Most of us know “egg custard” as a sweetened mixture of milk and eggs. It is the base for ice cream, it can be thin and spreadable, it can be a topping or a filling, and it can be a stand-alone dessert like the Filipino leche flan and the French crème brûlée. But did you know that egg custard can be savory too? Japanese steamed savory egg custard, or chawanmushi, is a mixture of beaten eggs and dashi poured over marinated chicken (and, traditionally, shrimps), mushrooms and vegetables. When you eat it, the texture is a cross between an ultra light omelet and soup. So full of umami flavors.
My Japanese steamed savory egg custard does not have shrimps, it has two kinds of mushrooms, I omitted the carrot slices (my girls are not huge fans of carrot) and I threw in some young asparagus. The cooking procedure, however, does not stray from the traditional.
I cut chicken thigh fillets into bite-size pieces and marinated them in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine and a little grated ginger.
I prepped and cut four asparagus spears.
Because I used dried shiitake, I soaked it in hot water before slicing. The shimeji was fresh and I only had to cut off the root ends.
I strained the water in which the mushroom had soaked and stirred in the dashi.
I divided the chicken among three ramekins, and the rest of the ingredients were divided into four portions. No chicken for Sam’s portion because she eats no meat.
Beaten eggs were stirred into the dashi mixture and poured into the ramekins.
Three whole eggs and a cup and a half of dashi were just enough to fill the ramekins. The ratio I used was half a cup of dashi per egg. You may use more or less dashi.
The ramekins were covered with foil and arranged on a rack set over simmering water. After steaming for fifteen minutes, the savory egg custards were ready to be served.
Note to self: buy a proper bamboo steamer; it’s been years since the last one went out of commission.
Japanese Steamed Savory Egg Custard (Chawanmushi)
- 3 chicken thigh fillets
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sweet rice wine
- 1/8 teaspoon grated ginger
- 4 asparagus spears you may want more if you're using baby asparagus
- 1 to 2 shiitake mushrooms (caps only), if using dried, soak in hot water for 20 minutes
- 1 handful shimeji mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons sliced scallions
- 3 whole eggs
- 1 packet dashi granules
Prepare your steamer. Pour in water and start heating it.
Cut the chicken thigh fillets into one-inch cubes. Place in a bowl. Pour in the soy sauce and rice wine. Mix in the grated ginger. Set aside.
Discard the woody portion of the asparagus spears. Cut the asparagus into two-inch lengths.
Slice the shiitake caps thinly.
Cut off and discard the root ends of the shimeji.
If using dried shiitake, measure the soaking liquid. If you have less than 1 and 1/2 cups, add enough water so you have 1 and 1/2 cups of liquid. Stir in the dashi granules. If using fresh shiitake, just measure 1 and 1/2 cups water and stir in the dashi granules.
Lightly beat the eggs. Stir into the dashi until blended.
Divide the chicken, mushrooms, asparagus and scallions among three or four ramekins.
Pour the egg-dashi mixture over the chicken, mushrooms and vegetables.
Cover the ramekins with foil, arrange on the steamer basket and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the ramekins. To test for doneness, poke a skewer at the center of the custard. If the liquid that seeps out is clear, the savory egg custards are done.
Serve your Japanese steamed savory egg custard, or chawanmushi, while hot.