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Chawanmushi – Japanese Steamed Egg


(serves 5)
Chawanmushi is a steamed egg custard commonly served in Japanese Cuisine. Unlike its Western counterparts, it is a savoury custard. A variety of bite sized food items are burried within the custard, given it a subtle meaty flavour that lingers in the mouth. Chawanmushi contains no milk or cream, giving it a light and delicate texture that is as smooth as tofu. It can be served as an appetizer in any meal, formal or casual, making it a very versatile dish.
 
Main Ingredients ChawanMushi
  1. Eggs (3)
  2. Mirin
  3. Sake
  4. Hon Dashi
  5. Soya Sauce

Other (Optional) Ingredients

  1. Chicken
  2. Shrimp
  3. Kamaboko (fish cake)
  4. Shiitake (mushroom)
  5. Carrot
  6. Ginko Nuts

Preparation DobinmushiCM Ingredients

  1. First we start by making the dobin mushi, which is a stock with bits of meat and vegetables in it. You can basically use any kind of ingredients but I’ll assume you are using the ingredients listed in the photo.
  2. Marinate 5 finger tip sized pieces of chicken and 5 small shrimp in 2T mirin and 1t soya sauce.
  3. Slice a large fresh (i.e. not dried) shiitake mushroom into 5 segments. Cut 5 thin slices of carrot and 5 slices of fish cake.
  4. Bring to a strong boil 1.75 cups of water with 1 heaped T of hon dashi pellets.
  5. Add all the cut and marinated ingredients into the pot, including the marinade. Give it a quick stir and immediately turn off the fire. Leave covered for five minutes.

You may do everything in part I ahead of time

Preparation Chawanmushi

  1. Beat 3 eggs in a pitcher with 2T sake.
  2. When the dashi stock has cooled, fish out all the boiled ingredients and distribute them equally into the tea cups.
  3. Pour the dashi into the pitcher, mixing it well with the egg.
  4. From the pitcher, pour the custard mixture through a strainer into the cups. Don’t fill the cups beyond 85% of their capacity.
  5. Add a cup of water into a large pot with a steaming rack. In any case, ensure that the water does not reach up the rack.
  6. Arrange the cups onto the rack with their covers on. Bring the water to a boil with the (pot) cover off. This serves to warm up the custard a bit.
  7. When the water is boiling, cover the pot and leave on a low simmer for 10 minutes. Leave the pot covered with heat off for a further 5 minutes for custard to firm up.
  8. Serve hot in the original cups, covers still on and with a tea spoon. It is normal for a small amount of dashi(soup) to remain after the chawanmushi is cooked.

Notes

  • ‘Chawan’ means tea cup while ‘Mushi’ means steamed, so chawanmushi translates as ‘steamed cup (of egg)’. Similarly, ‘Dobin’ means teapot and dobinmushi transalates as ‘steamed teapot (of soup)’. It is not an intermediate ingredient but a distinct soup in itself; note the version here is not the way to make a proper dobinmushi. 
  • If you don’t have tea cups with covers, you can just use a double sheet of foil which you crumple snugly over the top of each cup seperately. The cups should however be the oriental type made of thick porcelain. 
  • Do not leave the cups uncovered; condensate will mar the custard surface while the chawanmushi will get cooked unevenly.
  • It is very important to strain the custard mixture. Do not skip this step or there will be bubbles in the chawanmushi. There will also be sediment from the stock and also bits of egg white which do not steam well.
  • If you like, you can put various decorative or fragrant items on the chawanmushi surface immediately after it is steamed, like a perilla leaf or a slice of kamaboko. 
  • If you can’t get some of the other ingredients listed at the beginning that’s ok; you can substitute anything you like as long as you follow these guidelines:
    • it is small (like a ginko nut) 
    • it doesn’t bleed colour (portobello for example stains the custard)
    • it doesn’t have too strong a taste (fisk ok, lamb not so much)
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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Appetizers, Japanese, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Dried Shrimp Roe


Dried Shrimp Roe is a Chinese condiment made by salt-curing the eggs of prawns before they hatch. They are considered a semi-delicacy in Southern Chinese Cuisine and they impart a salty umami-rich seafood flavour to whatever food they are sprinkled on. Good quality Dried Shrimp Roe is a bright vermillion colour and looks a bit like paprika. Lower quality versions are darker in colour, these would be more salty and fishy. All varieties last way beyond the stated expiry date as long as you keep them refrigerated, they are after all cured and completely dessicated.

You’ll come across Dried Shrimp Roe as a condiment in quality wonton noodles. They are also sometimes cooked with with bean curd. Have you tasted Pasta Nera? That black pasta uses squid ink to give it a unique taste. Dried Shrimp Roe is used in the same way to flavour premium quality dried chinese noodles. They are mixed into the noodle dough before the noodles are dried and release their taste when the noodles are boiled. Where can you buy Dried Shrimp Roe? Anywhere they sell other kinds of Chinese dried seafood, and also in some chain wonton noodle shops if they happen to have their own brand. The Cantonese name of Dried Shrimp Roe is ‘Ha-Tzi’, meaning the offspring or seed of prawns and corresponds to the bottom two Chinese characters of the box shown in the picture.

How would you use Dried Shrimp Roe outside of traditional Chinese cooking? Have you ever tasted Bottarga (a salt-cured fish roe from Sardinia) or Karasumi (the Japanese version of Bottarga) with pasta? There is no need to cook Dried Shrimp Roe and in general you can sprinkle it on cheese, oil or cream based pasta dishes for an extra layer of flavour. I think of them as a poor man’s version of the fresh sushi type caviar I sometimes use with pasta. The taste of this roe is milder than it looks so you can afford a heavier touch. The contrasting colour will be beautiful. Dried Shrimp Roe won’t work so well with tomato and ragout based pasta. Enter Bottarga + Pasta into a search engine to get some ideas for recipes. 

How about some other uses? One of my favourites is scrambled eggs topped with this tasty red powder. You can also sprinkle it on seafood soups as a condiment. Rehydrate your shrimp roe in vegetable oil to get a nice crunchy texture and you’ll be able to use shrimp roe to flavour a variety of salads or as a topping on BBQ/baked seafood.  

Dried Shrip Roe Hydrated with Oil. This bowl is only 3 inches in diameter, so you can imagine how small each egg is.

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Notes
 
  • Dried shrimp roe is not the same as the shrimp eggs used as aquatic food. Two different things altogether.
 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Ingredients, Oriental, Pasta, Seafood

 

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What are Sakura Shrimp?


SakuraKnown also as Sakura Ebi, Cherry Shrimp or Cherry Blossom Shrimp, these are tiny shrimp caught from a certain bay in Japan, the name of which eludes me at the moment. As you might gather, they are named after cherry blossoms, because of their similar colour. There are may ways to eat Sakura but if you live outside of Japan, you will have to make do with the boiled and then sun-dried variety, which is the variety which I use, and refer to.

OK, enough about the background. So what is so special about Sakura? They have a light crispy texture, and more importantly they retain (for an eternity compared to other crispy food) their crispiness even when put into liquid. This is because other crispy food is made crispy artifically by removing water through heating. If they get re-hydrated, they become decidedly uncrispy. Sakura on the other hand are naturally crunchy because they are crustaceans. This makes them the ultimate sprinkle-on-top food.

Where can you find Sakura Shrimp? At any Japanese food specialty store or Japanese supermarket. Don’t confuse Sakura Ebi with the more common Chinese shell-less dried shrimp. Those can’t be eaten without lots of cooking, and in general are unsuitable for Western cuisine. If you would like a recipe which uses Sakura Shrimp, try my Angel Hair with Sakura .

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2009 in Ingredients, Japanese, Seafood

 

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