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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!
Chawanmushi is a Japanese egg custard appetizer which 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 tea cup and often served as a cold or hot appetizer. With a lovely pale yellow and colorful toppings, it is as tasty as it looks.
Considered a classic appetizer, you will find Chawanmushi in the menu in many sushi or Japanese restaurants. There are many interesting variations and seasonal ingredients such as shrimp, fish, or veggies are often included. Because it’s highly customizable, this savory egg custard can be homey or fancy depending what goes into it. To get you started, I’ll be sharing a basic Chawanmushi recipe with chicken today.
The steamed custard is smooth & silky, while the sweet savory meat and vegetables lend contrasting mouthfeel to the dish. And there’s juice from the broth, which makes each bite utterly satisfying and surprising.
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 a umami taste, which is key to make a delicious custard.
For dashi, I highly recommend you use dashi packet or make it from scratch since that’s the soup base of this dish. However, you can follow this quick method with MSG-free instant dashi powder as well.
To serve Chawanmushi
Chawanmushi is typically served in 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:
Before moving onto the recipe, I want to thank Amelia of Amelia’s De-ssert for the blog awards. Thank you Amelia!
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- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 Tbsp water
- ½ cup dashi (Japanese soup stock; click to learn more) (120 ml)
- ½ boneless, skinless chicken thigh
- ½ Tbsp sake (for chicken)
- 1 large egg (50 g w/o shell)
- 6 slices carrot (thin round slices)
- 6 ginkgo nuts (pre-cooked; optional)
- 1 oz shimeji mushrooms (30 g)
- 6 slices Kamaboko (fish cake) (thin slices)
- 4 mitsuba (Japanese parsley) (or 1 green onion/scallion)
Gather all the ingredients. I use 2 chawanmushi cups (each can fill up to 200 ml). Please note that the size of the cups matters for cooking time. Also, do not choose thick cups as it takes a long time to cook through.
In a small bowl, put 2 dried shiitake and 3 Tbsp water and rehydrate for 15 minutes. When shiitake becomes soft, squeeze water out and slice them thinly. Tip: This 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 with 2 Tbsp Shiitake Dashi.
- Cut chicken thigh into ½-inch pieces and put them in a bowl. Add ½ Tbsp sake and set aside for 15 minutes.
Cut out the carrot slices into a flower shape with vegetable cutters.
- Tie mitsuba like this.
- Whisk the egg in a medium bowl. Add the seasonings and ½ cup dashi. Mix well.
- Then strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl.
In a large pot, bring water to boil. The amount of water should cover ½ of chawanmushi cup. When boiling, reduce the heat to the lowest heat.
- Divide all the ingredients into 2 chawanmushi cups; I started with chicken, shiitake, ginkgo nuts, and shimeji. Then put more colorful ingredients like carrot, kamaboko, and mitsuba on top.
- Gently pour the egg mixture into the cups, keeping some ingredients on top uncovered with egg mixture. Cover with the chawanmushi lid (or cover with aluminum foil).
Once the water starts boiling, reduce the heat to the lowest heat. Gently place the cups inside the hot water and cover the pot with the lid. Cook for 25-30 minutes on the lowest heat. If you do not add the chicken, the cooking time should only be 15-20 minutes. Insert a skewer in the center of the cup to check if the egg is done. Optionally, before serving, put uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe) on top.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.