Comfort Food Part One; Chawan Mushi


Comfort food; it means different things to different people…. and it depends, to a large extent, mostly on the circumstances around the first time you choose to consume it.
A very long time ago, I lived in Tokyo for a few months, and whilst it was exhilarating, and captivating and incredible for almost all of the time, on occasions, whilst out and about on my own as a 21 yr old, it was lonely. My Japanese friend and colleague, the darling Tomoko, introduced me to Chawan Mushi, translation is roughly ‘steamed cup’, and it has become a bit of a staple for me, and most certainly one of the (many) dishes I’d describe as comfort food.
Imagine a texture like the silkiest silken tofu you’ve ever had. Or the most ethereal Creme brûlée perhaps, that’s the consistency of a good Chawan Mushi. A delicate, gorgeous wobbly custard. Perfumed with the slightly smoky dashi, and then as you slide your spoon in, a delicious little bit of soup down the bottom with the pieces of chicken hiding in there.
Have I sold it to you yet??
It can be as simple as lightly whisked egg with dashi stock, plus a hint of soy, sake and mirin, or you can glam it up with chicken, prawns, crab, lobster, spring onions, shiitake, enoki, oyster or black fungus. Whether you’ve got a cold, are recovering from surgery, or from a big night out, this is a simple go-to dish that’s quick, easy, and doesn’t need much more than pantry staples.
So here’s my most consumed variation, but please, play around with additions, there’s no right or wrong here, only personal preference.
Note; it’s more a small snack, or an appetiser, or a part of a many dish dinner, than a meal.

Makes 4 serves

4 X approx. 1 cup capacity small bowls/tea cups
3 eggs
2 cups dashi stack, I use instant, cooled
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp mirin
1 tsp sake
2 spring onions, chopped, white and green separated
2 shiitake mushrooms, finely sliced
1 small boneless chicken thigh, all visible fat removed, and cut into bite sized pieces

Mix chicken pieces with 1/2 the soy and mirin and all the sake and set aside for at least 1/2 hr in the fridge, but it will be fine for hours.
Lightly whisk eggs with dashi stock, remaining soy and mirin, then strain into a jug.
Have your steamer at a rollicking boil, then divide chicken, the white part of the onions and the mushrooms between the cups. Pour on the egg mix, cover with glad wrap. And steam for 12 minutes. Remove from the steamer, but keep covered, and stand for an extra 3 minutes.
Unwrap. Garnish with remaining green onions tops and serve.
Often I make the full recipe, eat two for comfort, then chill the rest and I must say, they make a pretty good breakfast!