Egg Custard uses Yuzu Citrus as Bowl for Fragrant Twist

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chawanmushi in yuzu-kama container

As the weather is still cold, Japanese cooking school founder Takamitsu Aihara recommends making yuzu-kama no chawanmushi (savory steamed egg custard in a yuzu pot), which uses the fruit as a container. The dish has a rich, smooth texture and warms up the body.

Chawanmushi is sometimes served at the beginning of chakaiseki, a Japanese-style light meal served during a formal tea ceremony, Aihara said.

He also said: “During the cold season, serving it is a thoughtful treat from the host to the guests to comfort their stomachs with a hot, welcoming dish.”

In addition, yuzu has a relaxing color and fragrance.

Making chawanmushi is challenging. The mixture needs to be steamed evenly, otherwise the center remains uncooked, and it becomes spongy if overheated.

Aihara’s recipe deals with these problems by using a particular ratio of dashi broth and egg.

The ratio is usually 3 to 1, but his ratio is 2 to 1 to make the mixture thicker.

“When the egg proportion is higher, it becomes solid more easily. It also heats evenly,” Aihara said.

When beating the egg, use several chopsticks. Move them as if cutting the egg while keeping their tips on the bottom of the bowl to prevent air from getting into the mixture. After combining it with the broth, leave for about 10 minutes.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cut off the top part of the yuzu to use as the lid.

To make the yuzu container, turn the yuzu sideways and cut off the top, which will be used as the lid. “Move the knife slowly and carefully,” Aihara said.

To remove the yuzu flesh, insert a spoon between the peel and the flesh, and gently move it around the edge of the flesh. Be careful not to puncture the peel. There is no problem if the flesh is not removed completely. Rather, be careful not to remove the white part close to the skin, otherwise it will cause bitterness.

Put the ingredients into the yuzu container, pour in the egg mixture so it fills 70% of the container and place it in a steamer. If there are bubbles on the surface, heat them gently with a gas flame lighter to get rid of them.

After steaming for a few minutes, the scent of yuzu starts to waft out of the steamer. When cooked, pour the gin-an (silver sauce) made from kudzu starch over it to finish.

I tasted a spoonful of the hot chawanmushi. The fragrance of the yuzu and the umami of the dashi were pleasing, then the rich, smooth texture of the savory egg custard combined with the thick sauce slowly spread through my mouth. I found myself closing my eyes. Then I breathed deeply to savor it.

Yuzu ponzu

Aihara also shares a recipe for ponzu made with yuzu juice, which comes from squeezing the yuzu flesh that was removed. Mix a tablespoon of yuzu juice with one tablespoon each of mirin, usukuchi shoyu (light-colored, saltier soy sauce) and vinegar. Then add a teaspoon of koikuchi shoyu (dark-colored, less salty soy sauce) for extra flavor. The sauce goes well with white fish sashimi and yudofu (boiled tofu).

“You can add olive oil to make a Japanese-style dressing, or sesame paste and grated garlic to make a sesame sauce. It’s very versatile,” Aihara said.

Yuzu-kama no chawanmushi

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 yuzu
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ pack shimeji mushrooms
  • 12 scales of yurine (edible lily bulb)
  • 8 gingko nuts
  • 40 grams crab meat
  • Mitsuba stems as desired
  • 330-370 milliliters dashi broth
  • 3 tsp usukuchi light-colored soy sauce
  • 15 grams kudzu starch and 10 milliliters water (to make a slurry)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • A dash of sake


1. Slice off the top of each yuzu about 1 centimeter below the navel and remove the flesh from the larger part with a spoon. Slice the bottom slightly to level it.

2. Remove the root ends of the shimeji mushrooms and break them apart. Peel off the yurine scales one by one. Remove the shells then the thin outer skin from the gingko nuts. Place the shimeji mushrooms, yurine scales and gingko nuts in a mixture of 250 milliliters of dashi stock, 2 teaspoons of light-colored soy sauce, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a dash of sake, and bring to a boil. Reserve the broth.

3. In a bowl, beat the egg and add dashi broth that is twice the weight of the egg (80 to 120 milliliters). Add 1 teaspoon of light-colored soy sauce and strain. Leave for about 10 minutes.

4. Drain the liquid from the boiled ingredients. Divide the ingredients equally among the yuzu containers. Then add an equal amount of egg mixture to each. Place the filled yuzu containers in a steamer and steam for about 1 minute on high heat. When the top of the egg mixture turns white, reduce the heat to low and steam for a further 7 minutes, while watching carefully to see whether the mixture has hardened appropriately.

5. In a separate pot, heat 200 milliliters of the reserved broth. When it reaches a boil, pour the kudzu starch slurry into its center while mixing thoroughly.

6. Serve the steamed yuzu-kama on a plate, top with the crab meat, pour the kudzu starch sauce over the top, and garnish with chopped mitsuba stems. Decorate it with the yuzu lid and embellish with a camellia leaf.