Little tiny dishes with delicately plated ingredients, perfect execution of cooking and tastes of deliciousness. I love Japanese meals that are presented as several courses, and especially when they integrate well, following naturally from one to the next.
One iconic dish, Chawanmushi, is often served as part of the course. This savoury egg custard is cooked with a fragrant dashi broth, hiding amongst it treasures to be revealed when you dig in. Made with delicate and seasonal ingredients, the best ones are silky smooth and very light. The dashi broth is very important as it is the unique flavour of Japanese food. I used packets of dashi powder mixed with water.
Until recently, fresh Shiitake mushrooms were not commonly found in New Zealand. This is key to Asian cooking and I’m excited that Meadow Mushrooms, the 50 year old mushroom producer in NZ has extended their range to include these now. Grown on sawdust logs which have been inoculated with Shiitake mushroom spores, these grow quickly and are harvested in 14 days. They are bold in flavour, with a strong umami taste adding depth to most dishes.
Here I have also added wakame and fish cake. Other fillings such as prawns, crab meat, clams, small pieces of chicken thighs and onion slices are also excellent options. Traditionally steamed, you can also cook this in a water bath.
Using all my small sized cups and ramekins, I made mini portions. They were 60ml to 80ml each and I made seven with these quantities below. Increase your steaming time by 3 minutes if your bowls are larger.
- 400ml water
- 1 x 8g packet dashi powder
- 3 eggs (180g)
- 1.5 tsp soy sauce
- 1.5 tsp cooking Sake or mirin
- 2 tsp dried wakame
- 4-5 Shiitake mushrooms, sliced and halved
- 14 thin slices of Japanese fish cake
- Using a measuring jug, make up dashi stock. Add wakame to rehydrate it within the stock.
- Lightly beat the eggs and strain it through a sieve into the dashi stock, to remove any clumps of egg. This helps with the smoothness of the dish, ensuring no clumps or air pockets inside the custard. Add soy sauce and cooking sake.
- Place your fillings in the chawanmushi cups, reserving a few pieces of mushroom and fish cake for the top.
- Pour egg mixture into chawanmushi cups.
- On top of the mixture, add 2 small pieces of Shiitake mushrooms and a piece of fish cake, allowing it to float.
- Using a bamboo steamer over a wok, gently steam chawanmushi cups on low for 12 minutes. (mine were tiny 60ml to 80ml portions so steamed quickly. If you are making bigger portions, steam for 15 mins).
- If not using a bamboo steamer, where water vapor is allowed to escape, use aluminum foil to cover the tops of each cup to prevent condensation from dripping into the cups. You can also wrap a large clean tea towel around the steamer lid to contain the condensation from the steaming.
- Insert a wooden toothpick to check if it has cooked through. They are ready if clear juice comes out.
- Serve warm.