Recipe courtesy of Kathleen Brennan for Food Network Kitchen

Chawanmushi

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 15 min (includes steeping and cooling times)
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
Chawanmushi is a savory Japanese flan steamed in a cup (“chawan” means teacup or rice bowl and “mushi” means steamed) that is typically eaten as an appetizer or part of a meal. The silky-smooth custard, made with eggs, dashi, soy sauce and mirin, is very delicate in flavor and texture. It generally contains a variety of fillings, perhaps most classically chicken or shrimp (or both), shiitake or shimeji mushrooms, fish cake, a gingko nut and mitsuba (Japanese parsley). Ginko nuts and mitsuba are difficult to find in the States, but you can substitute a few edamame for the gingko nut and some chopped scallion green for the mitsuba, if you like. The fillings in the ingredient list are all optional, though. If you want to skip the shrimp, maybe add a little more chicken. Or skip both and include more vegetables, such as sliced carrot or bamboo shoots. (When I make steamed savory egg custard, I often add four snow peas or sugar snap peas, sliced on the extreme bias, to the combo below.) Just be sure to use ingredients that aren’t too big and that are at or close to room temperature so everything cooks properly, and ideally, aim for a balance of flavors, textures and colors.

Ingredients

Filling:

Custard:

Dashi:

Directions

Special equipment:
four 6- to 7-ounce chawanmushi cups
  1. Fill a steamer large enough to hold four 6- to 7-ounce chawanmushi cups (see Cook’s Note) with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat while you assemble the chawanmushi.
  2. For the filling: Divide the chicken, shrimp, gingko nuts, shiitakes and mitsuba among the chawanmushi cups, layering them on top of each other in order; slip 1 slice of fish cake into each cup along the side.
  3. For the custard. Add the eggs to a medium bowl and gently whisk using chopsticks or a fork, aerating them as little as possible. Add the Dashi, light soy sauce, mirin and 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix just until combined. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup or another medium bowl. Pour or ladle equal amounts of the custard into each cup, popping any large bubbles, then place the lids on the cups or tightly cover each cup with foil.
  4. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and carefully place the covered cups into the steamer. Cover the steamer and steam until the custard is just set, 15 to 20 minutes. (To test, using a chopstick or skewer, poke a hole into the center of one of the chawanmushi; if clear liquid fills the hole, it’s ready.) Carefully remove the cups from the steamer (if using lids, it’s easier to remove the lids first, then the cups). Serve, covered, hot, warm or cold and with small spoons.

Dashi:

  1. Combine the kombu and 3 cups cold water in a medium saucepan and let sit for about 30 minutes. (You can skip this step if you’re short on time, but it does lend a little extra flavor.) Heat over medium heat until the water comes to a near boil but doesn’t actually boil, about 5 minutes. Discard the kombu.
  2. Add the katsuobushi evenly over the water, bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately remove from the heat. Let steep for about 10 minutes without stirring.
  3. Pour the dashi through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or quart-size measuring cup. Do not press down on the katsuobushi, which can make the dashi cloudy and/or bitter. Dashi is best used the day it is made, but can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Yield: about 2 1/2 cups

Cook’s Note

For a little extra flavor, marinate the chicken and shrimp in a little sake and/or soy sauce for about 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry before adding to the cups. Chawanmushi cups with lids are relatively easy to find online or at Japanese or Asian grocery stores, but you can use any heatproof vessel that is basically the same width at the top and bottom, such as custard cups, ramekins or teacups. The timing may differ, though, depending on the size, shape and material, so do a test run with one chawanmushi first. Also, if you can’t fit all the cups in the steamer at once, cook them in batches.