by Kanami Egami

We would like to introduce one of the most popular and familiar Japanese dishes, chawan-mushi (steamed egg custard). This is a delicate, stock-enriched, non-sweet egg custard contain­ing chicken, shrimp and assorted vegetables.

Special lidded chawan mushi cups are available in Japan wherever china is sold. But heat-proof cups are a good substitute. The dish is served as a soup course.

Ingredients (serves 5)

150 g. chicken
2  tsp soy sauce

5 prawns
shiitake mushrooms
10 Chinese snowpeas

1  egg white sesame seeds
2  1/2 cups of dashi or chicken stock
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt

Cooking method

(1) Cut chicken into half-inch pieces and sprinkle with 2 tsp. soy sauce.

Sprinkle chicken pieces with soy sauce

(2)  De-vein and shell prawns, leaving the tail.

(3)  Parboil Chinese peas.

(4)  Slice shiitake mushrooms.

(5)  Combine the stock, soy sauce and salt in a pan and bring to the boil. Cool. Beat eggs lightly and mix with the cooled stock mixture and strain.

Stock mixture and eggs

(6)   Separate the ingredients into five helpings and arrange in the cups. Pour the egg mixture gen­tly into the cups.

(7)   Cover a pan with lid or plastic wrap and steam for about 20 minutes.

Steam a pan

To test if the custard is done, press the center of the custard cups and, if the soup is clear, it is ready to serve. You can add anything that complements the taste of the savory custard base, including carrot slices, fish paste and parboiled bamboo shoots.

Footnote: Equipment for steaming

The most commonly used steamer in Japan is made of metal, square-shaped with rounded corners. It consists of a pot for the water, over which fits one or more tiers with perforated bottoms; a cover caps the steam. However, at the Egami Cooking School we use a Chinese-style steamer which can be used for many different purposes.

The Chinese-style steamer, a plywood and bam­boo steamer, must be set over a wok of boiling water. When the steam is circulating, food is placed on the bamboo-slat bottom. In case you do not have a steamer, custard cups can be placed in hot water and cooked in the oven at a relatively low tempera­ture of 160 to 180 degrees centigrade.