From February 9 to 17, I visited Hong Kong on a trip sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Here's something I ate during my trip.
"Steamed milk in two films." This dessert may not have the most attractive name, but there's a reason it's the the most famous dish at Yee Shun Milk Company, a popular cha chaan teng chain in Hong Kong. The reason: it's so good you'll still be thinking about it months after you eat it. At least, that's what happened to me.
"Steamed milk in two films," or shuang pi nai (双皮奶), is also known as steamed milk pudding, steamed milk custard, double boiled steamed milk, double skin milk, and steamed milk with egg white, among other names. For the sake of brevity, I'll refer to it as steamed milk pudding in this post.* At its most basic, this popular dessert hailing from Guangzhou is made of milk, egg white, and sugar, and it can be eaten hot or cold.
Technically, steamed milk pudding, or dun nai (炖奶), refers to the whole category of steamed milk pudding desserts, of which "steamed milk in two films" falls under. But you know what I mean.
My bowl of hot steamed milk pudding (HK$25, about $3.20) looked like it was as close to a liquid as coagulated milk could be. Its texture was gently wobbly, light, and incredibly silky smooth, like a creamier douhua. Unlike douhua, its flavor was pure sweetened milk, with no trace of the egg white holding it together. I imagine it's what the flesh of newborn baby angels would taste like. And, indeed, it did have a wrinkled skin on top—one skin. I had to look up how the dessert is made to understand where the "two" comes from.
I can't tell you exactly how Yee Shun makes their steamed milk pudding, but according to this detailed, legit-sounding recipe at Delicious Conquests, the first skin forms after the first step of boiling the milk and letting it cool down, and the second skin forms after the final step of steaming the mixture of milk, egg, and sugar and letting it cool down. The second skin builds upon the first skin, leaving you with one double-skin. It's easier to understand with visuals: head to Sunflower Food Galore for detailed photos of the skins, and Vox Magazine for an illustrated recipe.
The ingredients are simple, but is the fussy preparation worth it? I tried an easier recipe for non-double-skin steamed milk pudding with less precise steaming instructions...and I failed. I didn't pay close attention and ended up oversteaming the pudding, which resulted in a not smooth, overly eggy-tasting pudding. I don't know if attaining a gossamer-like layer of milk proteins would've made it better, but I'll definitely try it next time.
Regrettably, I only had the chance to try steamed milk pudding once during my trip. If you have other recommendations, let me know!
Yee Shun Milk Company
太子西洋菜南街244號 (Prince Edward) (map) Other locations listed at Open Rice