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Time allows chawanmushi to gain fresh appreciation


    Sweet Potato Parmesan Chawanmushi takes a familiar Japanese dish and gives it a little more heft.

When your mom tells you, “Try it, you’ll like it,” she is usually right. But it might take a decade or two to admit it. When I think of something as an adult that I disliked as a child, I have to remind myself that I’m not a kid anymore — maybe I do like shrimp.

Well, I still don’t like shrimp, but I have found that I love many foods I was scared of as a kid: natto, mushrooms, raw fish — the list goes on.

My dad recently talked about chawanmushi he enjoyed at a favorite Japanese restaurant, and I immediately cringed. Then I tried to remember when I had last eaten it and why I disliked it. I narrowed my dislike down to shrimp (which is usually one of the ingredients) and my long-ago fear of eggs. Since I now eat eggs by the dozen, and I found out that you don’t have to put shrimp in this dish, I decided it was time to give chawanmushi one more chance.

Chawanmushi really isn’t so risky a dish to try. It’s a simple steamed egg dish with just the lightest bit of egg. It almost feels like liquid in your mouth, floating between soup and custard.

Now, I can’t quite figure out why it’s taken me so long to try this again. Have I really been depriving myself all this time? The dashi gives it savory flavor while the sweetness in the potatoes balances the salt.

My mom was right; I just forgot how right she can be. Except about oden. She will never be right about oden. Fishcake is stinky and gross.

Sweet Potato Parmesan Chawanmushi

  • 2/3 cup cooked sweet potato
  • 2-1/2 cups dashi stock (from dashi powder), divided
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed, finely grated Parmesan
  • Pepper

Puree sweet potato with 1 cup of dashi stock. In large bowl, whisk together the potato, remaining dashi, soy sauce and salt.

In small bowl, mix eggs with chopsticks in a cutting motion. Do this carefully so you don’t whip air into the eggs. They will not be perfectly blended. Pour into the potato mixture and combine with chopsticks.

Strain through a very fine sieve or a cheesecloth. Discard the solids.

Divide liquid into 4 chawanmushi cups. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon Parmesan over top. Cover each cup tightly with plastic wrap.

In large pot, heat 2 to 3 inches of water until boiling. Place steamer basket over the water and place cups in basket. Cover pot and cook on high 3 minutes, then turn heat to low and cook 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove cups to cool. Eggs should be quivering, with a delicate, almost liquid consistency.

Remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle with black or cayenne pepper and serve while still hot. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 120 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 145 mg cholesterol, 750 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 8 g protein

Mariko Jackson blogs about family and food at the Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.

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