Fond Memories of Chawanmushi, Steamed Egg—From a Picky Eater!

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Steamed egg—it’s a dish I couldn’t be more familiar with. My mother has been cooking it for me ever since I was a toddler. Not only is steamed egg simply delicious, it was one of the few dishes I approved of as a child. In fact my mother said I was such a picky eater that if there had been an award for it I would have won it hands down.

Whenever my mother would feed me I just shook my head and disproved of most of what was presented to me. However, there were also a few exceptions—and steamed egg was one dish I approve of. (Whew, it’s tough being a mom, no wonder there is a song dedicated to mothers for Mother’s Day.)

I recently overheard that chef Takashi Yamamoto of Sushi Zen in Midtown West cooks the best chawanmushi steamed egg, so I asked him to teach me his recipe, and he agreed. Yamamoto is in his mid-30s and has been cooking Japanese cuisine for over 16 years. While he may be a little camera shy, he is absolutely confident and in his element working in a kitchen.

In Japanese, “chawan” means tea cup and “mushi” means steamed. It can also be translated to steamed egg or steamed egg custard. The dish consists of an egg mixture flavored with soy sauce, dashi, and mirin.

For Yamamoto’s recipe, the preparation time takes longer than the actual cooking time. “Every step is crucial,” he said. He also told me that in order to make smooth chawanmushi, you must chill the dashi broth, strain the egg mixture, and turn the heat to low after the first minute of steaming.

I tasted his chawanmushi recipe. It’s different than the one my mother likes to cook. His is very smooth, delicate, and with no remaining air in it. The topping sauce adds an extra shiny gloss to it. Yamamoto makes the dish an art. I must say “yes” to this recipe!

Well … so is it better than my mother’s cooking?  I can’t exactly say that, because she might be reading this right now.

Happy cooking and eating everyone!

Chawanmushi Recipe

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 4

This recipe requires a steamer to complete the chawanmushi base.


1 piece  kombu seaweed, about 4inches wide and 4 inches long
4 cups water
2 ounces  bonito flakes
5 eggs
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon salt
4 ginkgo nuts, boiled
4 pieces sea urchin
4 shrimp, boiled

Topping sauce:

1/2 cup dashi broth
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon of kuzu arrowroot


To make the dashi broth: In a medium stock pot, add water and kombu seaweed and bring to a boil. Then add bonito flakes and turn off the heat.

Wait 10 minutes until bonito flakes have settled and strain. Let it cool and then chill. Set aside a 1/2 cup of dashi broth to make the topping sauce.

To make the chawanmushi base: Beat the eggs, pour the mixed eggs into the chilled dashi broth, and combine well. Add soy sauce, mirin, and salt into the mixture and strain.

Add a piece of ginkgo nut and a shrimp into each of the four bowls. Then scoop the chawanmushi base into each bowl. Place the bowls into your steamer and steam for 1 minute on a high heat, and then another 9 minutes over low heat.

To make the topping sauce: In a small saucepan, add the dashi broth, soy sauce, mirin, salt, and kuzu arrowfoot, and bring to a boil until you get a syrup consistency.

Lastly, add 1 tablespoon of the topping sauce on top of the chawanmushi and garnish with sea urchin.

This recipe was adapted from the original by chef Takashi Yamamoto.

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