In Cantonese, we call this dish ‘water egg’ – egg whisked with water and a dab of salt, then steamed until it becomes a smooth, soft savoury custard.






Skill level

Average: 5 (1 vote)

I loved this dish when I was growing up, and I still do. My mother would make it with dried scallops and we devoured it spooned over white rice. I always thought this dish was one of my mother’s easier recipes, but when I tried to make it for myself, I was met with failure, time and again. Where my mother’s steamed water egg was silky and light, mine was puffy and clumpy. Her custard was more baby’s bottom, mine more wrinkly face. When I finally cracked it, the answer was actually in a small-but-mighty detail my mother had mentioned countless times – low heat, slow cooking time. In the end, the quest to perfect this three-ingredient recipe taught me a great deal: the importance of listening, the power of patience and that Mum is always right.

A smooth slippery texture is key to this dish. Using cooled, boiled water is important as this helps it combine with the egg. The water should not be hot at all; it should be warm, similar to tepid tap water.


  • 2 large eggs
  • 125 ml (½ cup) boiled water, cooled until it’s just warm (not hot) to the touch
  • sea salt
  • rice, to serve

Topping options 

  • sliced shallot
  • handful of coriander leaves
  • toasted sesame oil
  • toasted white sesame seeds

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


1. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl until the whites and yolks are completely blended. Place the bowl on a tea towel (to stop it from moving around) and slowly add the water in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Add ½ teaspoon of sea salt and whisk vigorously until the mixture is very well combined.

2. Place a steaming rack or trivet in a saucepan (make sure it will hold the bowl you will steam the custard in), then add water until it is just underneath the rack. Bring the water to the boil.

3. Pour the egg mixture through a sieve into a shallow heatproof bowl (the one I use is about 17-cm wide). Once the water has reached a rolling boil, place the bowl on the steaming rack or trivet. Cover with a lid, and immediately reduce the heat to the lowest temperature possible. Allow to steam for about 10 minutes, then lift the lid to see if the egg has set in the middle. If not, cover again and steam for another minute or so until it is set with a slight wobble. When the egg is ready, turn off the heat and leave the egg to sit, covered, for 5 minutes before removing.

4. Serve warm just as is, or with your chosen toppings, but always with rice.


This recipe is from 'To Asia, With Love by Hetty McKinnon (Plum, RRP $39.99) Photography by Hetty McKinnon.