chinese steamed eggs
- Prep Time 5 minutes
- Cook Time 13-15 minutes
- Estimated Cost $4.50
- 27 Comments
You know what should be illegal? The way logging onto Facebook now means being accosted by a “memory” of something I thought was fit for public consumption in 2008. It’s like a stress dream; I click that blue app, and it’s all, “Hello! Welcome to this slowly dying platform comprised mostly of your mom’s friends. Sure, it’s 6 AM and you haven’t even finished your coffee yet, but would you like to see something embarrassing you posted when you were a) trying to get the attention of some guy you most certainly did not end up with, b) craving attention for yourself that absolutely did not serve you the way you thought it would, or c) just wildly naïve about the world and—wow—it showed? No? Well, too bad. Here it is anyway. Take a good long gander. Are you thoroughly ashamed? Yes? Great. Now, on to vacation photos of someone you barely knew in high school!”
Yeah, yeah, I know. I could eliminate the problem by deleting the app and/or my account. I’m well-aware that Facebook is rife with problems, from its potential contribution to the destruction of democracy as we knew it, to the fact that, for some reason, in 2023, it’s still possible to dole out virtual pokes. Yet, every morning, after checking Twitter (a fiery hellscape as of late, but still a place where people I like hang out), Instagram (usually pretty fun, but why do I keep getting posts from people I don’t follow??), and TikTok (my current favorite, if a little addictive—I always feel like I learn something useful), I open up Facebook and drag myself, yet again, down memory lane.
Maybe it’s because I remember how much more fun Facebook used to be, back in its heyday in the mid-aughts and early 2010s, back when it was the way we all shared, connected, and communicated. Back when it still felt like a cool clubhouse, where we seemingly conducted all business. A few weeks ago, I was served a memory of a conversation between a friend and myself, in which we literally made dinner plans, down to the restaurant and meeting time, right there on my “wall.” It could have easily been the transcript of a text or email chain, and yet, for some reason, this friend (a perfectly reasonable person) and I (reasonability unclear, apparently) felt compelled to have this conversation IN PUBLIC, for all to see.
Logic reminds me that this was just how it was back then, just the way we all used to communicate online, gleefully dancing along the line of public and private, making plans in front of an audience, sharing every single photo taken on a night out, no matter how badly lit, awkwardly posed, or, in some cases, obviously drunk its subjects appeared. Back when we posted vague song lyrics to imply our feelings about some mysterious conundrum to the world, like a three-line mix tape, intended to simultaneously confuse and intrigue the listener, and when clicking “unfriend” was the ultimate slammed door at the conclusion of a relationship (unless you reconnected, and sheepishly re-clicked “add friend” a few weeks later). I know this, along with my emotional development between then and now, should also explain the reason things I posted when I was younger, less conscious, less conscientious, (not to mention attempting to make a name for myself amid the rocky terrain of what was then the somewhat new landscape of social media) don’t exactly land when I reread them now. The internet was younger, but I was too. I wouldn’t be upset that my two-year-old cannot yet read, nor would I blame my five-year-old for her inability to understand algebra. (I wouldn’t even blame her future teenage self for that). Why then, is it so hard for my current self to give my younger, greener self a break for having been flawed?
One of the lessons parenting keeps teaching me is that, when we see traits we dislike in ourselves embodied by our children, it forces us to finally question why we were so committed to hating them in ourselves for so long. I was a deeply sensitive, emotionally intense little kid, and whenever I felt tears coming on—which was often—I knew there would be no stopping them. They overtook me, bigger and badder than any fight I had against them, and the shame I felt from the way other kids backed away from me, when I detected in the faces of adults that they felt totally out of their depth as I sobbed over a teasing comment or a B- still rattles around inside of me.
But when my own kids lose it, it’s completely different. I seek to know why, even if I already know it’s simply because I put their morning toast on the wrong plate or because they just remembered that the dinosaurs are extinct. I hug them, do my best to speak soothingly, and encourage them to talk about it. Sometimes I succeed in getting them to problem solve with me, and sometimes their tears just go on and on, the way little kids’ tears sometimes do, and it makes me feel a lot of things, but none of them is shame, because how could I fault this little person who trusts me with everything she has, for losing a little bit of grace as she battles the big feelings coursing through her? So, what makes me think my own little self was undeserving of such understanding, and, for that matter, why wouldn’t it also apply to my awkward, needy teenage self? Or my green, chaotic, Facebook-posting twenty-something self? Or my taking-adulthood-by-the-balls-with-mixed-success thirty-something self? Or, even my forty-one-year-old grown-up mom self who, try as she might, doesn’t always get things right?
These steamed eggs took me a little while to get right. I first fell in love with Chinese steamed eggs on TikTok, where they were trending about a year ago. I stumbled through my first few attempts at them, yielding results which, while tasty, didn’t look as good as the ones on my FYP. The first time I made it, I rushed, skipping the crucial step of straining the egg mixture. The second time, I cranked the heat up too high as I hurried to get dinner on the table, and the whole thing puffed up then sank down. It still tasted good, but I lost the silky, custardy texture the dish is supposed to have. Trial, error, and patience with myself, however, eventually brought me to success, and now I can’t stop making it. It’s become my go-to family dinner when I don’t really feel like cooking, but still want the payoff of a nourishing meal, or I’ll make a single-serve portion for a fast, high-protein lunch. For dinner, I’ll cook a pot of rice in the Instant Pot (not much is actually instant about it, but it’s great for stock and rice), throw a salad together (I’m currently obsessed with smashed cucumbers), and whisk together eggs and water (1/3 cup for every egg), plus a little bouillon powder (I’ve tried making it with homemade broth and it just doesn’t work as well).
I strain the mixture into a heat-proof glass dish, like a Pyrex storage container (handy in case there are ever leftovers, which, admittedly, is rare).
I skim off as many tiny bubbles as possible, then let it cook low and slow (we don’t want them to puff), and cover tightly with foil, which I vent with a knife.
Then I steam it in a large pot with a few inches of water and a metal steaming rack you could approximate the rack with a few pieces of rolled foil—the idea is just to keep the eggs off the bottom of the pot as they cook).
I make a sauce in the meantime. This is totally optional—you could just do a drizzle of soy—but I love to mix up soy sauce, chili crisp, a few drops of maple or honey, and Chinese black vinegar. I've used rice vinegar before, which also works, but if you can find Chinese black vinegar (chinkiang), snap it up. It's delicious.
Once the eggs are perfectly steamed—set but still jiggly—I cover the top generously with the sauce,
and top it with a handful of sliced green onion.
I scoop it into bowls with the rice and salad and we pass more sauce at the table.
Each time I dip my spoon into its lusciously smooth surface, slicked with chili oil and perfectly jiggly, I think back on all the times I mangled the steps, screwed up the ratios, rushed the preparation, all of which led me to this perfect bite, and I don’t feel guilt or shame. All I feel is grateful.
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon chicken or vegetable bouillon powder or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt pantry
- 6 eggs $3
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce pantry
- 2 teaspoons chili crisp optional
- 1/2 teaspoon honey or maple syrup pantry
- 2 teaspoons chinese black vinegar (chinkiang) or rice vinegar pantry
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced $1.50 for a bunch
Recipe Serves 3-4
1. Fill a large pot with a fitted lid with 2-3 inches of water and place a steaming rack or a few pieces of rolled up foil on the bottom. Cover and bring to a boil.
2. Stir the water and bouillon together to make a broth.
3. Whisk the eggs into the broth until completely combined (no streaks of whites or yolks).
4. Strain the mixture into a medium-sized heatproof container that will fit in the bottom of your pot, like a Pyrex. Skim off as many of the tiny bubbles on the surface with a spoon or small fine mesh sieve.
5. Cover the top of the container tightly with foil and puncture a few times with a knife to vent.
6. Lower the heat on the pot to medium-low, then carefully lower the foil-covered dish into the pot, setting it atop the steaming rack.
7. Cover the pot with the lid, then allow to cook for 13-15 minutes, until the eggs are set but still jiggly. Start checking for doneness around 10 minutes.
8. While the eggs cook, whisk together the soy sauce, chili crisp, honey or maple, and vinegar.
9. Serve the eggs topped with the sauce and the green onions, preferably with rice.