Chawanmushi (Japanese Egg Custard)

Staff Writer
Chawanmushi (Japanese Egg Custard)
Chawanmushi (Japanese Egg Custard)
Jessica Chou

This savory Japanese egg custard is the perfect comfort food for cold winter nights. Although the dish is traditionally made with gingko nuts and mitsuba, home cooks can toss in any of their favorite ingredients. In this recipe, I added shrimp and kamaboko, a fish cake with a bright pink lining. You can also substitute it with bite-sized pieces of chicken, or even crab meat.

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You can substitute the water and dashi mixture with 1 cup chicken broth.

If you prefer a light and soupy chawanmushi, try adding only 1 egg and reducing the liquid amount by ¼ cup.


  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3/4 teaspoons hondashi, or dry dashi powder
  • 4 small dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon mirin
  • 4 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 thin slices of kamaboko
  • 4 mitsuba leaf stems
  • 2 eggs


In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup warm water and dashi until the powder dissolves. Soak the shiitake mushrooms in ¼ cup hot water until the mushrooms soften. Cut the mushrooms into thin slices. Reserve the ¼ cup soaking water.

Add the mushroom water to the dashi stock and then mix in soy sauce and mirin.

Blanch the shrimp in hot water for 30 seconds. Divide evenly into 2 tea cups (or ramekins, about 230 ml each). Divide up the mushrooms, kamaboko, and mitsuba. You can reserve a very thin slice (about ⅛-inch) of kamaboko to float on top and add color.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs until smooth. Gradually mix in the dashi mixture. Strain the resulting liquid into each tea cup, leaving ½-inch at the top. Top with the remaining kamaboko (optional).

Heat a large pot with 2 inches of water until boiling, making sure the water level is at least 1-inch below your cups or ramekin rims (you don't want water seeping in).

Cover each cup tightly with aluminum foil and place in the boiling water. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and steam the eggs for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked. To test, stick a chopstick or toothpick through; if the liquid is clear, it's ready to eat.

Japanese Shopping Tip

Staples of Asian cuisine such as ginger, daikon, rice vinegar, and spicy chile sauces like Sriracha add bright, fresh flavors without lots of fuss.

Japanese Cooking Tip

Sriracha has good heat but also has flavor - its mild sweetness comes from sun-ripened chili peppers as well as sugar and garlic.