Steamed savory egg custard (like chawanmushi if you know what that is)

Chawanmushi was one of my favourite Japanese dishes that wasn’t in the Top Five Japanese Dishes That Everyone Loves. I always thought it was too hard to make, until we made it at home.

You need:

eggs and liquid. For every 2 eggs, you need 100 ml of liquid, so like a 1:1 ratio of egg volume to liquid.

What kind of liquid? Anything. Any kind of stock, chicken and shrimp the two most obvious. Dashi, a fishy stock is yummy. Even water with soy sauce and fish sauce will do. Make sure that it’s not too bright. It’s a subtle dish and too much salt or sour can ruin it. The liquid should be warm enough to stick your finger in it and feel neither hot or cold. We used water and chicken soup powder, so really, it can be that simple.

Chopped up stuff. We kept it simple and just chopped up some green onion If I remember my japanese right, it is supposed to mean “little treasures” so it’s what’s inside the egg custard that people like, but I just like the egg custard. Traditionally, this would be chopped up shrimp, soaked shitake mushrooms, bits of boiled sweet potato, whatever you like. The steam is just going to cook the egg. Don’t expect the egg to have to cook anything else so everything that you add should be cooked and warm (not hot) before going into the cooking vessel.

Traditionally in Japan it’s cooked in teacups and steamed in baskets That’s the part that always stopped me. Then I found a recipe that called for puting a cooking dish just into a bot and boiling that. I didn’t like the idea of a glass bowl coming into direct contact with the metal pot bottom, so we put a silicone steamer basket down. You can also use a dishtowel or, if you want to get English spotted dick on it, put down some newspapers. The water is supposed to come half way up the baking dish. You can put a towel between the pot and the lid so that steam doesn’t drip down into your eggs.

Before your water comes to a boil and you’re using a steamer basket make sure that the water comes up to the half way point. Eyeball it if you’re going to use the newspaper or the towel method or just prepare yourself for an potential mess. Put the bowl into the pot once it starts to boil rapidl then turn it down to medium low. Let the egg custard steam for 10 minutes.

We used six eggs to have leftovers, so after the ten minutes we let it sit in the hot water off the heat for 5 minutes and then took it out of the pot and let it sit for another five. So, for twenty minutes cook time and about five minutes of active work, I could have all the chawanmushi I wanted.

Serve with rice or noodles. Splash with soy, sesame seeds and oil. It was even good cold the next day. You could sweeten it and add cream or milk instead of broth and have a real egg custard, but I love it savory.

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