Food Forum
Vol. 29 No. 4  January 2016

JAPANESE STYLE

Chawan-mushi

Chawan-mushi
In the past, chopsticks were used;
today it is usually eaten with a spoon.

Chawan-mushi steamed savory custard has a soft, smooth texture with rich umami, and is served in small individual cups. The dish is prepared by placing bite-sized pieces of chicken, shrimp, shiitake mushrooms and kamaboko steamed fish cake, as well as gingko nuts and mitsuba (trefoil), into each cup. A mixture of beaten egg, dashi stock, soy sauce and salt is poured over these ingredients, then the cups are covered and steamed. This method prevents overcooking, while preserving natural flavors and nutrients.

Chawan-mushi has a long history. Nagasaki’s tojin yashiki compound, built for Chinese merchants in the seventeenth century during the period of Japan’s self-imposed isolation, was a source of cultural and culinary influence. The origins of chawan-mushi emerged during the eighteenth century, and can be traced to Nagasaki’s Shippoku banquet cuisine, consisting of an abundant array of both Chinese and Western foods. Chawan-mushi is both delicious and versatile: nowadays, it not only appears in kaiseki-ryori, Japanese haute cuisine, but is also made and enjoyed at home.