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CHAWAN MUSHI WITH BLACK TRUMPET MUSHROOMS
Chawan mushi is Japanese comfort food that combines eggs and dashi (the basic stock of Japan) to make a light custard and then it is steamed or baked in a hot water bath. Chicken, shrimp, mushrooms and green vegetables are typical additions, but you can add whatever you want. Chawan means cup or teacup, the vessel in which the custard is steamed. There are chawan mushi cups with lids sold in Japanese or Asian grocery stores. You can easily substitute heatproof ramekins or small bowls and cover them tightly with foil or plastic wrap.
2 ounces fresh or 1/2-ounce dried black trumpets, cleaned
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (preferably white)
3 large eggs
2 cups regular or mushroom dashi (recipe follows) or chicken stock
1 teaspoon sake (optional)
4 medium shrimp (21 – 25 size), peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon Japanese soy sauce
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
Cilantro or mitsuba leaves*
If using dried mushrooms, soak them in hot water until softened, about 15 minutes. With either tear them in thick strips lengthwise and sauté in a little butter until just cooked thru, about 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly and then stir in the dashi, salt and sake. Cut the shrimp in half lengthwise and toss them with the soy sauce. Divide shrimp and reserved mushrooms in the bottom of four 6-ounce custard cups. Gently pour the egg custard mixture equally into the 4 cups and skim off any bubbles. Cover each cup securely with foil.
Place the cups in a single layer in a steamer, partially cover and steam over moderate heat for 15 – 18 minutes or until custard is just firm. Top with a little of the ginger and a cilantro or mitsuba leaf.
*Mitsuba (aka Japanese parsley, an herb with a flavor of celery, lovage, and cedar) is available at Japanese grocery stores.
Traditional Dashi is made with kelp (kombu) and dried bonito flakes (smoked and dried skipjack tuna). You’ll find recipes online and it could be used here. A simple alternative is to use reconstituted dried granules called hon dashi which you’ll find in Japanese and Asian markets. For maximum mushroom flavor however a good mushroom dashi is best.
6 cups water
4 four-inch pieces of kombu seaweed*
6 medium dried shiitake mushrooms*
Place kombu in pot of water and very slowly bring to a simmer over medium high heat, but do not boil, about 10 minutes. Remove the kombu just before the pot boils and add the dried mushrooms.
Boil for 1 minute, then turn off the heat and let the pot sit, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and store the dashi covered and refrigerated. It can be the base for a simple soup by adding a tablespoon or so of soy sauce and a sprinkling of chopped green onions.
*You can find Kombu and dried shiitake in Asian and natural foods stores.