This super silky steamed egg is just like the classic gyeran jjim you can find at your local Korean restaurant, but made extra silky smooth with adaptations from the Chinese steamed egg, 蒸水蛋 .
What is your favorite banchan when you eat at your local Korean restaurant?
For me, gyeran jjim (계란찜) is only second to geotjeori, aka fresh kimchi. Maybe it's because gyeran jjim reminds me of the steamed egg my mom always made for me when I was younger. Or perhaps it's the simplicity and subtle richness of the steamed egg. There's just something comforting about it. So we though we'd share with you this classic banchan, just made silky smooth!
Texture of gyeran jjim/ 蒸水蛋
In Korean restaurants, you'll commonly find ajummas making gyeran jjim super quickly over direct heat in the stone bowls. This method results in porous and and usually overcooked eggs because of the harsh, direct heat. Besides cooking in the stone bowls over direct heat, you'll also commonly find gyeran jjim being steamed. This method is much more home kitchen friendly, as not every home kitchen is equipped with a gas range. With the steaming method, gyeran jjims are becomes more silky with just a thin layer of porousness on the top and sides.
Today, we want to share a gyeran jjim recipe that is slightly adapted from the Chinese steamed egg, also known as 蒸水蛋 (zheng-shui-dan) and literally translates to steamed water egg. This type of steamed egg have a higher ratio of stock/water/dashi to eggs and cooked at low heat that results in the silkiest, custard-like steamed eggs.
Is straining the egg mixture necessary?
Although straining the egg mixture for this steamed egg recipe isn't totally necessary, we still highly recommend that you strain the mixture. Straining will prevent the eggs, usually the whites, from forming a clump in this silky smooth custard mixture. Also, straining will remove most of the foam and bubbles produced from beating the eggs. Should the bubbles be remove? We say yes! Because the bubbles will mar the top of the steamed egg, causing wrinkles and rough imperfection when steamed. So at the end of the day, if you don't mind a couple of clumps in the gyeran jjim or a little imperfection on the top, straining is not necessary.
How to make a simple dashi
As the name 蒸水蛋 (aka steamed water egg) suggests, this gyeran jjim recipe can be made with just water. However, if you wish to make your steamed egg more flavorful and more nutritious, definitely substitute the water for stock or dashi. Feel free to use the packet dashi by following its instructions or make your own by following the guide below.
To make a simple homemade dashi:
- Combine 5 cups of water with a couple pieces of dried kelp (kombu). Optionally, you could also add other dashi flavorings such as shiitake mushrooms, green onion, onion skin, dry anchovies, bonito flakes, etc.
*Usually the kelp comes in large sheets, precut pieces, or just dried pieces. So you could use either two 2x2 inch pieces, one 4x4 inch sheet, or a few pieces of the non-flat kombu.
- Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the dried kelp and continue to let the dashi simmer for another 10 minutes. Strain and use. You can freeze any leftover dashi for another use.
How to make your own chicken stock
If you can't get your hands on ingredients for making dashi, you can always make a tasty chicken stock for the gyeran jjim. Below is a guide for making your own chicken stock. And remember, you can customize the stock however you like. So if you don't have vegetable scraps, you can also make a basic stock.
To make your own chicken stock:
- Roughly chop a whole raw chicken carcass into pieces and place them into a large pot. Add enough water to cover 1-2 inches above the bones, about 6 to 8 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let the stock simmer for about 1 hour then strain and use.
Alternatively, you can also add vegetable scraps like onion peel, celery tips, and carrot trimmings to the stock. If you have any bay leaves, parsley stems, and black peppercorns, you can add those as well. You could also make chicken stock with rotisserie chicken carcass or roast the raw chicken carcass to give your stock a deeper color and more flavor.
If you have an Instant Pot or pressure cookers in general, your chicken stock can be even better! Just place all your ingredients into the pot (but don't exceed the max line) and select the broth/ stock button. Make sure the vent is sealed and let it naturally release the steam for at least 10 minutes before manually venting the stock.
How to check if your steamed egg is cooked
Here's two methods to check if your steamed egg is cooked. One, gently jiggle your gyeran jjim and if it's jiggly and the top looks set, it's done. However, a more foolproof way and our preferred way to check, is by making an incision in the middle of the steamed egg with a spoon or knife. If the liquid that ooze out is clear, the egg is cooked. On the other hand, if you see any raw egg mixture ooze out, your steamed egg will need a few more minutes. Cooked gyeran jjim should be able to hold its shape when scooped. So if it's watery, then either it's undercooked, or unwanted liquid was added to it during its steaming process.
Common issues with making gyeran jjim/ 蒸水蛋
After making steamed eggs numerous times, here are the most common issues we have encountered:
The steamed egg isn't setting/ holding its shape even after several extra minutes on top of original cook time.
- Your heat may have been too low. Make sure the heat is on low, but the water should still be at a low simmer/ occasional percolating.
- Additional water was added to the steamed egg during the steaming process. This usually happens if you're using a steamer or pot with a flat lid. As the steam collects on the lid, water can drip into the steamed egg, diluting it, which can cause the gyeran jjim to not set.
Gyeran jjim has imperfections on the surface.
- Heat was too high. If the steaming water is at too high of a simmer, it can overcook the top of the steamed egg before time is up.
- Bubbles at the surface. If the egg mixture wasn't strained before steaming, there'll most likely be foam and bubbles at the surface of the egg mixture. When the foam cooks, it will deflate and set on the surface of the steamed egg, causing imperfections.
- Water dripped onto the steamed egg. If water from the lid drip onto the steamed egg when steaming, it can cause imperfection and dimples on the steamed egg.
Steamed egg isn't silky smooth on the inside.
- Heat was too high. High heat will unevenly cook the steamed egg and can overcook parts of the steamed egg before time is up.
- Not enough liquid was added to the egg mixture. To make a silky smooth gyeran jjim, the most important factors are heat control and liquid ratio to eggs. Extra liquid will reduce the chances of the egg curdling. The more egg and less liquid will increase the chances of curdled, porous steamed egg.
Customize your steamed egg!
The recipe below is the basic version of gyeran jjim/ steamed egg. But there are numerous combinations and ways to customize and enjoy this simple side dish! Some of the most common customization are:
- Substitute salt with saeu-jeot (새우젓), aka Korean fermented, salted shrimp. This adds natural saltiness to the steamed egg and also some umami.
- Add some dry bay scallops. This is my favorite version, as it was what my mom always made. Soak some dry bay scallop in water for 30 minutes, then shred it up and add it to the steamed eggs. You could also speed up the process by soaking the dry scallop in hot water or in your dashi broth. When I make this version of gyeran jjim, I also love adding some small diced yellow onions to the egg. This gives the steamed egg some subtle sweetness.
- Top the steamed egg with sautéed vegetables. Instead of adding ingredients into the steamed egg, you could just garnish it with your favorite sautéed vegetables. Our favorite is a combination of sautéed shiitake mushrooms, yellow onion, and dried shrimp. (I know shrimp isn't a vegetable, but it tastes amazing!)
- Simply dress with soy sauce, green onion, sesame oil, and hot pepper oil (if you like some heat). You can also enjoy this version with some roughly chopped cilantro for extra fragrance.
If you enjoyed this gyeran jjim recipe, you may liked these as well:
- Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi
- Japchae: Korean Glass Noodle Stir-Fry
- Sweet Potato Mochi Pancake/ Hotteok
- Vegetarian Bao Buns (Korean Style)
Cook with love!
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Super Silky Steamed Egg (Gyeran Jjim/ 蒸水蛋)
- Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in your steamer pot.
- Meanwhile, mix together the beaten eggs, stock/ dashi*/ water, and salt.*For a simple dashi recipe, refer to the post above.*
- Strain the egg mixture into a heatproof bowl, large enough to accommodate at least 1½ cup of liquid.*Highly recommend lightly greasing the bowl with oil for the steamed eggs. This will prevent the eggs from sticking onto the bowl.*
- Carefully place the bowl of egg mixture into the steamer and reduce the heat to low. The water should be just slightly percolating. Let the egg steam for 14-16 minutes, or until the steamed egg is set and jiggly.*A fool-proof way to check if the steamed egg is cooked is to insert a spoon the middle of the egg. If the liquid that emerge is clear and the egg holds its shape, it's done. If the steamed egg cannot hold its shape and the liquid looks murky or like beaten eggs, it is under. Keep steaming for a few more minutes.*
- Garnish the steamed egg with green onion and a few drops of sesame oil. Enjoy while warm!