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How to prepare Chawanmushi (with step-by-step instruction)

Chawanmushi (Savory Egg Custard/茶碗蒸し) is a delicate and Japanese traditional appetizer that we are familiar with.

It is prepared by steaming egg with dashi stock in a small dainty Japanese teacup and filled with ingredients such as chicken, prawns, kamaboko, mushrooms, and mitsuba.

I will follow closely the traditional method in this recipe, but you can freely use other ingredients or even substitute the dashi with chicken broth.

The steamed custard is smooth and silky. When you dig deeper, you will scoop up various ingredients embedded at the bottom of the teacup. It is fun to guess what you will fish out next, as the type of ingredients is highly customizable.

The meaning of Chawanmushi

I am not a linguistic expert, but Chawan sounds like two Chinese words 茶碗, which means tea bowl or little teacup. Incidentally, it also means the same in the Malay and Indonesian languages. Mushi is steam. That means Chawanmushi can be translated as steam (something) in a tea bowl, or /茶碗蒸 in Chinese. This similarity explains why chawanmushi is similar to the Chinese steamed egg, which shares the same technique to get the silky smooth texture.

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easy chawanmushi recipe

How to make flawless chawanmushi.

Please take a few minutes to read the following explanation if you want to make the most delicate, ethereal savory egg custard you have.

1. Prepare the dashi

A good stock is the foundation of an excellent chawanmushi.

Dashi stock is the common stock for authentic chawanmushi. However, you can use chicken stock as an alternative, as chawanmushi is a very flexible recipe.

There are only three ingredients required to prepare this Japanese stock- kombu (dry kelp/ 昆布), katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes, 柴魚片) with some water. Here are the steps:

  • Wipe the kombu with a damp cloth
  • Do NOT remove the white stuff of the kombu, as this is the part with high umami.
  • Place it in the water, and soak it for a minimum of 3 hours (or up to 24 hours).
  • Bring to a boil over low to medium heat.
  • Remove the kombu once it starts boiling.
  • Add the katsuobushi. Heat it to just before boiling.
  • Turn off the heat. Wait until the katsuobushi sinks to the bottom, which takes 2-3 minutes.
  • Strain through cheesecloth or a wire mesh strainer and lay with a kitchen tissue.

The combination of kombu and katsuobushi is always more significant than the stand-alone individual. You will immediately notice the aroma and flavor you are familiar with at Japanese restaurants. These ingredients are available at most Asian grocery stores.

You can keep the dashi stock for up to 1-2 months in the freezer. Some people make it into ice cubes so that it is easier to remove it from the freezer.

I suggest making more dashi than required, as it can be used in many other Japanese dishes.

The best dashi (according to Kikunoi restaurant)

According to the chef/owner of Kyoto’s three Michelin-starred Kikunoi restaurants, the best dashi should be prepared by soaking the kombu for an hour at 60°C, as this is the optimum temperature to extract the umami flavor. After removing the kombu, the temperature should increase to 80°C before adding the katsuobushi. Never boil the katsuobushi as it extracts unwanted elements.

I have simplified its method in this article.  You can refer to my miso soup recipe for making the best dashi, although it will take you more time and require a kitchen thermometer.

2. The ratio of egg and stock

The egg-to-dashi ratio is critical because it will determine the firmness of the custard. The custard will break if there is too much stock and no longer be smooth and silky if it is too little.

I made the Chinese steamed egg with three eggs (150ml) and 260 ml water. The egg-to-water ratio is 1:1.7. The ratio I use in this Chawanmushi recipe is 1: 2.7, much more watery than the Chinese steamed egg. This ratio will stretch out the egg to the limit, where the stock and the egg can barely conge, resulting in an impossibly silky texture.

Any higher dashi ratio than this will cause the custard to collapse and break down into curds when you pierce the spoon.

Since Chawanmushi is served in the tea bowl, you can make it more delicate without worrying that it will break when scooped out. The custard will jiggle when shaken. And when you sink your spoon into the custard, you will see a small amount of dashi exuding from the custard.

However, it is not the same for the Chinese steamed egg. In this case, each person will scoop the egg custard and place it in their bowl. Hence, it has to be firm to avoid breaking into a pool of messy curd on the table.

Savory Egg Custard

3. Substitute the dashi with other stocks

Make your dashi broth if you want the Chawanmushi to be tasty. The more flavorful the base, the tastier the chawanmushi will be.

You may use other stocks as the soup base. Chicken stock is the substitute If you do not intend to make dashi stock just for making chawanmushi.

Another option is to buy instant dashi. Some of these dashi are flavored. Check the label to find out if you need to add soy sauce, mirin, or sake during the preparation.

4. The typical ingredients used for chawanmushi

Various ingredients can be used to make chawanmushi. It can be as simple as slices of chicken meat and kamaboko (steamed fish cakes) or as luxurious as dried scallops, shrimp, ginkgo nuts, and shiitake mushrooms.


I prefer using fresh shiitake mushrooms. Presoaked the dry mushrooms if you use the dry type until it is fully rehydrated. Cut the mushrooms into quarter if it is too large, or slice them into strips. Cut a cross on the cap of the larger mushroom as a design. You can use shimeji mushrooms as an alternative.


Use either chicken breast or thigh meat, but it has to be boneless. Cut the meat into small pieces and marinate it with Japanese soy sauce. Lightly pan-fried the chicken until light brown if you want to add extra flavor.


Prawns are the common ingredients you will find embedded in the custard. Clean the prawns, remove the shell, devein, and marinate with Japanese soy sauce.


Put the mitsuba (wild Japanese parsley) on top of the custard, which has an attractive shape and flavor. You can use coriander leaves as a substitute.

Ginkgo seeds

Ginkgo seeds are commonly added to custard in Japan. Remove the shell by knocking it with the back of the knife. Cut the ginkgo seed into two,  and remove the seed coat by rubbing it lightly and the embryo with a toothpick.


Cut the carrot into thin slices.  Blanch to soften them. Chawanmushi is a delicate appetizer that should only have soft and tender ingredients.


Other ingredients included can be Kamaboko, a Japanese fish cake made from pureed white fish called surimi.

chawanmushi 茶碗蒸し

5. How to steam chawanmushi

The duration and temperature of steaming, as indicated in the recipe, is only a guideline, as actual timing and heat depending on the bowl size and the stove you use. You can refer to an article that I wrote some time ago about Chinese steamed eggs. Over there, I have tested several durations and temperatures used by renowned chefs and experts. The same principle applies to chawanmushi as they are all cooked similarly.

To summarize, here are the important points:

  • Steam the egg mixture over low heat to ensure it does not overcook the custard. Rapid boiling water over high heat will cause the custard to puff up during steaming and collapse during cooling, leaving unsightly holes like a crater.
  • Do not open the lid during steaming to avoid a sudden drop in temperature that may cause the custard to deflate and collapse.
  • Cover the bowls with aluminum foil, cling film, or plastic wrap to prevent water droplets from wetting the custard during steaming.
  • Steam until the egg custard is barely congealed. The cook time is about 15 to 20 minutes. This texture is formed when the custard quivers if you shake it lightly, and the surface will bounce back when you press it lightly with the back of a metal spoon. This moment is when the custard barely misses its breaking point, resulting in the smoothest custard you can have.

6. The arrangement of the ingredients

Stack up the ingredients in the small bowl loosely to enable some of them to emerge on the surface. Carrot slices, mushrooms, and mitsuba are colorful, which is best to stack on top, while the chicken, prawns, and ginkgo nuts are usually buried underneath.

7. Type of bowl for making chawanmushi

That is perfect if you have a special chawanmushi cup with a lid. If not, use any small bowls or ramekins and cover with aluminum foil or cling wrap during steaming as stated above,

8. Strain the egg liquid

The egg liquid should be beaten lightly to avoid creating too many bubbles. Large bubbles will collapse and result in an uneven surface.

Mix the egg liquid with the dashi stock before straining. If you strain the egg liquid before adding it to the dashi, you must mix the egg with the stock again, creating more bubbles. Straining will move most of the bubbles and catches the strand of egg whites and any other impurities.

Use a wire mesh strainer to strain the egg/stock. Fill up the individual bowls with the ingredients of your choice. Fill up the bowls with the egg liquid. Use the corner of a piece of folded kitchen tissue to break any remaining bubbles on the surface (if any) before covering them with aluminum foil or cling wrap.

The Easy Chawanmushi Recipe



Yield: 2 people
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Chawanmushi (Savory Egg Custard/茶碗蒸し) is a delicate and savory Japanese appetizer. 


For the dashi

For the chawanmushi

For the egg liquid

  • 1 large egg
  • 135 ml dashi
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons Japanese soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sake
  • 1/2 teaspoon mirin

For garnish

  • Fresh coriander leaves


For the kombu

  1. Wipe the kombu with a damp cloth
  2. Do not remove the white stuff of the kombu as this is the part with high umami.
  3. Make a few slits on the kombu.
  4. Place it in the water, soak it for 3 hours minimum (better overnight).
  5. Bring to a boil over low to medium heat.
  6. Remove the kombu once it starts boiling.
  7. Add the katsuobushi. Baring it back to just about to boil.
  8. Turn off the heat. Wait until the katsuobushi sink to the bottom, which takes 2-3 minutes.
  9. Strain through cheesecloth or a wire mesh strainer lay with a kitchen tissue.

For the egg liquid

  1. Beat the egg lightly.
  2. Add the dashi, salt, Japanese soy sauce, sake and mirin to the egg. Mix well.
  3. Strain the egg liquid through a wire mesh strainer.

For the ingredients

  1. Presoak the dry mushrooms until it is fully rehydrated. Cut the mushrooms into a quarter, or slices. Cut a cross on the cap as a design.
  2. Cut the chicken meat into small pieces and marinate with the Japanese soy sauce.
  3. Remove the shell, seed coat and the embryo of the ginkgo seed.
  4. Cut the carrot into thin slices. Blanch until they are soft.
  5. Place the chicken and ginkgo seed at the bottom of the teacup. 
  6. Fill up the cup with the egg liquid.
  7. Place the mushroom, kamaboko, coriander leaves, and carrot carefully on the surface so that they are floated partially.
  8. Cover the teacup with the lid, aluminum foil or cling wrap.
  9. Steam for 15-20 minutes over low heat with lid-on. Served.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 258Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 154mgSodium: 1253mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 5gSugar: 8gProtein: 23g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 5/22/2019.


Friday 9th of October 2020

Thanks to your article, I known that Chawainmushi is one of the most favorable dish. I love eggs and now I have a new recipe from eggs.

Steph K

Sunday 23rd of August 2020

I will follow closely to the traditional method


Sunday 23rd of August 2020

They look so yummy! I am so going to try this

KP Kwan

Sunday 23rd of August 2020

Thanks. I hope you will like it.


Tuesday 7th of July 2020

I made this chawanmushi according to your recipe today and it was a super success! So tasty! Thank you very much for sharing all these recipes.

KP Kwan

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

You are welcome. Great to know that you like it.


Friday 3rd of July 2020

This is the first time i try steaming egg the recipes is excellent. The ratio is just perfect.

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