Steamed custard is a dish my mother made frequently when I was growing up, and she changed the ingredients depending on what she had on hand. Sometimes, it was salted shrimp with mung bean vermicelli (both ingredients soaked in warm water until soft), other times it was chopped canned clams, or some cooked fish or seafood.
It’s also one of the first dishes she taught me how to make, instructing me on the right proportions of liquid to egg (1.5: 1), stressing the importance of straining the mixture to make it really smooth and then steaming it gently, and finally showing me how to tell when it’s done.
With a simple dish like this, the quality of ingredients will makes a huge difference in the final results. Use really good fresh eggs, and top-quality soy sauce to drizzle over the dish.
Put the conpoy in a bowl, add about 60ml (¼ cup) of boiling water and leave to soak until the dried scallop is soft and pulls apart into shreds. Remove the conpoy from the water and squeeze out the excess moisture before shredding the scallops. Save the soaking water.
Heat a wok over a high flame and when it’s hot, rub it lightly with the cooking oil. Add the pork and stir-fry until it starts to lose its pink colour. Add the shimeji and shredded conpoy. Sprinkle lightly with salt and stir-fry over high heat until the mushrooms lose their moisture, then reabsorb it. Mix in the white pepper and transfer the ingredients to a heatproof shallow bowl that holds about 500ml (2 cups). Spread the ingredients into an even layer.
Pour the conpoy soaking liquid into a measuring cup and add tepid water until the total amount is 225ml (scant 1 cup). Whisk the eggs until they are thoroughly mixed, then stir in the water/soaking liquid. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into the bowl holding the conpoy/pork/mushroom mixture.
Pour water into a wok to the depth of about 3cm (1¼ inch) and place over a high flame. Put a round rack with low feet in the wok. When the water boils, carefully move the bowl with the egg to the rack. Reduce the flame so the water is at a low, steady simmer. Cover the wok with the lid and steam for about 10 minutes, or until the custard is barely set; to test that it’s done, shake the bowl gently – it will still be a little wobbly in the centre.
Drizzle the soy sauce over the steamed custard; carefully swirl the dish so the soy sauce coats the surface. Scatter the spring onion over the custard and serve with stir-fried vegetables and steamed rice.