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.