If there is a food equivalent of a hug, it would be chawanmushi. It’s a savoury steamed custard whose egg-to-liquid ratio is borderline deficient which results in an incredibly silky, jiggly, and light texture that barely holds together. I use hondashi with no shame because that stuff’s gold.
The whole point of chawanmushi is to put whatever you want in it. Seasonal seafood such as freshly shelled clams or baby shrimp are great. Aromatic vegetables such as fresh shiitake mushrooms or chrysanthemum leaves are also quite fitting. However, since the entire draw of this is it’s supple texture and intense umami, I would advise against anything that would clash with it, such as bell pepper which would still be crunchy by the time the custard is cooked through, and whose flavour is not compatible with the dashi-based custard.
Several keys to this: blanch the gingko nuts for 15 seconds in boiling water to remove excess bitterness and the additional cooking also gives it a creamier texture in the end. Slice the scallions as thin as you can – you want the onion to be fully cooked and as soft as the custard by the time it’s done steaming. Use frozen bay scallops, lightly rinsed but not defrosted, so they don’t overcook.
- 4 large organic eggs
- 2 cups hot dashi (kelp and bonito broth), or 2 cups hot water mixed with an 8g packet of hondashi
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 2 scallions, very thinly sliced
- 16 bay frozen bay scallops, rinsed
- 8 gingko nuts, blanched in boiling water for 15 seconds
- In a large bowl, beat the salt and eggs until the eggs and whites are thoroughly incorporated.
- Stream in the dashi and mix until completely incorporated.
- Strain the mixture through a decently fine sieve. DO NOT press the solids through the sieve – gently tap the sieve a couple of times and discard everything still remaining.
- Place 4 scallops and 2 gingko nuts each one of four ramekins/tea bowls. Pour in the egg mixture, and top with sliced scallion.
- Steam on medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until loosely set. Turn off the heat and let it finish cooking for another 10 minutes before serving immediately.
I like having this custard fridge-cold as well.