Monday, August 4, 2008

Chawan Mushi

Chawan mushi in an onion cup.

The first night we were in Singapore, Hub and Ming had Japanese set dinner and one of the items was this chawan mushi ( savory steamed egg custard) cooked in a large white onion cup. Isn't that clever, and so zen? Unlike most chawan mushi which are steamed in ceramic cups, the onion cup chawan mushi was teppanyakied on a grill plate and covered. The bottom of the cup was cut so that the egg custard had direct contact with the cooking surface. I found out the reason for that tonight when I used a bell pepper to steam my egg custard in. The custard failed to set and I ended up pouring the unset custard into a bowl.

My dad had a rule for making savory steamed egg custard: 1 egg to 3 eggshells of water, I think. Chinese steamed egg custard is firmer than Japanese because chinese steamed egg custard is steamed in a shallow dish and shared, each person taking his share using a serving spoon whereas Japanese steamed egg custard is cooked and served in individual cups and so can be softer.

What makes an excellent cup of chawan mushi besides the flavor? The custard must be soft yet firm enough to hold in a spoon, and the silkier it is, the better. It isn't as easy to get the texture as you think. I have found that other than the proportion of egg to water, you must steam the custard slowly over very gentle flame or there will be bubbles and the texture will be coarse. If overcooked, the bubbles are smaller but the custard will not be smooth, as in the top picture.

The ingredients required for making chawan mushi can be as simple as a couple of gingko nuts and a small quarter of fresh shiitake/Chinese mushroom. I always find the meat (usually chicken or shrimp) unnecessary and too coarse because chawan mushi is all about the silky custard. Of course the meat will add a bit of savory sweetness to the custard, and you can taste that sweetness especially if the meat is at the bottom of the cup.

Serve chawan mushi next time you cook tempura or teppanyaki. The silky soft custard soothes your throat as it glides down, clearing your gullet for your next culinary pleasure.



Chawan Mushi
2 medium-sized eggs (60g each)
400 ml water
1 t dashi granules
1 t light soy sauce
1 T sake
1/4 t salt (or more if like)

1. Stir the dashi granules in the water until it is completely dissolved. Whisk all the above ingredients together. Get ready a wok of steaming water.

2. Filling/topping:
4 small (1.5 cm) pieces of chicken or shrimps (seasoned with salt & pepper)
1 fresh shiitake mushroom, in small pieces
2 to 4 slices of carrot
4 to 6 gingko nuts
fine strips of lemon.

You can put the ingredients (except the lemon strips) into 3-4 chawan mushi cups (I used soup bowls because chawan mushi cup servings are too small for my boys) or put them later on the nearly-set custard if you want them to show.

3. Pour the egg mixture through a fine sieve into the cups and cover the cups with a piece of foil so that the steam will not mar the surface of the custard.

4. Steam the custard in gently simmering water for 25 minutes if using a bowl. Custard in chawan mushi cups will take about 20 minutes. If you prefer your fillings to be toppings, put them on the custard carefully after steaming 12 minutes or so and continue steaming.

5. Remove from the steamer and garnish with the lemon strips. Serve hot.


Johnathan said...

ERmmm, the custard looks soft and silky yummo. Now I know I need to cover it with foil, thanks Terri! Anyway, I did my custard by replacing the water with milk instead (maybe you could try) as it gives the custard a lil bit more punch and the ingredients to be replaced with the following:

Chicken replaced w mince pork or just go plain.
Shrip replaced w crab filaments.
Shiitake mushroom to stay.
Carrot replaced w edible sea weeds.
Prawn roe for garnishing(optional).

The ingredients sorta gives the custard a more beach'y breezy feeling as though u r taking in a mouthful of the goodness from the serenity of the sea(imagine Sipadan if you will).

Precious Pea said...

I have never seen chawan mushi overloaded with ingredients before.

ganache-ganache said...

Is the weight of 60g for the egg with or without shell ?

terri@adailyobsession said...

johnathan: i will try using milk n c what wey thinks. minced pork sounds good, just like chinese steamed pork n i think it would go better with the silkiness of the tt u've mentioned it, there r so many things we can add to the custard really. thanx for the good suggestns!

pp: u know, when i saw my pics, i was thinking how un-japanese the chawan mushi looks. typical of me to overload :(

ganache: 60g with shell on. tt'll be medium sized eggs.

ro said...

hi Terri, did u come to Penang? Didn't see any posting on Penang food eh? ;P

wmw said...

In an onion cute!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

ro: it's this weekend! am only going to be there for 2 days (smack on d opening day of the olympics so we'll be watching in the hotel room on gurney drive) so i have every meal planned. think i shd eat tt hokkien/prawn mee on the way frm the airport?? thanx for all the places u recommended; noted it down. btw, if prawn mee is called hokkien mee there, what is the name for what we know as hokkien mee elsewhere? u know, the thick noodles fried in dark soy sauce n topped with crispy fat?

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

ro: this is weird. my comment to u yesterday has disappeared tonight!? and my comment in the previous post also disappeared, plus a comment by a johnathan chee never appeared..i wodner what's happened. anyway, i'm going to penang 2mrw :)))

Lin said...

original katong laksa? too late know but for next time =)

ro said...

u must be in Penang now :)
it's called "Hokkien Char" , but most stalls use the thin yellow noodle, unlike in KL. There are stalls that sell the big fat noodles too, and you need to ask for "tai lok min" . also, by default the "Hokkien Char" is noodle with beehoon. if you like only noodle, pls tell the hawker ahead.
enjoy your feast :P

Daisy Davis said...

What'sup? miss you when you don't blog. I read it everyday, keeps me in touch ; ) with you guys- seeing how as you have a hard time getting to your email in the past plus too lazy to write.

irene-serenity said...

my fmly luv eggs, esp sonnie who grew up on MIL's "jiu-pai" steamed eggs with minced meat and top with 1 or 2 salted duck egg with the yolks intact. when the dish is cooked, the duck egg yolks will submerge. everyone starts lookg for tt delicious egg yolk n almost everytime, i succeeded 2 dig on the right spot n of course it goes 2 sonnie's's wat mothers r 4... :>

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

lin:thnx, have noted it for next time :)

ro: thnx, unfortunately i'm home alrdy.

daisy: read my blog everyday? i thought u've diappeared to mars or smthing. how are u and family? u can write me at, no excuses now! just brought niongniong to penang. she can EAT more than me!hugs to girla n bob!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

irene: yes yes i love steamed eggs with salted yolks. i think tt tastes better than chawan mushi. my MIL once made tt dish with a dozen duck yolks n my FIL flipped. it did look ridiculous, red yolks bobbing all over :) MIL is a woman of excesses when it comes to food n we r spolit silly:)

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...


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