Beautiful, uncomplicated, healthy, nourishing and luscious. Most of you will not be surprised if I add it is a Japanese dish I’m talking about. On the other hand, those who associate Japanese cuisine with sushi, seaweed and miso soup, would certainly be in awe if they tasted Chawan Mushi, one of the most universally enjoyable Japanese dishes.
Chawan Mushi (茶碗蒸し) was the first recipe I made from “The Japanese Cooking. A Simple Art” by Shizuo Tsuji. I was offered it a year and half ago, but I still consider this as the most extraordinary cookery book in my life (actually, apart from testing more than a dozen recipes I have read this book at least three times!). As soon as I prepared my first Chawan Mushi, I posted it, but when, later, I saw the gorgeous Chawan Mushi on Nami’s blog (Just One Cookbook), I felt really ashamed and quickly deleted my hideous photo together with the text. I have completely forgotten to repost it, even though I prepared this dish regularly. Yesterday, I finally felt brave enough to take new shots and even though it might not be the best-looking Chawan Mushi, I decided to present you once more this extraordinary dish.
Chawan Mushi belongs to the mushimono (蒸し物), or steamed Japanese dishes family, and could be described as a seasoned stock and egg mixture combined with different ingredients. It is served hot or cold depending on the weather and preferences. The most popular version seems to include, among others, shrimp and mushrooms, but Shizuo Tsuji affirms that the savoury egg custard basis is the only obligatory part of this dish and modifications are more than welcome. I have already made Chawan Mushi with different ingredients and it was excellent every single time because the basic mixture is quite versatile. It can also be served practically at any time of the day: for breakfast, with a green salad for a light lunch, as a starter or as a light, but nourishing snack. Since sweet peas start to appear on the markets, I thought they would look nice in the yellow custard, combined with shrimp. In fact, not only did they look nice, but, most of all, they this Chawan Mushi tasted great served both hot and cold.
TIPS: Even though Chawan Mushi is easier to prepare in a steamer, Shizuo Tsuji’s suggestion to use a water bath in the oven gives excellent results. Actually this is the way I prepare it because my steamer is too low for my heatproof cups.
If you don’t have a nearby Japanese grocery shop, individual, but high heatproof cups may be difficult to get. I have found very good ones at IKEA (even though without lids).
Mitsuba is the traditional herb served with Chawan Mushi (it is usually steamed on the top of the custard), but you can add any herb of your choice, but if you’re not sure how it will taste baked, sprinkle the dish with it just before serving. (Chives are a very good option).
individual heatproof cups (at least 6 cm high, mine were 6,5 cm high,with a 7,5 cm diameter)
Preparation: 45 minutes
Ingredients (4 portions):
15 medium shrimp (deveined, shelled and boiled)
200 g green peas (fresh or frozen), blanched
mitsuba leaves or another herb of your choice, such as chives
300 ml dashi (Japanese stock) or chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Preheat the oven to 220°C (or prepare your steamer).
Divide the shrimp and the green peas equally into five heatproof cups.
Put mitsuba leaves on top (click here to see how Nami ties them in a cute traditional way).
Boil a lot of water and prepare a big baking dish at least as high as the heatproof cups.
Mix the eggs very delicately in a bowl. In another bowl combine the dashi (or chicken stock), salt, mirin and soy sauce. Pour the stock mixture over the eggs and stir well, without beating. Strain it and pour into the garnished cups. Cover the cups with aluminium foil or the lids if you have special cups with lids.
Place the cups in a big baking dish. Fill the dish with hot water (not boiling). The water should arrive up till 3/4 of the cups’ height.
Put the dish in the oven and let the custards bake for 30 minutes.
If you use a steamer, steam for about 20 minutes.
If you use chives, sprinkle chawan mushi with them just before serving.
Serve hot or cold with bread/toast for breakfast, with a salad for a lunch, as a snack or as a starter.
You may serve it with soy sauce to pour over the custard. Personally I think it is not necessary.
Even though the eggs’ mixture sets during the cooking process, the mushrooms or other vegetables might release juices, so think about putting a spoon on the table!