Speaking of eggs, I don’t know about you but I enjoy my eggs creamy, drippy, slurppy, velvety, and custardy as opposed to powdery and hard – yuck!
If you like your eggs soft like I do, then chawanmushi will be your go-to comfort food too once you see how easy it is to prepare.
Chawanmushi 茶碗蒸し means “to steam in a tea bowl”. To create this much loved, but seemingly intimidating Japanese staple, I stick with my K.I.S.S. method. In other words, keep it simple, stupid! Prepping this delicate, savoury egg custard only requires a little measurement and some fail-proof technique. Serve these chawanmushi as appetizers in traditional tea cups or as or amuse bouche in dainty espresso cups or ramekins.
The fundamental technique here is to have the proper ratio of eggs to dashi stock. As a rule of thumb, use 1 part egg to 3 part stock and you are solid. Since eggs come in different sizes, it’s safer to measure by ratio but the directions below give you a ballpark on the number of eggs that you’ll need.
Here, I’m using traditional dashi broth which you can make from scratch with kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (dry tuna flakes) or simply buy the powdered kind. In a pinch, you can use low sodium chicken broth too. A dash of mirin will intensify the umami, or savoriness of the custard and give it the “mmm mmm” sensation.
Citrus zest lends an incredible floral zing to heighten the flavour profile. If you are lucky enough to find yuzu, a grate of its zest is the perfect addition. Meyer lemon, blood orange, or even grapefruit zest will also meld beautifully.
Typically, chawanmushi contains chicken, shrimp, ginko nuts, and sometimes a shiitake mushroom or a slice of fishcake. However, the ingredients can be substituted according to personal preference and seasonal availability. For example, Using BC spot prawns in the summer and sea urchin in the winter are no-brainers for me in Vancouver. Keep your eyes open for local and seasonal ingredients to add to your chawanmushi.
Remember to pre-cook all raw ingredients beforehand. An easy method is to blanch them all in a small pot of salted water, then drain and pat dry.
- 1 cooked chicken thigh, cut into bite-size pieces
- 6 fresh ginko nuts
- 4 cooked prawns, deveined
- 4 cooked shiitake mushrooms
- 4 cooked lotus root or bamboo shoot slices
- 4 kamaboko (fish cake) slices
- Garnish ideas: salmon roe, thinly sliced scallion, carrot slices
- 4 organic eggs at room temperature
- 2.5 cups of dashi or chicken stock at room temperature
- 1 tbsp mirin or 1 tsp sake and 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp of yuzu zest, or other citrus zest
- Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl and stir to combine the remaining custard ingredients. Avoid creating bubbles or foam.
- Divide the ingredients into 4 tea cups or bowls.
- Pour the custard mixture evenly into each bowl and lay the garnish on top. Cover each bowl with plastic wrap.
- Steam over medium heat for 15 minutes or until the custard is set when tested with a toothpick.
Alternately, cover the chawanmushi with foil and place the bowls in a bain marie (baking pan filled with hot water that reaches half way up the bowls). Bake at a 420° F (200° C) oven for 20-25 minutes
Serve piping hot or thoroughly chilled, depending on the weather :) Makes 4 portions.
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