I’ve been experimenting with various chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) recipes for the past few weeks and after making a few modifications to various recipes I found online, I finally came up with one that will hopefully make your tummy as happy as it does mine!
And if you’ve never been keen on the idea of silky smooth savoury egg custard, I highly recommend you give this a try as you don’t often find this in Japanese restaurants abroad. It’s one of my favourite traditional Japanese comfort foods.
Before we begin, here are some tips to making chawanmushi that I wish I had known before I embarked on my egg steaming adventures:
- The size of the eggs you have will determine how much dashi (soup stock) you will need. The general rule is 3 parts dashi to 1 part egg. You can break the egg(s) into a measuring cup to calculate the amount of dashi needed.
- Strain the egg mixture through a sieve. This is the trick to obtaining silky smooth chawanmushi.
- Pour the mixture into the cups slowly to prevent all the ingredients from floating to the top and also to prevent bubbles from forming. You can also place lighter ingredients at the bottom of the cups and work your way up with heavier ingredients.
- Wrap a tea towel around the lid of your steamer to prevent water droplets from falling into the cups. Alternatively, you could wrap each tea cup/ramekin with aluminium foil (not cling film). I have never tried the aluminium foil but I hear it works well. I have tried it with cling film (silly me) and it collected buckets of water! Ufufu.
- After steaming on high heat for 2 minutes without the lid, be sure to turn the heat down and steam on low heat for 25-30 minutes. If you can hear water boiling or the cups clinking inside the steamer, the heat is too high. The key here is low heat or else you’ll end up with a greyish bubbly mess like I did until I realised the importance of this!
You’ll need a steamer, tea towel for the lid, fine-meshed sieve, flower-shaped vegetable cutter, 2 tea cups (approximately 3 to 4 inches high, whatever fits your steaming vessel)
Egg Custard Mixture
1 large egg
1/2 tsp granulated bonito dashi
1/2 tsp sake
1/2 tsp usukuchi soy sauce 薄口しょうゆ (lighter in colour than regular soy sauce)
1/4 tsp salt (or a bit less)
50g chicken meat (boneless and skinned – I prefer using thigh meat)
2 shrimps, peeled and deveined
2 fresh or rehydrated shiitake mushrooms thinly sliced
2 to 3 slices of carrots cut into sakura shapes (I used a sakura shaped veggie cutter)
4 slices of kamaboko (fish cake), if available
4 ginkgo seeds, if available
2 sprigs of mitsuba (wild Japanese parsley), if available; you could also use baby spinach
Sake, mirin, and usukuchi soy sauce for seasoning
Blanch the sliced carrots and set aside. Next, chop the chicken into bit-sized pieces and lightly marinate chicken and shrimp with a dash of sake, mirin, and soy sauce. Brown the chicken in a small pan until it’s nearly cooked through.
Beat the egg until completely mixed but take care not to froth! In another bowl, mix the dashi, soy sauce, and salt. Pour this stock mixture into the beaten egg, mix well and strain. You don’t want any froth in the final mixture so skim off any excess bubbles.
Divide the filling evenly and place in cups, remembering to place lighter ingredients at the bottom. Slowly pour strained egg mixture into individual cups.
The steamer should be on medium-high heat. Place the cups into the steamer without the lid and steam on high heat for 2 minutes. Turn heat down and steam on low heat for 25-30 minutes.
To check that the custard is cooked, insert a toothpick into the centre – it should come out clean when ready. Serve immediately!