Chawan Mushi – Savory Egg Custard

There is a version of chawan mushi in every Japanese cookbook I’m reading this month, and yet I’ve never seen it on the menu at any of our local Japanese restaurants. Probably because the American palate is accustomed to sweet dessert custards, and the texture seems strange in a savory dish. I wanted to give it a try since it seems to be a popular part of Japanese cuisine. It is considered to be a soup, and this is actually the only Japanese soup that is eaten with a spoon!

Any mix of ingredients can be added to the custard, but the typical options are seafood, chicken and mushrooms. I used a few shrimp and some enoki mushrooms (pictured above) that I had picked up at my local Korean grocery. Ingredients are placed in a cup or ramekin, or there are specially-made chawan mushi cups with lids that you can buy. The custard is mixed together and poured over the top of the ingredients and the whole is steamed for about 15 minutes to solidify. The end result is a very smooth and silky custard lightly flavored with soy sauce and mirin, with pieces of the ingredients throughout.  Eating it hot, I could see how it’s a common comfort food.  Apparently it can also be served chilled in the summertime.

Chawan Mushi (one serving)
1 egg
2/3 c. dashi
pinch of salt
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. mirin
enoki mushrooms
3 shrimp (or any leftover meat)

Beat the egg, then add in dashi, salt, soy sauce and mirin. In the serving cup, place mushrooms and shrimp or other meat. Pour the custard mixture over top. Cover the cup tightly with aluminum foil. Place the cup in a saucepan and pour hot water into the pan to come halfway up the side of the cup. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or until set. Alternately, you can cook the cup in a steamer or in the oven.

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