Chinese steamed egg is a super easy egg recipe that's lightly seasoned and goes well with any meal! It's super silky smooth and can simply be topped with a drizzle of soy sauce and some green onions. Pair this steamed egg with some Korean purple rice, bok choy with oyster sauce, and teriyaki chicken to complete your meal!
Growing up, I was actually a very picky kid, but I always looked forward to when my mom made Chinese steamed egg.
This dish is super easy to make, but requires some attention to detail to perfect. Our recipe shows you how to easily make it and our post below shows step by step photos and a troubleshoot guide to help you master Chinese steamed egg!
What is Chinese steamed egg?
Chinese steamed egg (zheng shui dan - 蒸水蛋) is essentially a savory egg custard made with eggs, water, and salt. It's also sometimes called Chinese egg custard because of its smooth, custard-like texture.
This steamed egg recipe is a popular breakfast item and when someone is under the weather because it's super tender (no chewing at all!) and can be easily digested. Perfect for after a wisdom tooth procedure, along with egg drop soup!
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Eggs - Our recipes are based on large eggs. Please make sure to do the same, as having the right ratio of eggs to water is very important for creating the perfect steamed egg texture.
- Water - Water is normally used, but if you prefer, you can use unsalted chicken stock instead.
- Salt - Just a little salt to season the steamed egg itself.
- Soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil - These two are optional condiments to give the Chinese steamed egg more flavor. Feel free to use store-bought or some homemade chili oil. Our Chinese chili oil and garlic chili oil are super yummy with steamed eggs.
- Green onion - This is optional for garnish, but also adds some additional flavors to the steamed egg.
Customize your steamed egg!
This Chinese steamed egg recipe is just the basic foundation. There are many ways you can customize this recipe and here are some of our favorites:
- Substitute salt with saeu-jeot - aka Korean fermented, salted shrimp. This adds natural umami to eggs, along with the needed saltiness.
- Add some dry bay scallops and diced onion - This is my favorite version since my mom made it often. Soak some dry bay scallop in warm water for 30 minutes, then shred it up and add it to the steamed eggs. You could also speed up the process by crushing up the dry scallop with pliers and soaking in hot water. The scallop adds natural umami flavor and the onions gives the eggs a nice sweetness that goes nicely with the scallop and egg.
- Dress with soy sauce and sesame oil or chili oil- These condiments are great for adding on top of Chinese steamed egg if you want some additional flavors. Our Chinese chili oil and garlic chili oil adds tons of flavor! Also, try topping the steamed egg with some green onions and cilantro. So good!
How to make silky smooth Chinese steamed egg
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
1. Make the egg custard mixture. Combine the eggs, water or stock, and salt. Gently whisk to combine.
2. Strain the mixture. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the egg mixture into a heatproof bowl. Also use a spoon to skim off any bubbles. This will help make sure the steamed egg is smooth on the surface.
🌟 Pro tip: Straining is highly recommended if you want your Chinese steamed egg to be silky smooth!
3. Steam. Cover the bowl with cling wrap or a plate.
Then, steam over simmering water for about 12 to 14 minutes or until the egg is cooked.
4. Garnish. Carefully remove the bowl from the steamer and uncover the steamed egg. The steam will be VERY hot! Top the Chinese steamed egg with you preferred condiments, like soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili oil, and top with some sliced green onion.
Ways to steam
1. Bamboo steam basket - Place the steam basket into a wok or large, shallow pan with water. Make sure the water is above the bottom rim of the steam basket. Keep the water at a regular simmer.
2. Metal steamer - This is the best way to steam if you have a metal steamer because it's got the most room so you won't be as limited to the shape of bowl you can use. To steam, fill the bottom steamer pot with at least 1 inch of water. Place the steam basket over the pot and steam over regular steaming water.
3. Steaming rack - This method is great if you don't have a steam basket or steamer. All you need is a pot or wok that's wide and tall enough to accommodate your bowl, a steaming rack, and lid for the pot. You can find steaming racks at most Asian markets.
For this method, simply place a steaming rack in the pot/wok along with enough water to come half way up the rack, about ½ to 1 inch of water, depending on the rack. For this method, steam over very gently simmering water since there's less distance between the water and egg and because there's less places for the steam to escape compared to the steam basket.
How to check if your steamed egg is cooked
Chinese steamed egg typically takes about 12 minutes to cook, but the cook time can vary depending on whether the bowl is wide and shallow or tall and deeper.
But generally, when the steamed eggs are done cooking, it will jiggle like jelly and the surface will be set. The egg should hold its shape when scooped up, not watery.
A more foolproof way to check is by using a spoon or knife. Make an incision in the center of the egg custard. Some liquid will emerge from the cut. If the liquid is clear, the steamed egg is cooked. However, if the liquid looks murky or yellow, the egg most likely needs a few more minutes.
- Strain the egg mixture. This will ensure that the steamed egg is silky smooth throughout.
- Cover the bowl while steaming. This is very important if you want the surface of the steamed egg to be smooth and without imperfection. We prefer using cling wrap because it's kind of see through and plates are usually too big or bulky for our pots.
- Remove bubbles for extra smooth surface. Besides covering the eggs, skimming off bubbles and foam on top of the egg mixture also helps with preventing imperfections.
- Steam on gentle heat. It is best to steam over gently simmering water. This is especially true if using a steaming rack. The steam basket method is a bit more forgiving, and you can use as hot as regular simmering water.
Common troubleshoots for Chinese steamed egg
Chinese steamed egg is a very simple recipe, but it can be a bit more technique driven and finicky than you may think. Below are some common issues that comes up when making this recipe:
Steamed egg is not setting
1. Too much liquid to egg ratio. Chinese steamed egg is essentially an egg custard that requires egg to set. If too much liquid is used, the eggs will not be able to properly set the custard. It is best to keep the water to egg ratio at 2 to 1. If you prefer the steamed egg firmer, you can change the water to egg ratio to 1.5 to 1.
2. Heat is too low. This means the steamed egg is not cooked through, therefore the egg will not set. Make sure the water is at a gentle simmer. If need be, steam for a few more minutes.
3. Water got into the egg while steaming. This will dilute the egg, causing the steam egg not to set, which is why we recommend covering the bowl with cling wrap or a plate.
Imperfection on the surface
1. Not skimming off the foam. If the foam is not skimmed off, it'll cook and become dimple ridges on top of the steamed egg.
2. Water dripped onto the egg while steaming. Not covering the eggs while steaming will not only cause the eggs to not set, it can also cause imperfections on the surface. Water dripped onto the eggs from the condensation can create holes.
3. Not covering the bowl while steaming. Because steam is hot, it cooks the eggs on contact. Covering the bowl allows the surface of the egg to cook gently. This prevents the surface from becoming wrinkly.
Steamed egg is not silky on the inside
1. Heat is too high. If the water is boiling instead of simmering, the heat will be too hot and will cook the egg custard too quickly. This will cause the outside of the eggs to become overcooked while the inside is still undercooked.
2. Not enough liquid to egg ratio. Less water or stock will give the steamed egg a firmer texture. However, not using enough liquid will cause the eggs to "curdle" and become porous as it cooks.
The main difference between Chinese steamed egg and Korean steamed egg is the cooking method. Chinese steamed eggs are gently steamed over simmering water, while Korean steamed egg (gyeran jjim) is steamed over direct heat. The difference in cooking technique results in Korean steamed egg having a fluffier, spongier texture, and the Chinese steamed egg being silky smooth.
The time needed to cook Chinese steamed egg really depends on the vessel the eggs are in. If the steamed egg is cooked in a wide, shallow bowl, it usually takes about 10 to 12 minutes. For taller, skinnier bowls, the eggs can take more than 14 minutes.
The best ratio for Chinese steamed egg is 2 parts water (or stock) and 1 part egg, by weight. If you prefer a firmer egg custard, reduce the water or stock to 1.5 part and 1 part egg.
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Chinese Steamed Egg
For the steamed egg:
- 2 large egg
- 1 cups water or unsalted stock
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- Prepare a pot with a steaming rack and bring about ½ inch to 1 inch of water to a boil. Make sure the water line is only half way up the steaming rack. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat o keep the water at a very gentle simmer.*You can also steam using a steam basket instead. If so, the water can be at a regular simmer. Also, check out the topic "Ways to steam" in our post above for more steaming options.*
- While waiting for the water to heat up, make the egg custard mixture by gently whisking together the egg, water or stock, and salt.
- Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the egg mixture into a heatproof bowl, large enough to accommodate at least 1½ cup of liquid. We recommend a bowl that is wide and shallow.
- Cover the bowl with cling wrap and carefully place the bowl into the steamer. Steam the egg for about 10 to 12 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.*
- Top the steamed egg with your preferred condiments, like soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili oil if you wish. Garnish with some green onions. Enjoy while warm!
- Cook time - The size of your bowl affects how long the eggs need to be steamed for. Steamed eggs cooked in a shallow, wide bowl takes usually about 10 to 12 minutes, where as ones steamed in a smaller, tall bowl can take more than 14 minutes.