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Chawanmushi: What Is It & How Did It Come To Japan?

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Chawanmushi is a Japanese egg custard dish that is steamed in a special bowl called a chawan. The word chawanmushi literally means “tea cup steam” and refers to the fact that this dish was traditionally served in tea cups before moving on to the chawan.

While there are many different ways to make chawanmushi, the most common ingredients include chicken, fishcake, shrimp, ginkgo nuts, and mushrooms. The dish is often garnished with things like nori (seaweed) or chives before being served.

Chawanmushi is a popular starter dish in Japanese restaurants and is also commonly served at home. It is a relatively simple dish to make and can be a great way to showcase some of your favorite ingredients.

What is chawanmushi

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What does chawanmushi taste like?

Chawanmushi is a savory dish, with a slightly sweet taste from the egg custard. The texture is smooth and silky, with a bit of bounce from the cooked ingredients inside. Each bite should have a bit of everything in it, making for a well-rounded and flavorful dish.

What’s the origin of chawanmushi?

The exact origins of chawanmushi are unknown, but it is thought to have originated in China. The dish made its way to Japan sometime during the Edo period (1603-1868) and has been a staple of Japanese cuisine ever since.

How do you eat chawanmushi?

Chawanmushi is typically eaten with a spoon, starting from the outside and working your way in. Be careful not to break the egg custard as you eat, as this can make the dish look unappetizing.

What’s the difference between chawanmushi and Chinese steamed egg?

Chawanmushi and Chinese steamed egg are similar dishes, both of which feature a steamed egg custard. However, chawanmushi typically contains additional ingredients such as chicken, fishcake, shrimp, ginkgo nuts, and mushrooms. Chinese steamed egg is typically just the egg custard itself.

Types of chawanmushi

There are many different types of chawanmushi, each with its own unique flavor and ingredients. Some of the most popular types include:

-Mushroom chawanmushi: This type of chawanmushi is made with a variety of mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster mushrooms, and enoki mushrooms.

-Ginkgo nut chawanmushi: This type of chawanmushi is made with ginkgo nuts, which have a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.

-Shrimp chawanmushi: This type of chawanmushi is made with shrimp, which gives the dish a slightly sweet and seafood-like flavor.

-Chicken chawanmushi: This type of chawanmushi is made with chicken, which gives the dish a savory and hearty flavor.

  • Soy sauce: Soy sauce is a popular chawanmushi seasoning that adds a savory and salty flavor to the dish.
  • Mirin: Mirin is a Japanese sweet rice wine that adds a touch of sweetness to the dish.
  • Dashi: Dashi is a type of Japanese soup stock that is often used in chawanmushi. It adds a savory and umami flavor to the dish.
  • Nori: Nori is a type of dried seaweed that is often used as a garnish for chawanmushi. It adds a salty and slightly ocean-like flavor to the dish.
  • Togarashi: Togarashi is a type of Japanese chili pepper that adds a bit of spice to the dish.

Chawanmushi is typically served as a starter dish, but it can also be served as a main dish or side dish. Some popular pairings for chawanmushi include:

-Rice: Chawanmushi goes well with rice, particularly steamed white rice. The rice helps to balance out the flavors of the chawanmushi and makes for a filling and satisfying meal.

-Soup: Chawanmushi can also be served as part of a soup course. The chawanmushi will absorb the flavors of the soup and create a unique and flavorful dish.

Where to eat chawanmushi?

If you’re looking for a delicious and authentic chawanmushi dish, then you should definitely check out a Japanese restaurant. Chawanmushi is a popular starter dish in many Japanese restaurants, so you’re sure to find a great version of the dish at a reputable establishment.

You can also find chawanmushi at some Asian markets. These markets typically sell a variety of Japanese and Korean dishes, so you’re sure to find a good chawanmushi dish among the other offerings.

Chawanmushi etiquette

There are a few things to keep in mind when eating chawanmushi, in order to maintain good etiquette. First and foremost, you should always use a spoon when eating chawanmushi, as opposed to chopsticks. This is because the egg custard can be easily broken if you try to eat it with chopsticks.

Secondly, you should be careful not to make too much noise when eating chawanmushi. Slurping and smacking your lips can be considered rude when eating this dish (or any dish, for that matter). Try to eat quietly and with minimal mouth sounds.

Is chawanmushi healthy?

Yes, chawanmushi can be considered a healthy dish. This is because it is typically made with all-natural ingredients, such as eggs, chicken, fishcake, shrimp, mushrooms, and ginkgo nuts.

Additionally, chawanmushi is usually steamed instead of fried, which helps to keep the fat content low.


If you’ve never had chawanmushi before, it’s definitely worth giving it a try. It’s a unique and delicious way to enjoy some of your favorite ingredients, all in one dish.

Also read: this is my favorite chawanmushi with dashi recipe

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.