Delicate and savory, Chawanmushi is a classic Japanese steamed egg custard served in a cup. Learn how to make this appetizer for a true Japanese home cooking experience. Your guests will be impressed!
Considered a classic appetizer, Chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) is a classic appetizer menu in many sushi or Japanese restaurants. There are many variations based on seasonal ingredients, but some of the most common ingredients include shrimp, fish, or vegetables. The ingredients are highly customizable, and this savory egg custard can be homey or fancy depending on what goes into the egg custard. To get you started, I’ll be sharing a basic Chawanmushi recipe with chicken today.
What is Chawanmushi?
Chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) is a Japanese steamed egg custard that consists of ginkgo nuts, shiitake mushrooms, kamaboko (Japanese fish cake), and an egg mixture flavored with dashi, soy sauce, and mirin. The egg custard is steamed in a dainty little teacup and often served as a cold or hot appetizer. With lovely pale yellow and colorful toppings, it is as tasty as it looks.
- The Texture: The steamed egg custard is smooth & silky, while the sweet-savory meat and vegetables lend a contrasting mouthfeel to the dish. And there’s juice from the broth, which makes each bite utterly satisfying and surprising.
- The Flavor: You can expect a delicate yet complex flavor from a good cup of Chawanmushi. There is a balance of sweetness and saltiness from the different components. And the seasonings – dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sake attribute an umami taste, which is key to make a delicious custard.
How To Serve Chawanmushi
Chawanmushi is typically served in a small cup with lids. Otherwise, you can use ramekins, pretty little small bowls, or oven-proof mugs to prepare the steamed custard.
There is really nothing like a silky custard with a slightly sweet and savory broth topped with delicacies to soothe the hungry stomach while you wait for the main meal to be served. I hope you give this recipe a try because it is easy and practical to make at home.
We always like to eat chawanmushi with uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe) on top. It’s a little bit of a luxury and I can’t describe how delicious it is.
For more Chawanmushi recipes:
Chawanmushi (Savory Steamed Egg Custard)
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 Tbsp water (for rehydrating the shiitake mushrooms)
- ½ boneless, skinless chicken thigh
- 1 Tbsp sake (for marinating the chicken)
- 6 slices carrot (thin round slices)
- 6 ginkgo nuts (pre-cooked; optional)
- 1 oz shimeji mushrooms (30 g for 2 servings)
- 6 slices kamaboko (fish cake)
- 4 mitsuba (Japanese parsley) (or 1 green onion/scallion)
For the Egg Custard Mixture
- Gather all the ingredients. I use 2 chawanmushi cups (each can hold up to 200 ml). Please note that the size of the cups matters for cooking time. Also, do not choose thick cups as the heat won't penetrate the cups easily.
To Prepare the Ingredients
- In a small bowl, put the dried shiitake mushrooms and the water and soak for 15 minutes. When the shiitake becomes soft and rehydrated, squeeze the water out, cut off the tough stems, and slice the caps thinly. Tip: This soaking liquid is shiitake dashi. If you want to use this shiitake dashi as a part of your dashi in this recipe, remove 2 Tbsp from ½ cup dashi, and replace it with 2 Tbsp shiitake dashi (for 2 servings).
- Cut the chicken thigh into ½-inch (1.3 cm) pieces and put them in a bowl. Add the sake and set aside for 15 minutes.
- Cut out the carrot slices into a flower shape with vegetable cutters.
- Make a knot in the mitsuba stems (see photo). If you are using a green onion instead, cut it into thin slices.
To Make the Egg Custard Mixture
- Whisk the egg in a medium bowl. Add the dashi, mirin, soy sauce, and salt and whisk it all together.
- Then, strain the egg mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl. This helps to get a refined silky texture.
To Assemble the Chawanmushi
- Divide all the ingredients into 2 chawanmushi cups: First, add the chicken, shiitake mushrooms, ginkgo nuts, and shimeji mushrooms. Then, put the more colorful ingredients like carrot, kamaboko, and mitsuba on top.
- Gently pour the egg mixture into the cups, leaving some ingredients uncovered by the egg mixture. If you see air bubbles, remove them with a spoon or pop with a skewer. Cover with the chawanmushi lid (or aluminum foil).
To Cook the Chawanmushi
- In a large pot, bring some water to a boil. There should be enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the chawanmushi cups. Once the water starts boiling, reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Gently place the cups inside the hot water and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 25-30 minutes on the lowest heat. If you omit the chicken, the cooking time should be only 15-20 minutes. Insert a skewer in the center of the egg custard. If clear liquid comes out, it's done. Serve warm. You can serve it with uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe) on top. That's how we like to eat chawanmushi.
- You can keep the leftovers in a chawanmushi cup and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To reheat, steam for 2 minutes.