Shungiku no Chawanmushi (Savoury Egg Custard with Chrysanthemum Leaves)

chawanchrys_pDid you know that chrysanthemum leaves are edible? Probably it’s not the case of every variety, but Garland Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium), aka crown daisy (called shungiku in Japanese and sukgat in Korean) is – according to Wikipedia – eaten not only in Japan and Korea, but also in China, Taiwan, Vietnam and even Crete! The good news for all the gardeners is that this plant can be sowed in both spring and autumn. Garland chrysanthemum is also one of the healthier herbs: it contains minerals, vitamins, potassium and antioxidants, so it’s worth playing with both in the garden and in the kitchen. Until this year I had no idea chrysanthemum leaves could be edible, not to mention tasting them, so growing garland chrysanthemum on my balcony meant another big culinary adventure.

In one of my recent posts I have mentioned big harvests of some herbs I grow on my balcony. First it was Thai basil (I used it to prepare Teriyaki Pork Rolls) and now, coming back from holidays, I found a huge amount of edible chrysanthemum begging to be picked. I bought it last year in Japan and first sowed it in spring. I was pleasantly surprised to learn its smell was not as strong as I had imagined and, most of all, it wasn’t bitter at all (I don’t know why but I imagined chrysanthemum leaves bitter).

I had time to experiment with it in several different dishes and this Japanese egg custard, called chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) is one of my favourite finds. Traditional version of chawanmushi contains several precise ingredients and always mistuba leaves, but I find it extremely versatile and am always tempted to test new ingredients. Chicken breast is my favourite “filler” and here, paired with shungiku leaves and Hungarian yellow sweet pepper, it gave a delicate, but very interesting taste results. My basic custard recipe is based on Shizuo Tsuji’s recipe from “The Japanese Cooking. A Simple Art”, but the “filling” ingredients vary all the time.

You might also like these versions of chawan mushi:

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus
Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus
Chawan Mushi with Shrimp and Green Peas
Chawan Mushi with Shrimp and Green Peas

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 the steamer plate in my rice cooker 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), but as soon as I got hold of the beautiful Japanese chawan mushi cups you see above, I stopped using the old ones.

Special equipment:

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):

2-3 sweet peppers, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 small chicken breasts

Garland crhrysanthemum leaves (12 – 16, depending on their size)

1 tablespoon sake



2 eggs

300 ml dashi (Japanese stock) or chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sake or mirin (with mirin the custard will be slightly sweetish)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 220°C (or prepare your steamer).

Cut up the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, combine with sake and sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Put aside.

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 (it depends on how salty your stock is), sake/mirin and soy sauce. Pour the stock mixture over the eggs and stir well, without beating.

Strain the chicken pieces. Divide them, sweet peppers and half of the chrysanthemum leaves equally into four heatproof cups.

Put the remaining chrysanthemum leaves on top (choose the nicest ones).

Strain the custard mixture and pour into the garnished cups.

Cover the cups with aluminium foil or the lids if you have special cups with lids.

If you use the oven, 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.

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. Personally I think it is not necessary.

Even though the eggs’ mixture sets during the cooking process, vegetables might release juices, so think about putting a spoon on the table!

44 Replies to “Shungiku no Chawanmushi (Savoury Egg Custard with Chrysanthemum Leaves)”

    1. Thank you, Giulia. This is exactly what I knew about chrysanthemum until last spring too 🙂

  1. I have no clues what that leaf is, I can’t even say the name. Lets just say Chrysler for now.
    Chicken goes in raw?
    You have suggested how to serve it for breakfast and lunch. Why is it forbidden to have it for dinner??:)
    I’m gonna try it this week hopefully, minus the Chrysler leaves and a few other ingredients which I don’t have. And have it for lunch unless its OK to have it for dinner!

    1. Mr. Three-Cookies, I think you must have seen chrysanthemum also in Sweden. In many European countries (in Italy too apparently, see the comment by Giulia) they are typical autumn flowers, traditionally put on graves on the first of November. Very very popular flowers, but no one eats their leaves in Europe 😉
      Of course you can have chawanmushi at any time of the day 😉 Somehow I never feel like having it for dinner. Of course chicken is raw (then it is steamed of course inside).
      What counts here in my opinion is the original basic custard recipe. Then you put whatever you want (check the two other versions) but beware of watery vegetables and mushrooms. They will create a lot of water at the bottom (though the taste will still be great!).

  2. Your post reminds me that I want to make the pork roll while I still have thai basil in my planter. No chance that I’ll get my hands on chrysanthemum leaves. My first attempt at chawnmushi was, unfortunately, soggy because of the frozen shrimp, even though I thawed and squeezed it dry. I’ll have to give it another try one of these days.

    1. I hope you will give it a try once more. Of course not entirely defrosted shrimp will make it soggy, as well as fresh mushrooms and maybe some watery vegetables too. I have never added courgette or aubergine, but I suppose they would make the custard soggy too.

  3. What an unusual herb, I had no idea that one could eat such a thing! We are not allowed to bring back seeds of any kind (although my dear Mother did many times). But the risk is that we introduce a plant that has no natural predators, which happened about 10 years ago. But that’s another story — it wasn’t me ;-)!
    I LOVE you little bowl, did you bring it back from your recent trip? It’s so delicate and beautiful and playful with the colourful stripes. How large a portion does this create? It looks like it might be just a small sampler? or enough for a light lunch? The delicate flavours must be wonderful, particularly this time of year when fall is fast upon us. I find myself to crave fresh herbs when I see my little her garden waning from the chilly nights.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. The bowl is quite old actually. I bought it in my Japanese grocery shop here, but I like it a lot with all the colours… It makes a typical chawanmushi portion, i.e. either a starter or a light meal if served with bread/rice and green salad.
      I have no idea if I’m allowed to bring any seeds here. I guess it’s not forbidden (I think only vegetables, fruits and meat from certain countries -from Africa and for ex. South America – is forbidden because of certain bacteria that can be transported but Japan is not a part of these countries). Somehow all these restrictions in North America make me always think of unpasteurised cheese that some people “smuggle”… and which has no logical explanation in the eyes of those who have it every day 😉

  4. My wife loves shungiku, so she would be delighted to see your recipe. (As for me, I’m not a big fan.)
    Talking of chawanmushi, did you have a chance to have gingko nuts while you were in Japan?
    And, yes, chawanmushi is one of the few Japanese dishes that require a spoon, preferably a wooden one.

    1. Hi, Hiroyuki. Yes, I tasted gingko for the first time finally this year. It was grilled with some skewers (don’t remember what was on skewers: mushrooms? chicken?) and I really liked it, but I guess it would be not as appealing in chawanmushi.

  5. I have never tried any of these leaves Sissi, to tell you the truth I have no idea if they are sold here. But this custard looks absolutely mouthwatering!

    1. Thank you so much, Katerina. I’m not sure if this variety of chrysanthemum is grown in Europe as a decorative plant. If you wish to grow it, let me know, I’ll send you some seeds (though probably they would have to wait for spring).

  6. I missed so much of your posts the last month, but it’s always a pleasure to come back and read through them all. Chrysanthemum leaves in a dish? And edible to start with, well, that’s something I haven’t heard before, but does sound very interesting 🙂

  7. You answered my question in the first line: I had no idea that chrysanthemum was edible. I love the flower — particularly in the fall but it is a very common genus at home that we see year round. I would be nervous eating any part of it though not knowing enough about it… (next thing you know I’m on some kind of hallucinogenic trip 😉 ). I think it’s very interesting how you’ve incorporated the mum leaf here with the egg custard. It looks very appetizing too. I wish I could have brought even one plant from home with us to the US but California importation laws are such that no flower/plant (and possibly seed) can be brought into the state. I guess when your economy relies principally on agriculture, you simply can’t take any chances with the possible importation of disease/pests. Still, it makes me sad to leave those living beauties behind.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. Only certain varieties are edible alas, but it was big news to me too. It would also make me sad leaving all these plants behind… I hope you will grow new ones soon! California sun will make it quicker and easier I guess.

  8. LOL. Giulia’s comment made me laugh – in Japan too, chrysanthemum is for dead people too (but here in the US I see people give this flower on normal occasions). But for us, shungiku (春菊/garland chrysanthemum) and Kiku (菊/chrysanthemum) are different things and I never “thought” I’m eating chrysanthemum… LOL. I love that you added shungiku in chawanmushi! The strong herb tastes and smooth eggy taste much REALLY well! I should give this a try!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. I really appreciate your approval! In many (most?) European countries chrysanthemum is only for graves, just like in Italy (you cannot offer a bunch of chrysanthemum unless you want to be very rude!), but for us it’s the same word for most of the flowers of this plant genus. I had no idea kiku was another name for what we call chrysanthemum!

  9. Chrysanthenum leavs I’ve never tried cooking with, or eating, but growing up a tea made from chyrsanthenum flowers and goji berries was very common, and even till today, my mum still sends me packs of wild chrysanthenum to make tea. It’s really good for cleansing and cooling the body, especially in summer, and tastes really light and delicate and sweet 🙂

    I love love love this chawanmushi idea Sissi, such clean pretty flavours and you know me I love eggy custardy puddingy things!

  10. I just happen to be sitting here drinking chrysanthemum tea that has the leaves and the blooms. I LOVE the flavor of chrysanthemum but have never thought of using them in a savory dish. In fact, I’ve thought of “eating” them. Sitting here sipping on the tea, I am having a very easy time imagining the flavors of this dish. It tastes great! This would make a great little meal for Bobby and me. I have some single serving au gratin dishes that are oven proof that would work great. Great dish Sissi! Thanks!

    1. What a coincidence! I’m sure these leaves can be used in many other dishes (I have used them in several other ways too!). Thank you, MJ!

  11. Sissi, your chawanmushi looks so delicate and texture perfect…although I never had the crhrysanthemum leaves, I am sure that tastes as good as it looks…
    Thanks for the recipe and hope you are having a fabulous week my dear 😀

  12. Oh what a great tip for making this without a steamer! I’ve never thought of using the oven, but I certainly will now that I’ve such a limited kitchen (I had to go around the dorm floor begging for a baking dish today because I only have one pot and one pan). And I’ve only ever had chrysanthemum tea! Never thought to cook or bake with it, but why not if you’ve got a a whole bunch of fresh leaves begging to be used 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Irina. I have never had chrysanthemum tea, but I can imagine it is delicious. My rice steamer is European (not Japanese) hence probably the vegetable steaming plate which is not adapted to chawanmushi mugs… Hot water bath in the oven is a good solution.

  13. These chrysanthenum plants grow quickly. Don’t forget to let some blossom and collect the seeds for next years batch of greens. I love the taste of chrysanthenum leaves. They taste very good in a hot pot too or stir-fried.

    1. I ate the leaves too quickly to let them develop flowers, but now I’ll wait with the most recent batch! Thank you for the suggestions.

  14. Sissi, I’m totally clueless about the chrysenthemum (probably spelled wrong) leaves, although we use the flowers for fall, and not on graves…but not sure about that either, since I haven’t seen a fresh graveside in quite a while, and don’t wish to see one soon!

    I do love this exotic and adorably plated egg pudding, and the preparation does not sound difficult…just some of the ingredients I would be careful with …like the chrys…. leaves, and since you mentioned that it can be found on gravesides, good thing that I haven’t seen them here. Very clever, and always creative cuisines you are always bringing to us!

    1. Thank you so much, Elisabeth. The chrysanthemum leaves are my own idea here (not traditional at all in chawanmushi!) so you could put any herbs of your choice. Not all the chrysanthemum varieties are edible, so even if you see some in a shop, check if it’s Garland Chrysanthemum!

  15. Oh the leafs are edible? Need to tell that my mum because I think (not sure) she has this variety growing. She has so many flowers…
    Interesting the way you used the leafs, I would love to try this soon. Thanks so much for sharing and I hope you had a lovely weekend Sissi!

    1. Only Garland Chrysanthemum is edible (from what I have read… but it’s better to be careful!). The custard can be made with any leaves really (traditional herb used here is the Japanese mitsuba not chrysanthemum).

  16. Love this! I grew up eating a lot of egg custard and loved every bite of it. I had no idea you could eat the chrysanthemum leaves. I just knew white chrysanthemums as flowers given at funerals. I guess it’s not just a Korean custom. It’s very interesting. I need to try it soon!

    1. Thank you so much, Gomo. I have read that chrysanthemum leaves are eaten in Korea too! Maybe only in certain regions then…

  17. Edible? I had no idea… It’s a good idea that you mentioned it might not be all varieties though, before I go and mutilate my mother’s “crop” of crysanthemum flowers next time I visit her! Incidentally, it’s common to give crysanthemums as a gift to people in England – they don’t at all hold the same significance as they do in France (and presumably other countries).

    Thanks for another inspiring dish Sissi – I often learn so much each time I come here 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Charles. Yes, I think you should be careful before harvesting all your mother’s chrysanthemum leaves 😉 In Poland if you gave someone a chrysanthemum bouquet, they would ask if you are waiting for them to die or something similar 😉 White lilies are also for the dead.

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