Japanese Savory custard/茶碗蒸し
The seller was a Japanese woman whose husband’s job here is done and so they are going back to Japan. Six custard cups for $15 was the asking price I took a closer look and they were in perfect shape. It’s like one for… 2 dollars and …before I could finish the calculation in my head, I was told they were sold already. Darn it!
I broke my custard cups sometime ago and I have never been able to find ones I could fall in love with. I have impeccable taste in things like dishes, bags, shoes…what? what’s that honey? Oh, yeah,right, in men too. He is absolutely a great find.
I received a phone call from the seller a few days later. The buyer backed out and the cups are still available and did I want them? That was 2 weeks ago. It is not really a good time of year to make this dish because of difficulty getting one important ingredient but hey, that does not stop me from trying.
Savory custard is called chawan mushi. Chawan means cup or small bowl. Mushi means ‘steamed’ in Japanese but also means bug. I thought it had something to do with bugs as a child and it gave me a creepy feeling. My late mother was an expert in making the dish but I never got her recipe. The kitchen was her territory and her dislike of other people in her tiny kitchen made her unpleasant. One day in her absence, I re-arranged dishes and so on and she scolded me as she could not find anything in HER kitchen later. But mother, I protested, how am I supposed to get the can of candies if it’s waaay up there?
Ingredients and how-to for my version of 4 savory custards.
Make dashi (Japanese soup stock) first or skip the whole thing and use store bought dashi powder to make 500cc dashi stock.
- Water 500cc
- Dried Kelp (昆布) 2 inch by 2 inch. Wipe the surface with moist paper towel to clean.
- Dried tuna flakes (鰹節) – a handful about 10g
- Pour water and kelp into pan. Slowly bring water to boil at low heat.
- Remove kelp just before the water starts boil. Discard kelp.
- Put a handful of tuna flakes in the pan and cook for 1 minute and turn off heat. Leave for 30 minutes
- Strain through strainer and cool.
While the dashi is cooling, prepare other ingredients
- Dried Shiitake 10 to 12 pieces soak in 200cc water in a pan until it gets soft. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. Cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.
- Chicken breast about 70g cut into bite size pieces. Rub the chicken with 1 teaspoon soy sauce and a little bit of salt.
- Shrimp 8 Shelled and deveined. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sake.
- Spinach - a bunch. Prepare ice bath in bowl first. Wash spinach and cut off the stems. Boil two cups of water and a teaspoon of salt in a pan, cook for 20 to 30 seconds then drain the water and plunge into prepared ice bath. Gently squeeze water out and cut in 2 inch lengths.
- Gingko nuts 8 pieces (optional). My husband’s must have-important ingredient. Fresh nuts are available in the Fall. I used dried gingko nuts and that was a nutty idea. There are canned gingko nuts that you could also use but I dunno, they are a little mushy.
- Mitsuba 4 leaves (optional) Shown below right.Other suggested ingredients: fish cake (かまぼこ), eel, crab meat.
Steam process – THIS IS THE MOST TRICKY PART – do not over steam.
Equipment: Steamer with lid (lid wrapped with dish cloth to prevent water dropping into the cups).
Pour water in the bottom section of steamer and start boiling. Divide shitake, chicken, shrimp, spinach, ginkgo nuts by 4. Place in individual custard cups and pour egg mixture 3/4 way. If you see bubbles on surface, prick with toothpick. Place the cups in fully going steamer. Cover and steam for about 20 minutes at low heat. Put Mitsuba leaf on top to decorate
.Yup! I steamed that one too long. In all honesty, I suck at it.
I love the name! Yuki no Kakera (Snowflakes), a new crop of rice, was on sale at the Japanese super market. We usually consume Haiga rice or brown rice but with the purchase of a large bag, you get a small bag for free. I wish it was the other way around. It was shiny and white as snow like any other white rice, not too shabby though.