One dish enjoyed two ways: that is the heart behind Ken Chen's recipe for steamed fish scrambled eggs which transforms the tasty ending of a steamed fish dish—the savoury sauce, the tenderest bits of flesh still clinging onto the bones—into a silky scrambled egg that brims with umami. The executive chef of three-MICHELIN-starred Le Palais in Taipei recalls his father making this dish for him when he was 11 years old. "The first time I had it, I wondered how scrambled eggs could be so delicious! The eggs were so soft and had the fragrance of steamed fish, it was so good I ate three bowls of rice with it."
The ingredients for this dish are easy to round up and the recipe simple to follow, requiring just a bit of skill in controlling the fire while scrambling the eggs. A trick the chef suggests is to fire up the wok over high heat and turning off the fire before cooking the eggs using just the residual heat, working quickly as the eggs will start sticking to the pan when it is no longer hot enough. Another trick is to add corn starch slurry into the mixture (about a quarter teaspoon for each egg), which makes for silky, creamy scrambled eggs.
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Watching carefully as Chen (pictured left) demonstrates how to cook the scrambled eggs with only verbal directions, we protest at the lack of specific instructions and a detailed recipe. The chef, in response, shares a sagely anecdote. Not many people know this, but Chen is a chef by day but professional racecar driver by night, having even been to Germany to compete recently. He shares: "When you drive fast, you see the white dashed centre line on the road as a continuous line, but when you cross the 200km/h speed, that line becomes just a white dot. At this point, you become one with the car and the road, it becomes all about intuition."
He explains that it is the same with cooking. When you become fully attuned to the process, a recipe becomes just a guide and it is possible to cook by intuition. A fixed recipe is important when it comes to cooking consistently for large banquets, but when cooking for personal consumption or for family, it becomes a meaningful exercise to cook from the heart.
Since food ingredients are all natural and grown from the earth, no two are exactly the same. A bunch of spinach harvested today is not exactly the same as the one purchased from the market yesterday, depending on the soil and weather conditions. Thus, cooking by rote will not do justice to the ingredients and one has to teach the spirit behind the cooking, and not just pass down a recipe.
The next time you have have steamed fish on the dinner table, try your hand at Chan's scrambled egg recipe:
Steamed Fish Scrambled Eggs
Corn starch slurry (a quarter teaspoon per egg), optional
Leftovers from steamed fish like:
-Meat scraped from the bones
Season to taste:
Light soy sauce or salt
1. Scrape any meat left on the bones of your steamed fish dish, setting it aside with all the leftover jus and garnishes like spring onion, ginger and coriander.
2. Beat the eggs with a fork and stir in the fish mixture evenly.
3. Season to taste and stir well. Add in the corn starch slurry at this point if you are using any.
4. Heat up a pan or wok and pour in the egg mixture gently. Using a spatula, push the cooked outer edges in towards the center of the eggs gently; uncooked eggs will flow towards the area you just pushed in. Repeat until the creamy scramble collects in the centre of the pan.
5. Plate with freshly cut coriander and serve with white rice.
This article is written by Chen Ching-yi and translated by Rachel Tan. Click here to read the original story.