“Of all sound of all bells, most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year” ~Charles Lamb
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On this day five years ago, my soon-to-be-husband and I went on a date.
We saw a matinee, at a theater where you could order a beer, hot chocolate, nachos, and a really good scotcharoo. I got all fixed up, meaning I put curlers in my hair and wore something other than yoga pants. We were the only people in the whole theater; he held my hand. We talked through the entire movie and stopped by Trader Joe's after for groceries to make dinner.
While I cooked, he helped me figure out my very first DSLR camera that had come in the mail that afternoon. A food blog was about to be born.
Little did we know at the time how amazing and terrifying and beautiful the years ahead of us would be. We couldn't have known that they would physically, mentally, and emotionally push and pull us in ways we'd never known. How years like 2017 would teach me to step back and smell the clean laundry or truly appreciate the sound of my grandson's voice over the phone
This year, I watched the caterpillar of 2017 morph into the butterfly of 2018, with kisses from my husband and sleepy smiles from the puppies. Champagne glass clinks from good friends and my parents. My brother and sister-in-law's voices reverberating in my ear, not over a cell phone, but from just a few feet away
This little butterfly of a year feels both beautiful and fragile. Only time will show how its wings have unfurled. But in the early morning hours of this cold winter's night, it flits in the dim lamplight. The winds outside carry the world’s hope for this brand new year.
I sit in the quiet, willing myself to embrace its newness and the beauty of the unknown.
While my brother was home over Christmas, we spent an afternoon cooking at my parent's house. Little did I know, “You pick the recipe” would lead to kombu and bonito flakes on my husband's grocery list. Not to mention, a lesson in making some pretty incredible dashi
“One of our favorite places to eat in Austin is a Japanese restaurant called Otoko. They host a twenty-two-course dinner, and it's where my wife fell head-over-heels for the chawanmushi. One of my favorite things to do is recreate at home, the meals she loves.
For this, I started with a simple and straightforward recipe, along with Alton Brown's dashi. The problem was, I could never quite get it right. Something was always off. So the next time we went, I asked the chef what it could be. Turns out, the key to killer chawanmushi lies with the dashi. Whatever the recipe says, triple everything!” ~ My Brother
Turns out if you have dashi, some eggs, and about half an hour, you've got any meal you'd like from breakfast to dinner. It's comfort food with precision: eggs cooked until they've just set, the umami of dashi that's been flavored just so. The final dish is something so soft, smooth, and creamy that it practically falls apart as you eat it.
This simple and savory egg custard is easier than an omelet to make, and just as easy to customize. The most common additions are chicken, shrimp, and shiitake mushrooms. Although any meat, seafood, or veggie would be just as great. Feeling extra fancy? Top it with a little sea urchin or some curly green onions
“The trick is to use as much liquid as possible in proportion to the eggs. Anything less and you won't have the soft, silky texture that's the mark of an impeccable chawanmushi. You'll often hear chefs use the word “quivering” to describe custard dishes, yet not all textures are delicate to such a degree. Crème brûlée, for instance, is not so much “quivering” as “creamy,” and flan is better described as “jiggly.” Chawanmushi, on the other hand, truly quivers, a trembling mass of custard that seems to glide down your throat” ~ Serious Eats
As the chef at Otoko would surely tell you, chawanmushi is only as good as the dashi you use. Freshly made is always the best
Finally, be mindful of the temp. If the heat is too high, it will form craters on the surface. The trick is to keep the water bath simmering (and never boiling). You'll know you've found the sweet spot when your spoon slinks down into the custard and only the tiniest amount of broth is released
ps: Don't have a steamer? Method #2 worked really well for us
~ Adapted from Foodie Baker
- 2 ½ cups dashi (see recipe below)
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp mirin
- ½ tsp fine grain sea salt
- 3 eggs
- (Additional: Cheesecloth, for straining)
- Suggestions for Additions
- Half of a package of enokitake
- 4 shitake mushrooms
- 4 raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 4 oz chicken, cooked
- Beat the eggs lightly
- Add the rest of the custard ingredients and whisk, being careful not to incorporate too many air bubbles
- Strain the mix through a strainer fitted with a layer of cheesecloth
- Preheat a steamer over high heat
- Divide your choice of additions between 4 ramekins before pouring the egg mix over the top.
- Place your choice of additions into the bottom of the cups or bowls
- Cover the ramekins with aluminum foil and place them in the steamer
- Turn the heat down to low immediately and steam on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes if making 4 portions, 15 to 20 minutes if making 2 portions.
- Remove the aluminum foil and check for doneness - the top should bounce back when the back of a spoon is pressed very gently on top and clear stock should run after a chopstick is inserted into the center of the custard
- The custard is done when the liquid runs clear. The surface of the custard should be slick and moist.
- Serve hot or chilled in the cup.
~ Adapted from Alton Brown
- 2 4-inch squares of kombu
- 2 ½ quarts water
- ½ ounce bonito flakes (~ 2 cups)
- Put the kombu in a 4-quart saucepan, cover with the water and soak for 30 minutes.
- Set the saucepan over medium heat until the water reaches 150 to 160 degrees F and small bubbles begin to appear around the sides of the pan (~ 10 minutes)
- Remove the kombu from the pan
- Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil (~ 5 to 6 minutes)
- Reduce the heat to low and add the bonito flakes. Simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes
- Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer lined with muslin or several layers of cheesecloth
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within a week or freeze for up to a month
Hahaha! You’re title is right..I don’t! I never thought about custard as an entree. That’s always seemed like something for dessert.
I think freshly made is better in most cases 😉 But I can see why this is best fresh. I have never had it before, but I am looking forward to trying it.
Now this is a different type of custard and something I have never tried. Hope you still put curlers in your hair and wear something other than yoga pants to the movies. Keep on holding hands forever.
This looks and sounds lovely! I’m not a lover of the jiggle food group, but I think I could give this a try!
So sweet about the date with your husband five years ago.
This is true comfort food. I once accidentally broke my vegetarianism on this after my old flatmate offered be some of her home cooked version, I have to admit. Although, you can make a veggie version it just isn’t quite the same. Bonito flakes have such a unique taste, it’s so hard to replicate.
Oh my gosh, I’ve been mulling over what to serve my low-carbing parents when they visit this weekend. This is it! It’s so different and elegant. I was thinking of doing grilled salmon and this would go well with that – or the roast chicken suggestion sounds great too. Thanks!
I never thought about having custard with a dinner type meal. It always seemed like a dessert. Clever!
This sounds amazing! I am a sucker for Japanese flavors in any form, and combined with eggs, mushrooms, and shrimp – what a dream. Thank you for the idea.
This looks amazing and we always have this dish when we go to the restaurant. Now I can try making this at home.
Thank you!! I’ve always felt a little guilty about the fact that I don’t like custard. Maybe it’s a textural thing. But, this looks fabulous. I think I’ll make it – but I WON’T call it custard. ?
That looks delicious! Have to admit I’ve never heard of it before, but it sounds like it would be worth a try 🙂 Good tip about the temperature, that wouldn’t occur to me probably.
Wow, Ali, did you strike a chord or what with this recipe? It looks fantastic. And, with the exception of Jell-O, I love things that jiggle. (I should of worked at Hooters)
It is so beautiful that 5 years ago you and your future husband went on a first date and look where you are now . Together with a beautiful family and with some gorgeous pets too. I love that you are able to look back on your first memories together and it sounds like you had the perfect first date. I like that he helped you with your first DLSR and even helped you cook dinner. That is so adorable. On another note this is my first time hearing of Dashi or Chawanmushi but you know I am always up for trying new recipes!
You are so right, I genuinely would never think of custard to be used in this way! I do love custard but Im not sure if its for me!! It’s lovely to hear about your memories with your husband!
This is such an unusual dish and not something I have ever heard of or tried, but it actually looks delicious. Your photos help with that! It’s so nice that you were able to begin your dreams on your first date and this blog gives you so many memories to look back on.
What a beautiful story! I do love a great custard. Savory foods are my favorite too. This is interesting and I must try it!
Ali, I went ahead and made it this weekend and served it with salmon. It was a big hit even if I didn’t notice that my pan was a bit crooked in its water bath and the custard came out slanted to one side. ? Oh well, that made it look kind of post-modern. Thanks so much for the recipe.
This does look interesting. Never thought about having custard like this
I have never heard of a dish like this, it sounds and looks like something my partner would love but I’m not sure my cooking skills are up to it
I have never heard of chawanmushi beforehand. It sounds like something that my son would request that we make together.
I must confess also, I have never heard of chawanmushi before either, nor have I ever thought to have custard as an entrée. I haven’t made custard in years, I may need to give this recipe a try.
What a sweet story. I’ve never heard of chawanmushi but it looks delicious. I’m all for custard any way I can get it.
I hope this year is good to you. I’ve never heard of
Chawanmushibefore, the idea of an egg custard isn’t new to me but I’ve never had one with chicken in it.
Every new year makes me anxious because no one ever knows what the future holds. I try to make the best of every thing one day at a time. Of course, I do some planning, but I understand that if it is not God’s Will then it will not happen and I accept it with open arms. This year, I want to try something new, something different and I am going to start off with trying your recipe. As I have learned before, if a dish’s name is hard to pronounce, it must be good. 🙂
New Year – new recipe! I need to be more bold and adventurous in the kitchen and this looks like a great place to start. I’ve eaten it before, but never cooked it, so maybe it’s time to give something new a try.
Your first date story is adorable and such a nice memory to have, I can’t believe you were all alone in the theatre. I’ve never heard of this dish either, you learn something new every day x
Ok this looks delicious!! – minus the shrimp for me 😀
Thanks for the great recipe!
The start was so beautiful , the first date story got me into reminders that I too need to do something like this to have some cherishable memories down the lane. Well, have never heard of this Chawanmushi, the name itself looks so elegant, I’m sure that it tastes heavenly.
REally great recipe. But to be honest it is the photos that really draw me to this post. Your skills are very good. Keep at it 🙂
Japanese really knows how to make an unforgettable dish! This looks absolutely mouth watering! It must be exciting to watch the caterpillar morphed into a butterfly!
Custard for entree, it is not something I would have thought of but it sounds amazing. I would love to give it a try
This sounds like a very interesting dish, especially as an entree. I’ll definitely have to give it a try at some point!
Youre right that I will never look at custard the same way again. I never tried dashi but I keep hearing about it on cooking shows. I would love to try this recipe.
It is quite amazing to me when I look back at times in my life that when they began, they seemed just as insignificant as any other time but then the magic happens! I love knowing that now as I age that there are more magical things happening behind the scenes no matter how mundane things seem. Looking back really helps to put everything into perspective.
It’s good to reminisce from time to time. I find it so romantic. I am amaze of the pictures you took. Now I learn something new about custards. I hope I can try this recipe too.
I have never heard of custard served like this/or being made like this in the savoury sense but I’m super excited to try. I love trying new things and this has definitely gotten my taste buds going 🙂
Funny isn’t it when we look back on how we first met our spouses. Whenever “our” movie airs on tv I’m reminded of how things were then and how I never imagined things could be and it’s amazing. I am truly blessed and to think it all started with a date to some random movie nearly 25 years ago. Cheers to many more memories together.
What a lovely story – I love the idea of a first date, at a cinema where you are the only ones there. It sounds like such a magical start to your relationship and blog.
This dish looks amazing. But I mostly enjoy your storytelling. Congrats on the years and milestones. And there really is nothing better than having a theater all to yourself.
I honestly had no idea what Chawanmushi was until reading this post. It looks really interesting but delicious. I wonder if my husband would be okay with this recipe. Might have to give it a try. Congratulations on so many great milestones this year. Excited to see what you bring in 2018!
Ah! I was hoping I’d see it on a plate! I LOVE custard and am a total sucker for them! I had no idea what any of these Japanese words were you were using but I’m so impressed by this! I would totally screw it up if I tried! Wish I knew what to compare it to though. I would probably not know if I’d done it right. If the consistency was ok or if it even tasted ok. I do know that I need to try it!
those romantic stories … Empty Movie hall , hands in hands …Just make the pictures complete ..
custard wasn’t my first choice of food but you have definitely made me look at it in a different way now, absolutely love your photos, they are amazing
I have to be true… most of the ingredients were unknown to me up to some seconds ago 🙂 I hope I can find them in some local grocery store or I have to buy them online or… go to your housebound grocery store 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story also this time!
This sounds very delicious! I love custards so I will definitely have to give this recipe a try. I also love that it’s easy to make: something that works well with our busy schedules!
Oh my this looks so yummy, and I’m not even a fan of custard. I think you’ve changed my mind. Maybe I’ve just never had one that sounds and looks so delicious. I also never realized that it wasn’t that complicated to make. I shall try! Thank you.
I just love the title- and it’s true! I will never think of custard the same way again. Ha ha.
I’ve actually never heard of this! It seems like a pretty intricate recipe. It sounds delicious although I’m not a huge fan of gelatinous foods. I can see how this is a wonderful combination with the crispy prawns!
This looks so yummy! Not sure I’ve ever eaten anything quite like this before but I do love Japanese food!
I’ve heard of custard before but never seen it like this. I love trying new foods and trying to create new foods. It would be fun to make this recipe and see how everyone likes it.
What a lovely story of your first date. I love that your husband helped you with your first camera, look how far your relationship and food blogging have come now! I’ve not heard of dashi or cawanmushi before, I always thought of custard as a sweet desert. It’s definitely something I’d like to try for myself.
I love the way you write! That sounds like such a special date. I still haven’t figured out how to use a DSLR! Happy New Year to you, I hope 2018 is a beautiful butterfly.
Chawanmushi what?! This is really taking us out of our food comfort zone with custard and the combinations. Maybe 2018 will be the year that we try something new!
Reading everything before the recipe just totally reminded me of how important it ia to take in anf enjoy the little things in life. There’s so much from every little sound and smell to love! As far as the custard, lol thia is interesting because I honestly thought custard was meant as a dessert. Sounds amazing!
Five years ago I wouldn’t dare print and save this recipe. But I decided 2018 will be the year to try something new and this is part of it! Now I just need to figure out what dashi is, lol.
I have never heard of half the things in this recipe, but I hope I can get them locally as I really want to give this a go. It sounds amazing!!!
That is mouth watering dish right there! I’m excited to try it with my friend (who is a chef). Permission to copy the dish 🙂
For me to enjoy custard it has to be freshly made otherwise no thanks, I love Japanese foods as well and had some only the other night
I’ve never heard of this and it’s really hard to pronounce but I would really like to have a taste of this because it still looks really delicious.
I have always thought of custard as being overly sweet. I would love to try this version!!
Chawanmushi looks amazing! I love your photos! It makes me want to eat it immediately!
I’ve never heard of this dish, but your photos and story telling really make me want to make it 🙂
I had never heard of Chawanmushi before and would have never thought of custard as an entree. Not big on it to be honest but your post made me curious!
I’d never heard of this dish before – or dash for that matter – and I thought I was into my food! Thanks for giving me a brand new dish to try – I love the story intertwined throughout too – and here’s to 2018!
This looks so amazing. I am already a huge fan of custard too.
Oh I love the sentiments of 2018 being like a butterfly and awaiting how its wings will be unfurled. I’ve never heard of Chawanmushi but I love that is like a savory custard and easy to customize. Now I just need the ingredients to make it.
Seems super interesting. Your title is spot on, I never thought of custard as anything but a dessert. I guess I’ll have to try it.
As crazy as this may sound, I’ve never had custard before. I’d love to try it either as an entree or as a desert.
It’s pretty interesting. I have always associate custard with dessert or sweets, but rarely a main dish. I definitely have to try this recipe.
Here’s to hoping there are some amazing things ahead for 2018 as opposed to 2017. I think sometimes we need to hit the pause button to reflect before we go forward again. Maybe last year was that. As for this recipe, it does look delicious, even if it’s a bit intimidating. My brother’s in-laws are Korean and we usually see them around holidays and they make these incredible dishes but I admit I do get intimidated by food they create. I suppose there is nothing else like trying. I have done custard before so I hope this won’t be too difficult.
Yum. yum. yum! I love Japanese (anything) and given that it was 45 degrees when I left NY on Monday, well. This sounds just about right for my Sunday night dinner when I return ? xo
I just started reading your blog this afternoon and as crazy as it sounds, I think you’re great. I know I’d be happy sharing a meal with you. The only problem is, your blog does make me hungry, so I’ve learned that before reading, I should have some chocolate or a good chunk of cheese in hand! xx
Thank you for writing so beautifully! I recently started reading your blog after I discovered you on Instagram. Reading your commentary is like having a good meal: I’m always sorry when I’ve finished, and I always look forward to next time.
What an exotic and cool dish. I have never tried this before and now I totally want to. Your food photography is also stunning. Well done.