The Kitchn’s Cooking School
Lesson 16: Steam
I didn’t know going into this lesson that I would get to revisit one of my childhood favorite egg dishes. And that’s steamed eggs (khai toon in Thai). My family used to eat this as a side dish for dinner. If I remember correctly, with minced pork and scallions in it. It was such a delicious and comforting dish that I still can’t believe that I rarely thought about it. The last time I ate such a dish must have been in a Japanese restaurant. They usually come in a teensy-weensy bowl, as if there’s only half an egg in there, perfectly silky and light.
The homemade ones I remember from childhood weren’t as pretty and smooth, sometimes a little bubly at the top. Sometimes there was a bit of oil, perhaps from the minced pork. We would eat them without adding any seasoning, or maybe my dad liked a sprinkle of white pepper on his. The scallions were added not as garnish, but into the egg mixture before it was steamed. I believe it was my mother’s current live-in maid who suggested to me to eat it with a squeeze of lime. I loved it, and when I was still living at home, that was how she would make it for me, with a squeeze of lime.
In Thailand, most homes make steamed eggs in those cheap, clanky metal steamers. The Kitchn’s recipe, which calls the dish Korean-style steamed eggs, shows you to do it with a pot and a bowl. I followed the recipe almost to a t. I was a little worried about the temperature of the water, so I kept opening the pot cover and ended up cooking it for 15 instead of 12 minutes. It came out beautifully silky. I must say this was the first time I ate the dish with toasted sesame seeds. It was a delicious addition.
But overall, I was a little disappointed. To be fair, the Kitchn does offer a few variations with seasoning, like soy or fish sauce instead of salt and broth instead of water. But it was heavier than I had expected and a little under-seasoned (1/4 teaspoon of salt for two eggs and 1/2 cup of water). I had to keep squeezing in some lemon juice to give the dish a little kick. Plus, the egg white could be found at the bottom of the bowl, cooked thankfully, but I don’t understand why the yolk and the white separated.
So I went online to see how Thai home cooks do it. It’s gotten really creative and elaborate. But the basics are almost identical to the Kitchn’s recipe. The major difference is the seasoning. In all the videos that I saw, the cooks use MSG or broth powder (bingo!) and fish or soy sauce instead of salt. Some add ground white pepper and even a bit of cooking oil into the egg mixture. One guy even puts the egg mixture through a fine-mesh sieve twice to achieve that silky smooth texture.
It’s the kind of dish that allows you to be flexible with flavors and textures, as long as you get the basics right. I’ve got the basics down. Now, it’s time to get more creative and put in some strong flavors.