Mushy Mistakes: Chawanmushi, or Savory Steamed Eggs

We’re flashing back to Japan today since I didn’t have time to fit all that I had planned into that week when I was there, and it just so happened that Mongolia was boring enough to give me the time to finish it off.

The last in our Japanese array, Chawanmushi, is one of Tomato’s favorites.  I did make one modifications from Mama Tomato’s recipe in that this is chicken-free, but in all other material respects, I tried to follow the recipe as written.

The best way Tomato could describe this is sort of a savory egg custard. My track record on baked custards is admittedly inconsistent, and the thought of steaming one downright scared me. I had little confidence it would set.  I did ,however, get to use this steamer basket thing for the first time that Mama Buddha gave me. Look at the packaging (and the price). It is, no doubt, at least 20 years old.


Nonetheless, onward I went.

Serves 4


5 cups water

3 eggs, beaten

1 TB vegetable oil

3 tsp dashinomoto

3 TB soy sauce

1 TB sake

1 TB mirin


1 shiitake, stem removed, cut to 8 pieces

1 head spinach, cut into 2″ pieces

8 pieces of ¼ “thick cut kamaboko


4 medium shrimp


1.  To a medium pot, add 1 cup of water, soy sauce, sake, and mirin.  When it boils, turn the heat off and add dashinomoto.  Add the 4 remaining cups of water.

2.  When the liquid has cooled, stir in the beaten eggs.

3. Into four chawanmushi cups (a soup cup or bowl large enough to hold 1 cup of liquid), place the above optional ingredients equally into the 4 cups.  Make sure to leave at least ½ “at the top, free from liquid, as steamed eggs will rise.


4.  Place 4 filled cups into a large steamer pot, or in a large pot, put water in half way to the height of cups.  Cover the pot and steam it for about 10-15 minutes in a medium heat.  Periodically check the pot to make sure the liquid has steamed to custard.

Note:  Place a moistened cheesecloth on top of cups.  This is to keep the steam from escaping, and to prevent condensation on the inside lid.  The excess four corner of cheesecloth should be flipped over on top of the outside lid to prevent from burning.


And onward I fell.

The eggs did not set. I was so sad- I even got these super cute cups that Tomato said were similar to Chawanmushi bowls.  I think they were too deep to properly steam all the way through, and I even gave them extra time.  When I told Tomato, she said the proportions of eggs/water seemed off, though I followed the directions for that precisely. I know how hard it is to write non-recipes into recipes, so maybe something got lost in translation.

These flavors, however would be great in a different sort of quiche. Maybe I’ll try that next time. I have good luck with quiche.

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