IMBB #16 Eggs!: Savoury Custard with Century Egg and Tobiko
This is my first time taking part in Is My Blog Burning?, which is hosted this month by Seattle Bon Vivant. I have been really psyched about the theme - eggs - one of my favourite foods. Hen's eggs alone already posed the question of which amongst my many beloved egg dishes to cook. Throwing the door wide open to include eggs of every possible kind made the choice even tougher. At W's suggestion, I made my version of an appetizer we frequently enjoy at a local Japanese restaurant - which is to say, it is Japanese-y, rather than Japanese, in inspiration. Happily, it combines three kinds of eggs - hen's eggs, century eggs, and tobiko (flying fish roe).
The savoury custard, otherwise known as tamago-dofu (egg tofu), actually contains no bean curd (dofu) whatsoever. It is so named because the texture of the delicately-set custard has the fine consistency of silken tofu. Tamago-dofu is just a tad firmer than chawan-mushi, its ubiquitous soupy cousin steamed and served in a lidded cup . Set just so, it is firm enough to turn out and cut into cubes, but not so firm as to desist shivering voluptuously like a Rubenesque thigh when plopped onto the plate. It can be served hot or cold, alone or as a component. There are countless sauces that will tastily blanket its rippling depths, as there are innumerable toppings that will enhance its custardy savoriness. I chose to serve the tamago-dofu chilled, with a creamy mayonnaise spiked with thrice-sieved century egg yolks, and topped with diced century egg white (which is, through the preservation process, not white anymore, but a translucent jelly not unlike tortoiseshell in appearance), a dollop of tobiko, and finely snipped aonegi (Japanese green onion). As I know lots of folks don't share my partiality for century eggs, the recipe below is simply for the tamago-dofu - the perfect canvas for improvisation.
280ml chicken stock, or dashi (preferably home-made)
1.5 Tbsp mirin
1.5 Tbsp light soy sauce (preferably usukuchi shoyu)
Stir the chicken stock or dashi, mirin, and light soy sauce together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix, not beat, the eggs gently until yolks and whites are well blended. Pour the seasoned stock mixture into the eggs and gently stir till mixed. Using a fine-meshed sieve, strain into a small loaf pan lined with foil (try to get the bottom as unwrinkled as possible; the foil assists later in lifting out the custard). If there are any bubbles on the surface, prick them with a toothpick. The dimensions of the pan aren't important; what's important is that the liquid comes up to a depth of around 1 inch. Cover the top of the loaf pan tightly with clingwrap or foil to keep out moisture. Line the steamer insert above a pan of simmering water with a dampened folded tea towel before putting the loaf pan in - this helps coddle the loaf pan from direct heat as gentle even heat is necessary to achieve the perfect set. Steam over a medium-low flame for about 20 minutes - the custard is done when a skewer inserted in the centre emerges clean. The top should not be dry, rubbery, firm or pocked - it should wobble when you tap the loaf pan. If eating hot, cut and serve. If eating cold, place the loaf pan in a pan of iced water until cool before cutting and chilling.
Serves 2 greedy people, variously topped, as an appetizer.