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April 05, 2010

Chawanmushi Recipe – Steamed Egg Custard

By Stuart Turner

Most Japanese people don’t celebrate Easter as it is one of the few festivals in the Western calendar that is still predominately religious and has no significance outside the Christian religion.

However, if you travel to Japan at this time of year you will see window displays in the shops with chocolate Easter eggs and bunnies and this recipe sticks with the seasonal theme by using eggs and a tasty treat for dinner parties or a spring snack.

Chawanmushi means steamed in a tea cup and unlike the sweet, desert custard we are more familiar with, it is a savoury egg dish, served as a starter in many Japanese restaurants. Recipes vary but underneath the rich, golden egg, seasoned delicately with Japanese condiments, is a delicious combination of savoury ingredients.

Chawanmushi is a classic Japanese dish and is served in small, earthenware soup bowls, often with matching lids but the easiest thing to use is a set of ramekins. You will also need a large bamboo steamer.

  • Mix three eggs loosely in a large bowl or jug with chopsticks but don’t beat them too hard.
  • Add 350ml of dashi soup stock, 1 teaspoon each of soy sauce, sake and sugar and a pinch of salt.
  • To get a smooth and rich custard, strain this mixture through a sieve.
  • Divide eight small prawns between four ramekins along with a chicken thigh chopped into small, bite size pieces and finely chopped shitake mushrooms.
  • Fill each cup ¾ full with the egg mixture and cover with a piece of tin foil.
  • Steam the custard in the bamboo steamer over high heat for about 5 minutes then turn down the heat and steam for another 15 minutes or so.

You can test if the custard is ready by prodding it gently with a toothpick or the prong of a fork - if the liquid runs clear, it is done. Serve hot or chilled depending on weather for the ultimate in Japanese comfort food.

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