Even without using dashi stock, the savoury egg custard in this simple Fish Chawanmushi has a great flavour. It only contains fish pieces but it is so tasty and enjoyable. Red-skinned fish is the key to making this dish look great.
I always made the standard version of Chawanmushi that you can find in my post, which is probably what most readers also think of. The savoury custard is made of egg and dashi stock with other seasonings.
But recently, I was browsing a Japanese cooking magazine called ‘Okazu no Cooking’ (おかずのクッキング) and spotted today’s Fish Chawanmushi recipe. Fish Chawanmushi does not use dashi stock because the stock is made from the fish fillet, the only ingredient in the egg custard.
What’s in my Fish Chawanmushi (Savoury Egg Custard)
Other than the ingredients to make the egg custard, which are similar to those in my Chawanmushi recipe, you only need a fish fillet. The ingredients list below is for two servings.
- 160g / 5.6oz imperadore fillet with skin on
- 120ml /4.1oz water
- 80ml /2.7oz cooking sake
- 4 tsp mirin
- 4 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 egg (65-70g /2.3-2.5oz in shell), beaten
Since the only ingredient in the egg custard is the fish fillet, it looks nice if you use fish with red skin, and the texture of the cooked flesh is similar to snapper, or even softer. Other than imperadore that I used today, red emperor, red snapper and bight redfish would be good.
You could use red-skinned fish with firmer flesh if you want. I once made Fish Chawanmushi with ocean perch but each piece of fish was a bit too firm to match with the delicate soft egg custard. But if you must use it, I’d suggest that you cut the fillet into smaller pieces.
If you don’t mind not having the colour effect of the dish, you can use a fish with light pink or brown skin such as snapper, bream or flat head.
All the ingredients in the list above, except the egg, are used to make a broth. A lot of sake is used here but the sake eliminates the fishy smell from the broth.
How to make Fish Chawanmushi
There are two distinct steps to making today’s Fish Chawanmushi. The first step is to make a fish broth and the second step is to steam the chawanmushi.
Making Fish Broth:
- Cut the fish fillet into bite size pieces.
- Bring the Broth ingredients to a boil, add the fish pieces and cook.
- Separate the fish pieces and the broth.
- Measure the broth and reserve 200ml / 6.8oz.
In step 3, I put the broth through a sieve to eliminate tiny fish bits. This makes the egg custard smooth.
- Mix the egg and the broth to make the savory egg mixture.
- Place the fish pieces in 2 chawanmushi bowls, pour the egg mixture over.
- Steam for 12 minutes.
When placing the fish pieces in the chawanmushi bowls, try to pile them up high with the skin side up. The red colour of the fish piece will show above the liquid when the egg mixture is poured, presenting a good colour contrast on the surface of the chawanmushi.
A New way of Steaming Chawanmushi
There are few different ways of steaming chawanmushi. I explained these methods in my recipe Chawanmushi (Savory Egg Custard). In today’s recipe, I used a new method of steaming chawanmushi that is not in my Chawanmushi recipe.
If you use a steamer or a pot to steam food, you normally lift the bottom where the food is placed, allowing for the water to boil without touching the food.
The new method does not do this. You place the chawanmushi bowl on the bottom of the pot which is filled with boiling water to about 1.5cm deep. Place a lid on and steam.
To reduce the direct heat from the bottom of the pot, spread a face towel on the bottom of the pan, then place the chawanmushi bowls on it. This will transfer the gentle heat to the bottom part of the egg custard.
Direct strong heat is a big ‘no’ in steaming chawanmushi. It must be a gentle steam so that the custard becomes soft and smooth.
How to achieve gentle steam
The recipe that I referenced to make my Fish Chawanmushi did not cover the chawanmushi bowl when steaming. The recipe was for 4 servings and when I made Fish Chawanmushi as per the recipe, all 4 chanwanmushi were perfectly steamed using this new steaming method.
But I made two servings of Fish Chawanmushi for today’s recipe and used the same method of steaming per the original recipe, i.e. without covering the chawanmushi bowl. Unfortunately, the custard was bubbly and spongy – the steaming temperature was too high.
After a couple of trial and errors, I ended up covering the chawanmushi bowls with aluminium foil to prevent the hot steam directly hitting the surface of the egg mixture. And it was a success!
Alternatively, you can shift the lid of the pot slightly, allowing a small amount of steam to escape, instead of covering the chawanmush bowls.
If you are not covering the chawanmushi bowl and the lid of your pot is flat, the water accumulated on the lid may drop onto the surface of the chawanmushi. You may need to cover the lid of the pot with a towel to stop it.
The original recipe in the magazine, Okazu no Cooking was created by the chef and food consultant, Yoshiharu Doi. I adjusted the seasonings slightly to suit to my taste. He also suggested in his recipe to serve with ponzu, chopped shallots (Aussie)/scallions, soy sauce and shichimi tōgarashi. But I like it without these sauces and garnishes.
I think that the amount of fish in this chawanmushi is enough to make it a main dish.
Even without using dashi stock, the savoury egg custard in this simple Fish Chawanmushi has a great flavour. It only contains fish pieces in it but it is so tasty and enjoyable. Red-skinned fish is the key to making this dish look great.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 160g / 5.6oz red-skinned fish fillet skin on (note 1)
- 120ml / 4.1oz water
- 80ml / 2.7oz cooking sake
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce (or normal soy sauce)
- 1 egg (65-70g / 2.3-2.5oz in shell, note 2)
- 200ml / 6.8oz Fish Broth , made in this recipe
- 2 Mitsuba leaves (note 3)
Run a finger along the backbone of the fish and remove tiny bones off the fillet, then cut it into bite size pieces.
Put all the Fish Broth ingredients into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
Add the fish pieces to the broth, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes. While cooking, remove scum.
Turn the heat off and transfer the fish to two chawanmushi bowls (note 4).
Put the broth through a sieve and into a measuring cup. If the amount of the broth is less than 200ml / 6.8oz, add water and make it to 200ml / 6.8oz. If more than 200ml, discard the excess (or make use of excess in other dishes).
Beat the egg well (note 5) and add it to the measured fish broth. Mix well.
Gently pour the Egg Custard mixture into the chawanmushi bowls, through a sieve (optional, note 6) and fill the bowls. Cover the chawanmushi bowls with the fish custard mixture with a piece of aluminium foil.
Place a small face towel at the bottom of the pot, with a lid, which is wide enough to fit the two chawanmushi bowls and deeper than the height of the bowl.
Fill water to 1.5cm / ⅝" deep and bring it to a boil.
Place the bowls covered with aluminium foil on the towel. Place the lid on and steam for 12 minutes.
Take the bowls out of the steamer. Remove the foil, place mitsuba on and serve while hot.
1. I used a fish called imperadore, which is similar to red fish but the flesh is a bit sweeter. To gain the colour contrast, red-skinned fish is recommended. Red emperor, red snapper and redfish are suitable for this dish.
I also tried it with ocean perch. The colour of the skin was great but the texture of the flesh was too firm compared to the other fish listed above. Those have a similar texture to snapper or even softer.
If the colour does not concern you, you can use other fish such as snapper or flathead. If using a fish with firmer flesh, cut the fillet into smaller pieces.
2. The amount of egg and liquid determines the thickness of the custard. If your egg is smaller than this, reduce the broth. If your egg is 60g / 2.1oz, reduce the broth to 180ml / 6.1oz. Similarly, if the egg is 75g / 2.6oz, increase the broth to 220ml / 7.4oz.
3. Instead of mitsuba, you could use other green leaves that do not have a strong flavour, e.g. mizuna, pea shoots. You could sprinkle finely chopped shallots (Aussie)/scallions instead.
4. I used a small Chinese serving bowl with a volume of 300ml / 0.6pt to the top of the rim. The chawanmushi bowl or a cup needs to have a similar capacity to mine and be heat tolerant.
Try to pile the fish pieces up high, skin side up so that at least one fish piece shows above the surface of the custard.
5. Try to cut the egg white into bits by picking it up with chopsticks or a fork.
6. This is to make the custard smooth when cooked.
7. The original recipe in the magazine, Okazu no Cooking was created by the chef and food consultant, Yoshiharu Doi. I adjusted the seasonings slightly to suit to my taste.
The original recipe also suggests serving Fish Chawanmushi with ponzu, chopped shallots (Aussie)/scallions, soy sauce and shichimi tōgarashi. But I like it without these sauces and garnishes.
8. Nutrition per serving.
serving: 220g calories: 179kcal fat: 3g (5%) saturated fat: 0.9g (5%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 0.6g monounsaturated fat: 1g cholesterol: 151mg (50%) sodium: 549mg (23%) potassium: 413mg (12%) carbohydrates: 6g (2%) dietary fibre: 0.1g (0%) sugar: 3.4g protein: 19g vitamin a: 6% vitamin c: 0% calcium: 2.5% iron: 8.3%