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Recipe: chinese steamed crabmeat egg custard

engagement: mountain bike
dress: $35
cake: $20
guests: 12 + 1 dog
weather: rainy and cold
location: my advisor’s living room in Ithaca, New York
ceremony by: The Honorable Marjorie Olds
years together: 18.5
years married: 14
best guy ever: Jeremy

We’ve been married fourteen years on Tuesday. Jeremy and I had completely forgotten until my mother called over the weekend and reminded me about our anniversary. It’s funny that our moms remember, but we don’t. Our moms are so cute.

jeremy enjoys a delightful lunch at l’atelier

I know when most people see Jeremy they just think “random white dude”. He is a classic introvert and few people stop talking long enough to get to know him. That’s their loss, because he’s a real treasure. Plus, if you’re some loud mouth who can’t get over how awesome you think you are, he probably doesn’t want much to do with you anyway.

When I see Jeremy, my heart is filled with all kinds of wonderful meltiness. It’s so cliché and yet the truth of the matter is that I fall in love with him more each day. You’re probably thinking, “What have you done with Jen? She hates that mushygushy crap!” Okay, let’s just say that our relationship is muy excelente. Thank you, Jeremy, for being the best part of my life.

sunshiny day in boulder

We know of many people who go through what Jeremy calls “practice marriages” before they find a truly good partner. The ones that snipe and bully, that don’t respect the other, that never listen, that lie, blame, or are insecure – they don’t last very long. Or if they remain together they make me feel like punching one or both of them in the face for acting like such jerks to one another. In contrast, it’s a great feeling when you see the people you care about in healthy, loving relationships.

chives, shiitake mushrooms, chicken broth, crabmeat, eggs, salt, tobiko, white pepper

whisking the broth into the eggs

Last October, I got to spend time with two of my favorite couples in San Francisco: Chuck and Hungry Bear of Sunday Nite Dinner (but you may know Chuck from Food Gawker) and Anita and Mike of Dessert First. Chuck invited us (Mike, Anita, and myself) over for dinner after BlogHer Food ended. Hungry Bear started the meal with these delicate and wholesome Chinese egg custards.

place crabmeat in the ramekins or tea cups

pour the egg mixture over the crab

I’ve had simple egg custard before. My grandma taught me to beat together an egg with some broth and steam it for a light meal or to settle my tummy when I wasn’t feeling so good. But this? This was fancy. Hungry Bear used shrimp instead of crab, but it was such a welcome change of pace from the party food of the past couple of days. Both Anita and I requested the recipe. That’s high praise from food bloggers!

seal well with plastic wrap

in the steamer

My first attempt at making these custards was an aesthetic failure. Edible? Yes. Pretty? No. I steamed the custards per the instructions in the recipe, but the egg curdled and had that hard cooked egg texture rather than the lovely silky, tender texture I was after. I emailed Chuck and asked him to check with Hungry Bear for what I did wrong. She said she always baked them in a water bath and they always came out. So I tried again.

cook the mushrooms in oil

top with caviar (or tobiko in this case)

Bingo. Worked like a dream. I do have some tips though, if you are entertaining. Don’t fill the ramekins to the brim. In fact, leave a good 1/2 inch from the top because the custard puffs up during cooking and if it touches the plastic you’ll get a texture or some odd pattern across the top or it will overflow and look like ass (sorry – this is how I felt with the few that overflowed). Also, try to avoid letting the foil touch the plastic wrap on each ramekin because the plastic wrap will melt onto the foil. Ask me how I know this! The caviar – take it or leave it. It gives a great crunch and pop to each bite, but I wouldn’t say it’s critical. The mushrooms however – you need those. The deep and earthy flavor is *perfect* on its own, but even better with the egg custard. It’s a lovely recipe. Really lovely. It’s also amazalingly (yes, that’s a word) good without any seafood as I ran out of crabmeat during the second time around. Thanks, HB & Chuck!

elegant and delicate

also? delicious

Steamed Crabmeat Egg Custard
[print recipe]
from Chinese Cuisine by Susanna Foo

2 cups shrimp or chicken stock, all fat removed
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsps coarse or kosher salt
1/2 tsp white pepper, freshly ground
8 oz. jumbo lump crabmeat (I used 4 oz.)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fresh medium shiitake mushroom caps, wiped clean and finely chopped (I used little ones and left them whole)
1 tbsp vodka (I skipped this)
1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 oz. Beluga or other caviar, optional (I used tobiko)

Pour the broth into a small bowl and gradually stir in the eggs until well-blended. Mix in 1 teaspoon of salt and the white pepper. Strain the mixture into a measuring cup with a spout (or something similar that makes it easy to pour). Divvy the crabmeat evenly among 6 to 8 ramekins, tea cups, Chinese tea cups with lids, whatever you like. Pour the stock into the cups making sure to leave at least a half inch from the top (because the egg custard puffs up during cooking and well – it looks better if it doesn’t puff up against the plastic wrap or foil). Cover each cup with plastic wrap, foil, or if using Chinese tea cups – the lids. They need to be well-sealed to avoid letting moisture drip into the custards. Now Susanna says to fill the bottom of a steamer with water until just under (but not touching) the rack and bring to a boil. Then she instructs you to place the cups on the rack, cover them and steam on high heat for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and steam for another 20 minutes. The surface of the custards should be moist and slick when they are finished. This didn’t happen for me – they were overcooked or something, but they had a honeycomb eggy texture instead of the nice silky texture that Chinese egg custards should have. So I tried the OTHER method she describes (which Hungry Bear says she’s had great success with) and baked them in a water bath in the oven. This worked for me: Place the covered cups in a large, shallow baking dish and fill the dish with hot water to about halfway up the custard vessels. Cover the entire dish with foil and seal the edges tightly. Bake for about 30 minutes at 325°F. This yielded silky, smooth, beautiful custards.

While the custards are cooking, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and add the mushrooms and vodka (I didn’t do the vodka). Cook over high flame for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and starting to just brown. Add the remaining half teaspoon of salt and then remove from heat until ready to use.

Remove the wrappings or lids from the custards and place mushrooms on each one (either sprinkle the chopped caps or set whole caps on top). Garnish with chives and a little mound of caviar (tobiko mounds very nicely). Serve right away. Makes 6 to 8 servings 1/2-cup servings. Also very good without crabmeat.

43 nibbles at “eggcelente!”

  1. kathy says:

    Congratulations on your happy and healthy marriage!

  2. Allison says:

    You two put such a big smile on my face, even though I haven’t had the honor of meeting Jeremy just yet. Congratulations to the both of you on such a wonderful marriage! ^_^

  3. Kristin says:

    You’re so right about how sad some marriages are. Congratulations to you & your random white dude introvert on your happiness & success.

  4. Ronine says:

    Sounds like Jeremy would feel right at home over here in the quiet Scandinavia :)

    Congratulations on your healthy relationships! I love Jeremy’s label of ‘practice marriages’. I think the older I get (and probably by being blessed with an equally great partnership), the easier it is to spot how inappropiate some couples are for each other.

  5. Sil says:

    Congratulations to you both! Is so sweet to see how much in love you two are. Excelente indeed!
    Feliz aniversario!!!

    ah Sil! you are right – I spelled excelente wrong! thank you :) -jen

  6. joey says:

    Congratulations on your happy marriage! Seeing couples like you who have been together for a long time and so in love is truly an inspiration :)

    And speaking of hubbies, this type of egg custard is a favorite of my husband! Thanks for the future brownie points ;)

  7. Shu-Huei Henrickson says:

    this is such a special dish! i only got to have it when we went out to japanese restaurants. and that didn’t happen very often. Thank you for the post. i’ve got to try it. another dish to try in my bamboo steamer.

  8. Kathya says:

    Aww, I loved this! I can relate. Happy anniversary and boy these look great! :)

  9. Collette says:

    Lovely post with lovely sentiments. You’re allowed be mushy over Jeremy. ;-)

    Happy anniversary!

  10. Yinnie says:

    OOh fancy ones. =) This has got to be my favourite dish ever, I’ve nearly perfected mine. Although I only cook for one and i do the plain type with chives and soy on top only. =D

    I find steaming works ok for me….

    Thanks for the recipe!

  11. Memoria says:


  12. Christine says:

    Oh these look gorgeous and not too hard to make either! Thank you and Thank you, Hungry Bear!

    Wishing you and Jeremy a very happy anniversary and many happy years together.

  13. Ginny says:

    That is awesome! Congratulations! :) I want my wedding to be like that… all about love and not about expensive parties! :)

  14. Chuck says:

    Congratulations to you and your “random white dude”. We feel privileged to have met Jeremy a few years ago. Your custards look beautiful and I want one right now! Sorry for not specifying that Hungry Bear uses the baking in the water bath method in the first place.

  15. Donna says:

    Congratulations to you and Jeremy! Your wedding description makes me smile, it is so similar to my own. It will be 34 years later this month for the two of us. The one difference is that I am the introvert and my husband has a personality more like yours. Hugs to both of you.

  16. Stefanie says:

    hi – congrats to you both (you big softie!) and enjoy celebrating each other. i’ll have to try this recipe – it looks delish!

  17. Margie says:

    Happy Day to you and Jeremy!

    Another spectacular surprise. I will have to discover this, and soon.

  18. Debbie says:

    Happy anniversary to both of you and I wish you many, many more!!!!

  19. caiming says:

    Happy Anniversary, wishing you many more happy and healthy years!

  20. Mrs Ergül says:

    This is like upmarket steamed egg compared to the kind that I grew up with! I will love to make this! Thanks for sharing the recipe Jen! Cheers to having so many wonderful years with your great guy! And cheers to many more to come!!!!

  21. Claudia says:

    Recognizing your sole mate takes heart and strength of character. What a beautiful story and timeless recipe to go with it. Congratulations to you both!

  22. Madeline says:

    When you find the right mate, the rest is so easy. I feel that way about my husband of 37 years. I am so fortunate and it sounds like you both are too. Happy anniversary!

  23. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand says:

    My warmest anniversarial congratulations. I’ve come to believe that there are two keys to a succesful marriage: marry someone you admire, and don’t say anything mean *ever*. It’s lovely to read someone who has a husband she thinks so well of and loves so truly. Mushygushy be damned.

  24. Lisa says:

    Happy Anniversary to you and Jeremy!! The steamed crabmeat egg custard looks delicious. I happened to have a can of backfin crabmeat in the frigie that I can use. Great idea. Thanks!!!

  25. angelitacarmelita says:

    There is nothing hotter than a man who compliments who you are as a person and loves you for just who you are. Random white dude my tail….

  26. Janet says:

    As someone who married an introverted “random white dude”, I applaud your discerning eye and excellent taste! May you have many more happy years together, and continue to enjoy good food and much laughter.

  27. Joy says:

    That looks wonderful. I would never think of egg custard as a savory dish.

  28. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    Awww…you and your random white guy are so cute!

    I love the recipe also…

  29. eemilla says:

    Congratulations and many more happy years to you!

  30. Christy says:

    So glad to see two people so much in love for so long. Gives hope to those of us still in the early phase. Congrats and cheers to many more!

  31. Cookin Canuck says:

    What a heartfelt tribute to your love. Here’s to many more years of falling in love with each other.

    These custards are original beautiful – definitely one to try.

  32. marla {family fresh cooking} says:

    Thanks for sharing Jeremy with us Jen. Happy anniversary to you both. Honestly, my folks always call to remind us of ours. I wanted the small wedding on top of a snowy mountain (in ski clothes) and she tantrumed and in the end threw the wedding of her dreams. Made mom happy after all.
    Ithaca – did you guys go to Cornell? It is so beautiful up there. I went to Syracuse U. Will be back up there at the end of this month to speak to the students. Will be really interesting to see my old stomping grounds.
    The egg custards look wonderful – the caviar is the ultimate topper. What kind is that? The color is gorgeous!

  33. Diana says:

    “Plus, if you’re some loud mouth who can’t get over how awesome you think you are, he probably doesn’t want much to do with you anyway.” – sounds exactly like my husband. I couldnt but smile :)

    Wishing you and Jeremy a wonderful (belated) anniv!

  34. Kirsa says:

    I love the garnish on those little curstard !
    They look like littles pieces of win !

    And I must admit I’m now curiousabout a savory custard…

  35. jenyu says:

    *blush* thanks for all of the lovely anniversary wishes. xxoo

    Chuck – you and HB rank high on Jeremy’s list of good people :) Don’t worry – I’m sure if I was better at steaming I might have gotten it right – but the baking method worked like a charm. Thanks for the recipe!

    Donna – opposites make a great team :) Congratulations on 34!!

    Mrs Ergül – same here! I grew up eating the plain steamed egg custard, but this is such a nice little treat :)

    Claudia – thank you. I think you and Michael have a lovely partnership too. xo

    Tamar – I *love* you, woman!!

    Lisa – Mom, this should be especially easy to make. Daddy will probably like it too :)

    Joy – it’s common in Asian cuisines – and really good! Very comforting on the tummy. Worth a try at least once :)

    marla – I think weddings tend to be either for the bride or the mother of the bride ;) Yeah, we were at Cornell for our PhDs. My dad got his PhD at Syracuse and my sister was born there! Small world, lady. The caviar is Tobiko (it mounds better than black caviar – good for shooting!)

    Diana – I think there are a lot of “quiet” gems out there. Luckily – you and I found them!

  36. Explora Cuisine says:

    Happy Anniversary and what a lovely post, I’m so happy to have found your blog! The picture that you called ‘sunshiny day’ is gorgeous, reminds me of home :)

  37. ARC says:

    Happy anniversary, hi to Jeremy, and wow, I never would have imagined egg custard to be good on an upset stomach. Very interesting.

  38. caninecologne says:

    Happy anniversary to you guys! What a sweet post! Here’s to many more anniversaries to come!

  39. Chinese Steamed Egg Custard says:

    […] answer to the Japanese’s Chawanmushi ( I prefer its Chinese name – 茶碗蒸). Jen made these real fancy with crab meat but I opted out on it since hubby doesn’t take crab (or […]

  40. Christina says:

    Ha! I discovered this post almost exactly a year later, so, um, happy 15th anniversary to the two of you! My parents also celebrated their (35th) anniversary this week. They got married a little later than average for their generation (both were 35), and my mom likes to say they just skipped their first marriages and went right to the one that worked. Granted, getting my dad to propose to her was a bit of work:
    I just hope that my eventual marriage is as successful as both of yours!

  41. Cook says:

    Yes, I know this is an OLD post, but thanks for running it. I first at this ~ 40 years ago, in Switzerland of all places, made it a few times and lost track of it for ~30 years. I couple not remember how to make it and the miriad of books were not helping. Once I saw your post, I knew it was what I was after. It works, it is delicious and could not be any easier. Of course I vary things a bit, but we all do. I use a small splash of sesame oil in each serving container – because I like it. I garanish with chipped green onions and consider the mushrooms as an optional grace. The caviar or whatever – is best used for something else… Point being that personal variations on the basic method are Just Fine. The essence is this wonderful – is is soup or is it custard? – is the egg/broth ratio and gentle steaming in a sealed serving whatever. Eggs, broth, salt and then use what you like. I’ve made it with crab, shrimp, halved bay scallops and even bits of salmon trimmings. I guess most ‘real’ Chinese folks would use a stove-top steamer, perhaps because ovens are rare. I too get better results with the oven method, but t he difference is strictly cosmetic. What a wonderfully tasty and comforting dish it is! Yum! -Cook
    P.S. That Jeremy fellow sounds like a treasure as well! Congratulations on so many non-anniversaries. It sounds like you celebrate every day.

  42. georgia carman says:

    Anoither recipe I cannot print, so, cannot cook also, as my disability make it unable for me to write by hand.

  43. Eric Florea says:

    Looks amazing! I can’t wait to try this recipe out. Thank you! :)

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