after this one. I must order it soon, but maybe I won't have to do that if I become lucky for a change and win your book here on Mystery Lover's Kitchen. I am getting better at making Asian foods for our two granddaughters who are from China, but I have never made this kind of egg dish. Shall give it a try.

    Thank you for sharing your recipe and your background; really enjoyed both.

    Sincerely,
    Cynthia

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    1. Hello Cynthia, your granddaughters sound like two lucky little girls! (all children with loving grannies are lucky aren't they?) I hope they like your steamed eggs good luck with that and with the book!

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  14. Welcome to the Kitchen, Ovidia. I really enjoyed your post, and the food market story is hilarious. It is also very telling about the stress of sharing a "traditional recipe." Thank you for spending time with us, and warm congratulations on the success of your charming series.

    ~ Cleo

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    1. Thank you Cleo, and thank you for letting me visit here!

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  15. Thanks for visiting with us today, Ovidia! I can honestly say that I have never eaten this dish but now I'm eager to try it. If your book is anything like your blog, then I'm sure it will do very well!

    ~Krista

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    1. Thank you Krista! And thank you for having me visit here!

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  16. How delightful.
    Comfort foods from childhood have magical properties, don't they?
    I remember an egg dish served when "under the weather"--a piece of buttered toast in a bowl with hot milk and an egg. I suppose the egg poached in the milk.
    Simple and lovely.

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    1. The buttered toast-milk-egg sounds lovely too Libby, and yes, childhood comfort foods work their magic even in memory don't they?

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  17. Ovidia, welcome to MLK. What a lovely post about your amah and the history behind this dish. Wishing you great sales of your books!

    Best, Daryl aka Avery

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    1. Thank you Daryl! I fell in love with your titles (and consequently books) long before I found this blog! I so wish we had cheese shops / cookbook shops here in Singapore!

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  18. Your comfort eggs sound so good, as a grandma will try this out on the grands. Would love to win a copy of your book and glad it's a series.
    Ruth Nixon

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    1. Thank you Ruth, I hope they like it!

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  19. Welcome! This recipe sounds delicious. I can't wait to read your book.

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    1. Thank you Robyn, I do hope you enjoy it!

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  20. Ovidia, thank you so much for joining us today at MLK, and for responding to comments. As you can see, readers have been intrigued! And so they should be--I really enjoyed the book, and I'll look forward to the next one.

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    1. Thank you so much for the invitation, Sheila. I'm really enjoying this visit!

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  21. Welcome. Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents. Looking forward to reading your work.

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  22. I am fascinated by this recipe!!!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

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    1. Hi cyn209, glad it got you fascinated--and good luck with the giveaway!

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  23. Sorta looks like custard to me. Hubby said he'd have to think about it. But I did find the recipe and instructions interesting.

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  24. As an ex-Malaysian/Singaporean now living in Sydney, I always look out for Books by Asian authors, to keep in touch....reading and eating being favourite pastimes. Steamed egg is also top comfort food, with variations like steamed three-egg (hen egg, salted egg and century egg) and steamed egg with silky tofu. Thank you for sharing. Muriel

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