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Chawanmushi: Japanese Custard in a Cup

There is a long history of chawanmushi. During Japan's self-imposed isolation, Nagasaki’s tojin yashiki compound (which was built for Chinese merchants) became a source of cultural and culinary influence. The origins for this unique dish can be traced back to the eighteenth century in Nagasaki's Shippoku banquet cuisine. This banquet consists of a varietal array of both Chinese and Western foods. Nowadays, due to its versatility of the dish, it appears both as a cozy home dish and also as haute cuisine.

Chawanmushi, literally translated as "tea cup steam" or "steamed in a tea bowl", is a Japanese dish made from a mixture of chicken eggs and dashi steamed in a bowl. This food is served with the bowl and eaten as an appetizer.

You prepare this dish by placing bite-sized pieces of shiitake mushrooms, shrimp, chicken and kamaboko steamed fish cake, as well as gingko nuts and mitsuba (trefoil), into each cup. A mixture of dashi stock, soy sauce, salt and beaten egg is then poured over these ingredients, then the cups are covered and steamed. This method prevents overcooking, while preserving natural flavours and nutrients.

Similarity with Custard

Custard is a type of food ingredient made from a mixture of egg yolks and milk or cream. The milk or cream is heated with egg yolks until thickened. Sometimes added sugar, vanilla, chocolate, or lemon for taste. Custard can be served as a sauce (such as custard sauce), the base of a dish (such as a cream pie or milk filling), or as a dessert itself (such as crème brulee). Custard may be more familiarly known as vla to some people.

Although egg yolks can be used as a pure thickener, to get a very thick texture sometimes a thickening agent is added, such as cornstarch (corn starch).

Many people from all over the world enjoy this creamy dish in many different forms, but one dish from Japan takes the cake in terms of standing out! Chawanmushi it is!

If you find yourself enticed to try this unique dish, you are more than welcome to try it by ordering our many dishes that feature chawanmushi at our store in Sakae Sushi.

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