For as long as I can remember, I’ve harangued my mother to share her recipes for my favorite childhood dishes. She’s rebuffed me every time—in the most passive-aggressive way possible. A typical phone conversation:
“Hi, mom—what’s in your pot sticker filling? I’d like to try to make some.”
“Pot sticker filling? Ahhh…I don’t know…my recipes aren’t written down. They’re all in my head. I just…well, you know, Michelle. I just mix things together until it’s ready. I do it purely by look and feel. And smell. It’s all about experience. I’ve been making pot stickers for many years—since before you were born. Over 40 years!”
“Yes, I know—and I love the filling. If you’re not going to share with me how you make it, can you just tell me the ingredients you use?”
“Well…no. Because it changes. Sometimes, I use shrimp. Sometimes, dried scallops. But I’m telling you—it’s no use; you won’t be able to get the same quality. If you make it, it won’t be the same. How about I just make some for you and the kids instead?”
“But I want the recipe!”
“You know, my mother never gave me her recipes…”
My mother’s culinary secrets remain safely secured in her mental vault, but through trial (and plenty of error), I’ve managed to come up with my own (Paleo!) versions of a few of her insanely delicious, super-comforting home-cooked dishes.
Case in point: this simple recipe for Cantonese-style savory egg custard with minced pork, asparagus, and mushrooms.
The version I grew up eating usually featured not just ground pork, but also salted, preserved duck egg yolks (鹹蛋) and fresh green scallions. It was my mom’s version of emergency protein—a quick and satisfying go-to dish to accompany the four other entrées (plus soup!) that she prepared for supper every night.
You can do the same with my recipe—or just eat it without any accompanying dishes at all. Filled with meat and vegetables, this egg custard can easily stand alone as a complete meal. It’s versatile, too; if you don’t have pork or asparagus or mushrooms on hand, just grab whatever ingredients you have on hand to prepare the filling. Just be sure to use the prescribed egg-to-water ratio to ensure a silky custard.
Here’s what to gather to serve 4 people:
For the filling:
- 1 teaspoon ghee
- 1 small shallot, minced
- ½ pound ground pork (or your favorite protein)
- 3-4 asparagus stalks, thinly sliced
- 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons coconut aminos
- freshly ground black pepper
For the custard:
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup water
- 1 teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce
For the garnish:
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 green onion stalks, thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Here’s What You Do:
Grab and prep your ingredients.
Heat the ghee in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallots and the pork to the pan, breaking up the meat with a spatula.
Saute the filling until the shallots are softened and the pork is no longer pink.
Toss in the chopped asparagus and shiitake mushrooms…
…and stir-fry for about a minute or until the asparagus turns bright green.
Season the meat and veggies with fish sauce, coconut aminos, and freshly ground pepper. Taste the filling and adjust the flavors if needed.
Next, spoon the meat and veggies into a shallow, heat-proof dish.
While the filling cools slightly, prep your steamer set-up.
Fill a large stock pot with about two inches of water.
Pop in a steamer rack…
Bring the water to a boil in the covered pot over high heat.
As the water in the steamer comes to a boil, make the egg custard by combining the eggs and water. (3 large eggs get you to the ⅔ cup mark—to that, add ¾ cup water.)
Add 1 teaspoon of fish sauce and whisk to combine.
Pour the egg mixture over the meat and veggie filling.
Once the water in the steamer is boiling, turn the heat down to medium to maintain a hard simmer.
Carefully place your egg custard on the steamer rack in the pot…
…and cover the dish with another heat-proof glass plate, turned upside-down.
Replace the lid on the pot and steam for 15-20 minutes or until the custard is fully set.
The custard’s ready when it is still slightly jiggly and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Drizzle on some toasted sesame oil, and garnish the savory egg custard with chopped fresh cilantro and green onions.
Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index! You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPad® app, and in my New York Times bestselling cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013).3