There are some foods that after one bite, I find myself saying…
“Damn. That’s luxurious.”
And it doesn’t even mean having to use expensive ingredients – though, it definitely doesn’t hurt.
A lot of times, that sentiment is evoked for me just based on texture.
Just think about how you feel when you take a bite of crème brûlée. Hopefully, if it is was prepared well, it should be thick and rich with a great mouthfeel. It should make you want to move your mouth around so that the creamy custard hits all of your taste buds and sensors.
That’s exactly how I felt the first time I had chawanmushi – a traditional Japanese egg custard. I couldn’t even tell you the name of the restaurant I first had chawanmushi at. All I recall is that it was a tiny little spot we had stumbled into when we were in Osaka years ago. My friends and I didn’t speak a bit of Japanese but had somehow managed to order the most delicious bowls of soba. I guess we amused our host (and the fact that he was incredibly generous) because he brought out several dishes for us to try.
Chawanmushi was one of them.
I recall the bowl was simply adorned with fish cake slices and mushrooms but it was the custard itself that was surprising. It was incredibly light, beautifully silky while having a fresh sea flavor to it.
And that was it.
Since then, I’ve enjoyed several variations of it—sometimes with chunks of seafood in the base, sometimes more veggie forward. But always oishi.
At our recent egg themed Fam Din, it was the perfect time make my own chawanmushi. The base of the custard is quite simple to assemble. All we did was combine eggs, seafood stock, dashi and bonito together. And because I’m obsessed with trying to use my sous vide device as much as possible, I put them in little mason jars.
After sealing the jars, I sous vide them at 176 degrees F for an hour. Before serving, we topped each with a sprinkle of Maldon salt flakes, fresh uni, a generous spoonful of ikura and some fresh scallions.
Not only did the uni and ikura add to the decadence level and gentle seafood flavor but the little pops from the ikura were a fun little surprise. The Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura was then served with two different types of Japanese rice crackers (one with wasabi, one without) for some added crunch and texture.
Next time I may add some big chunks of prawns and beech mushrooms to the custard, too. Or maybe even lobster or crab?
Options are endless.
Perfect to serve at brunch or as a light appetizer, the beauties are sure to have you and your guests do a little happy food-shimmy.
Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura
2 ounces dried bonito shavings
21⁄4 cups seafood stock
2 teaspoons dashi powder
3 large eggs
12 pieces fresh uni (sea urchin)
3-4 ounces fresh ikura (salmon roe)
serve with senbei (Japanese rice crackers)
In a small pot, combine the bonito shavings and seafood stock. Bring to a simmer and allow the shavings to simmer and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the stock in a bowl and discard the bonito flakes. Stir in the dashi. Allow to slightly cool.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs. You’ll want to ensure the yolks and whites have combined but do so gently as to not create too many bubbles. Pour in about one of cup of the heated broth while gently stirring to combine. Once incorporated and slightly tempered, add the rest of the stock and gently stir.
Divide the custard mixture, pouring through a fine mesh strainer, between six 4-ounce mason jars. Try not to shake or disturb the custard too much as you want to avoid air bubbles. Seal the jars tightly with their respective lids.
Submerge the jars in a secure container of water (pot, food safe bin, etc.) that has been heated to 176 degrees F. Sous vide the custards at the 176 degrees F temperature for one hour. Once done, carefully remove the jars from the water bath allow to slightly cool. If you prefer not to sous vide, cover each dish/jar and steam for 15-20 minutes.
When it’s time to serve, remove the lids and sprinkle each with a few pinches of salt flakes (we like Maldon for the texture and flavor), 2 pieces of uni, a spoonful of ikura and some scallions/chives. Serve with your choice of senbei on the side.
Adapted from Nomiku blog