Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Japanese Savory custard/茶碗蒸し

_DSC8440The 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!

_DSC8380I 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._DSC8385

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
  1. Pour water and kelp into pan. Slowly bring water to boil at low heat._DSC8397
  2. Remove kelp just before the water starts boil. Discard kelp.
  3. Put a handful of tuna flakes in the pan and cook for 1 minute and turn off heat. Leave for 30 minutes
  4. 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._DSC8407
  • Shrimp 8 Shelled and deveined. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sake. _DSC8409
  • 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._DSC8426Other suggested ingredients: fish cake (かまぼこ), eel, crab meat.

Make custard

Gently beat 3 eggs so that  you won’t create air bubbles. Mix with dashi stock then strain through strainer to make smooth custard._DSC8427

Steam processTHIS 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
._DSC8432_DSC8433_DSC8468_DSC8460Yup! 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. _DSC8392It was shiny and white as snow like any other white rice, not too shabby though._DSC8455

These gluten free mini cupcakes were for a church function. I’m not allergic to wheat but made them just in case some people who have a restricted diet showed up.They were surprisingly good!_DSC8372 

Then the gluten free cheese cake my husband made was also marvelous. See that recent find of antique plate made in France? Très belle (very nice) right?_DSC8471


  1. Glad you got the custard cups in the end! I like it's simplicity too....good taste/in choice... I suppose I can also say as in chawan mushi too;P I'm also eyeing on your intricate designed fork...I think it is so pretty too:)

    1. Thank you! I'm so lucky to get those custard cups.

  2. I make Bruce custard every week because it's his favorite. It's so easy and low fat. I looked at your ingredients and I realized they are not the same. Our custard is a dessert. Your's looks very interesting and yummy. Love Shitake mushrooms! I think I would prefer your custard. I don't like the custard I make Bruce.

    1. Thank you Leanne. I love both dessert and savory custard. Can you make me the custard too?

  3. 茶碗蒸しのこの自然かカーブが素敵!!明美さん、何気に色々お皿凝ってますよねー。ブルー系のお皿も素敵だし。私の茶碗蒸しのカップなんてダイソーです(笑)。いつか素敵なの欲しいなぁ。




    1. いいえ、こちらこそいつも美味しく拝見してます。 そうなの、家の主人は甘党で、よくデザートがんばってくれてます。コメントサンキュー!

  4. "Bugged" . . . you are so clever as well as talented. Very, very awesome-looking dish . . . both food and ware.

    1. Thank you Jalna. I'm so glad you get my sense of humor.

  5. Japanese steamed egg custard is always my favourite. Love their smooth silky texture and didn't know that over-steaming them makes a lot of difference in their texture :p

    I must say too that all your gluten free cakes look awesome!