Chawan Mushi with Matsutake Mushrooms
To most Americans, the word "custard" usually means sweet, eggy and often bland desserts. The traditional Japanese favorite, called "Chawan Mushi" is something quite different. This is a delicate, savory egg custard that may contain any number of different ingredients, mostly depending on the individual cooks who make it.
This dish is so popular that special lidded chawan mushi cups are readily available in most Asian markets. If you don't already have these special cups, there's no need to buy them just for this dish. Just use any heatproof tea or coffee cups, regular custard cups or ramekins.
We've modified this dish slightly to accommodate Western tastes by adding an extra egg for a firmer, custardy texture. If you prefer the traditional lighter, soupier version, just use three eggs instead of four.
Beat eggs until well blended. Add the stock, soy sauce, sake and sesame oil and beat to incorporate thoroughly.
Slice the mushrooms thinly and distribute evenly between 4 custard cups or ramekins. Fill the cups 3/4 full with the egg/stock mixture. Cover each cup tightly with aluminum foil.
Place a flat rack in a large pot wide & deep enough to hold all four cups. Add hot water until just below the rack. Cover and heat over medium high until the water begins to boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, place the covered cups on the rack and put the lid on the pot. Steam for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat. Leave the lid on the pot and allow to steam for an additional 5 - 10 minutes.
Remove the cups from the pot and place on a kitchen towel. Blot any water from the foil. Uncover, garnish with desired toppings and serve while warm.