Category Archives: Recipes – seafood

Chawanmushi 茶碗蒸し

Chawanmushi - Japanese savoury egg custard

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

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


  1. Using a measuring jug, make up dashi stock. Add wakame to rehydrate it within the stock.
  2. 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.
  3. Place your fillings in the chawanmushi cups, reserving a few pieces of mushroom and fish cake for the top.
  4. Pour egg mixture into chawanmushi cups.
  5. On top of the mixture, add 2 small pieces of Shiitake mushrooms and a piece of fish cake, allowing it to float.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. Insert a wooden toothpick to check if it has cooked through. They are ready if clear juice comes out.
  9. Serve warm.

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Hundred flower chicken – 百花鸡 – Chinese New Year prawn cake


A hundred young chickens? Or a new species of chicken called ‘hundred flower’ that is being cooked here? Don’t be fooled. I’ll let you in on a secret: There is no chicken in this except the skin and the hero of the dish is prawn actually.
I’m sure if you google this you will find some mythical story behind the birth of this dish, involving some ancient Chinese palace kitchen maid who was forced to create something for the king who has demanded a new dish or else heads will roll. Said maid thought long and hard and came up with such a dish – crispy on the outside and springy on the inside. King loved it and everyone was saved. The End. Anyway they all seem to have similar stories like that.
This isn’t one of those recipes that then passed from the palace kitchen to the general populace, from one generation to another in the family home. At least not to our family home. It was a case of ‘wow that’s an expensive dish! Should we try to make it at home with ingredients on hand?’
My mum went about trying it and it became one of those special dishes we do for special occasions or guests. I’ve simplified it a bit here by removing the crushed cashews – they just burn too easily and I reckon I could save on the calories for dessert instead!

500g raw prawn cutlets
1 ‘sheet’ of chicken skin from two chicken breasts (tear the skin off a double chicken breast)

2 tsp chicken powder
2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp ground white pepper
1.5 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornflour (corn starch)

Drain excess water from prawns and tip them onto a chopping board.
Stand tall, roll your shoulders back and prepare yourself (well your arms at least) for a good workout. Using first 1 knife chop the cutlets small. Best to use a chefy technique where you hold the tip of the knife down with your left hand while moving the blade up and down with your right.

When they have been all chopped, proceed to use two knives to give the prawn meat a good hammering. This is also good for your mind as you channel all your negative energy into moving your arms and mincing the prawns.


Scrape the flattened prawn meat into a heap and give it another hammering.


Repeat for a few times until you feel calm and all zen-like. I would suggest 4-5 times is enough. If not, you may benefit from some kick boxing classes!!

Put the prawn meat into a bowl and add the marinade in. Give it a few crazy stirs and when your arms are tired, leave it for 10 minutes.


Dry the chicken skin and pat a good amount of cornflour on the inside of the skin, covering it all over.


Using a large soup spoon, smear the prawn meat onto the chicken skin. Smooth it down and even. Now you have a large pattie.


Heat the pan up and add a tiny teaspoon of oil. When it is hot, place the pattie in, skin side down.


Pan fry for 1 minute on high and then 2 minutes on medium, till golden. Turn over and fry for another 3 minutes. Watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn.


Remove from pan and cool on some kitchen paper. (the edges look a bit dark and it is really just the lighting!)


Slice and plate up.

Served here with some magic sauce – better known to most children as tomato sauce.
Wish you all a joyful and bountiful year of the Snake! (like what I did with the sauce squiggle?)


Ps. If I ever have the guts to apply for a spot in Masterchef, this would be my audition dish!!

Bluff Oysters with a tangy chilli, lime and ginger sauce

bluff oysters with lime chilli ginger sauce

I’ve only recently tried the famous Bluff Oysters – it was so delicious that my friend and I who were sharing the entree dish were left wanting more! Unfortunately the restaurant had no more for the evening so we couldn’t indulge our taste buds further.

I saw them in the fish department of the supermarket later, and decided to get some for hubby and I to enjoy. He isn’t an oyster fan, but deep down I was quite sure he will like this variety of oysters. I have nothing to lose really, if he doesn’t like it, I get to eat more! Quite cheeky really 😉

I decided to pair it with a simple chilli, lime and ginger dressing.


Juice of 3 limes
1.5 tsp fish sauce
3 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp ginger, finely grated
2 tsp red chilli, julienned and diced
1 small shallot, finely diced
12 oysters, freshly shucked or in pots
1 Tbsp finely chopped chives and small wedges of lime for garnish

Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, ginger, red chilli and shallot.
Keep it in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

Place the oysters individually on serving spoons and top with a teaspoonful of the dressing. Garnish with the chopped chives and lime. Place extra dressing in a small dish and place on the side for everyone to help themselves.

This is a great party appetizer!

Verdict? We both agree that Bluff oysters are supreme. We are hooked! So wish the season is longer.

bluff oysters with lime chilli ginger sauce

Seafood Chowder

I learnt this easy seafood chowder from watching Masterchef Australia. Fleur Sullivan, the chef, is from NZ!

This seafood chowder is made with roux, a mixture of flour and butter. I’ve modified this recipe a bit to reduce the amount of butter to make it lighter. You can pretty much add any seafood in as you like, using any in season, fresh produce you can find locally. Choose a firm type of fish, like Hapuka, which is a grouper in NZ. You can also use little neck clams, scallops or mussels.

150g butter
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
150g plain flour
100ml white wine
140g tomato paste (equivalent to 1 tub of tomato paste)
2 litres seafood* or fish stock, warmed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
Celery stalk, 10cm piece
1 stalk fresh thyme
300g Harpuka or Basa, diced
20 prawns, shelled and deveined
2 squid tube, cleaned and scored, cut int strips

*The seafood stock is one I’ve made earlier with the heads of scampi heads boiled down with “the holy trinity” vege trio – onions, carrots and celery (Mirepoix in French). This vegetable mix is a very common starter for soups and stews. They are usually finely diced and then sautéed in oil or butter.


In a large heavy based saucepan melt butter and add diced vegetables. Sweat for a few minutes but do not allow to colour.

Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes or until mixture has a sandy texture.

Slowly pour in the wine and tomato paste and bring together as it thickens to remove all the lumps.

Add the warmed stock slowly, stirring continuously, and drop in the herbs and spices.

Allow the chowder to come to the boil, and stir to keep the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add all the fish and shellfish and simmer until the shells begin to open and the fish is cooked through.

Serve with sourdough or ciabatta.

Prawn cocktail

Upon realizing J is not allergic to prawns, this dish has appeared on our dinner menu at least once a week. Why? It is quick, completes in under 10 minutes, can be made in advance and is delicious.

Good quality prawns were hard to find in New Zealand many moons ago, and you’ll have to pay a premium for them. In the last few years, the market has opened up and it is now very easy to buy good quality and affordable prawns even in the supermarket.

All you need here are the prawns, some ice, and thousand island dressing. For this dish, I prefer using the frozen, shelled but uncooked ones. It offers an easy start for my dish and saves me time. Flavour wise, it does not make a significant difference. It does however make a huge difference in cost when compared to fresh prawns!

It can be served as an appetizer, or like any Asian meals, as part of a wider array of dishes shared amongst the diners. This is a dish S and I had many years ago at a restaurant, when we were still dating. In the end we decided that we didn’t need to order that from a restaurant when we can easily do it ourselves ( yes indeed this is one even S can achieve !!!)

300g Prawns, shelled, uncooked
1 cup of ice
3 tbsp thousand island dressing

Defrost the prawns by rinsing them in water, leave it to drain in a colander.


Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water with 1 tsp of salt and add the prawns in.


Once the prawns has changed to a pink colour, leave it to cook for a further 30 seconds. Then, strain it and put it in a bowl with the ice. This stops them from over cooking and retains a nice crunch when you bite into it.


Mix the prawns with the ice and leave it to cool.


J likes to stir them from time to time.


Drain the water off and dry the prawns by lightly patting them with a paper towel.
Add the thousand island dressing in, mix to coat evenly.

Refrigerate until service time. Just like macarons, they taste better the next day – but who can wait that long?