Chawanmushi is one of the classic Japanese appetisers. It is steamed egg custard, but unlike other “custard”, it is a savoury dish.
The custard is made from egg and dashi stock. There are some toppings inside of the custard – typically prawns, shiitake mushrooms, fish cake (a.k.a. kamaboko) and gingko nut (a.k.a. ginnan), and you can also put in a small piece of chicken or fish.
It is normally served in a teacup just as in its name (Chawan means tea bowl or rice bowl, and mushi means steam). The flavour is quite delicate yet full of umami, which I believe is unique and special in Japanese cuisine.
It is known as a difficult dish to nail. Since the method and ingredients are quite simple, there is no chance to recover once it goes wrong. To avoid it, some restaurants make their Chawanmushi super solid so that it is easier to handle. However in my opinion , that kind of Chawanmushi has lost its purpose.
For me, “Good Chawanmushi” is
- Full of Umami -Juicy with Dashi
- Soft, Silky and Wobbly – not dense and just set
- Smooth texture – not spongy
Now question – how do you make that?
I worked out how to nail the perfect Chawanmushi at home using accessible tools and ingredients. I am in Australia, but I am pretty sure that my method would work in different countries.
Tip 1 – Go small! Use Ramekins
Ideally you would have small ramekins (120ml capacity, 8.5cm length).
As it is not too deep, it is easier to steam evenly. Also, 2 ramekins are the perfect size for 1 egg – see Tip 2 for the details.
Tip 2 – Stick with the following ratio for Egg and Dashi
So, Yes,1 egg can produce 2 ramekins of Chawamushi. The measurements are:
- 1 XL size Egg (about 58g) : 150ml Dashi Stock
If you normally buy different sized eggs, just adjust measurements as
- 1L size Egg (about 50g): 130ml Dashi Stock
- 1M size Egg (about 44g): 114ml Dashi Stock
Tip 3 – Do not add too many toppings
Especially avoid anything watery – the perfect ratio will be spoiled and the custard will not set. I like using sliced mushrooms and prawns. If you would like to add some colours, add frozen edamane. If you are cooking chicken or fish for your main, cut the end of it and put it in your Chawanmishi – that will also be nice.
Having said that, toppings are additional. I quite like Chawanmushi without any toppings too. It is simple but still you can enjoy the flavour and texture. Very yummy.
Tip 4 – Remove Air Bubbles
It will not look smooth and silky if there are air bubbles on the surface. Combine egg and dashi gently and pour the mixture into the ramekin slowly in order to avoid creating a lot of air bubbles. If there are any on the surface, pop them before steaming.
Tip 5- Steam gently
Once the steamer gets hot and ready, turn the heat down and cook Chawanmushi on a low heat. If Chawanmushi is steamed on a high heat, the texture will be spongy.
Well…, hope it was not too much information… This Chawanmushi recipe is much easier to follow than you think, so I really hope you give it a go.
Last but not least…, if you are keen to make your own Dashi Stock, see here. If you are happy to use store-bought Dashi Powder, that will also produce the same result. It is generally available at major supermarkets – here.
Ingredients for 2 small ramekins
For Egg Custard:
- 1 x XL size Egg (about 58g)
- 150ml of Dashi Stock (or 150ml water and 1/6 teaspoon of Dashi Powder)
- 1/2 Teaspoon of Soy Sauce
- 1/2 Teaspoon of Mirin
For Toppings options
- 6 thinly sliced Mushrooms
- 1 raw prawn – peeled, cleaned and cut into small chunks
- A few frozen edamame
- any small bits of raw fish or chicken – cut into small chunks
- Whisk egg in a medium bowl. Add dashi stock (or water and dashi powder), soy sauce and mirin and mix all together gently.
- Divide your toppings into 2 ramekins (8.5cm length 120ml capacity) .
- Pour the egg custard mixture into the ramekins. If you see any air bubbles, remove them with a spoon or pop with a skewers. Now it is ready to steam.
- Pre-heat your steamer. If you use a pot, place water in the pot which covers 1/2 of the ramekins, and bring it to a boil.
- Turn the heat low once the steamer is hot.
- Cover the ramekins with aluminum foil. Poke 4 holes in the alfoil with a skewer.
- Place the ramakins in the steamer (or the pot). Steam them for 15 minutes with the lid on, or until the custard is set. To check if it is set, put the ramekins on an angle and see if the liquid is clear. If it is clear, it is cooked.
- Serve while warm.