I used to think that a gently poached egg cloaked in rich Hollandaise was the gastronomical height of the egg.
I also used to consider The Canadian Brass the absolute pinnacle of musical artistry.
Years ago when I was home from college, my dad took me to a French-influenced Japanese restaurant near his office called Maison Akira. The first thing the waiter brought to our table was chawanmushi, steamed egg custard in a tea cup. Akira’s version had shrimp, scallop, and delicate mushrooms, which gave the silken egg a subtle, almost mysterious perfume. I’ve been enchanted ever since.
JAPANESE STEAMED EGG CUSTARD with KING CRAB*
(茶碗蒸し – chawanmushi)
adapted from recipe by David Chang for 4:
2 cups of warm dashi (or 2 tsp instant dashi powder + 2 cups warm water)
3 large free range eggs
about 4 ounces king crab leg meat
4 small shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
4 ceramic tea cups or shallow bowls
Crack the eggs into medium bowl and gently stir in the dashi to combine. Try to avoid incorporating air into the mixture. Strain into a large measuring cup. Divide half of the shiitake mushrooms among four tea cups. Pour the egg mixture over the mushrooms. Wrap each cup in plastic. Set the cups in a steamer basket over gently boiling water for about 15 minutes or until the custard is set. Unwrap the plastic and top the custard with the remaining mushrooms, the king crab segments, and scallion. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled.
* You can make this steamed egg custard however you like — with clams, sliced scallop, shrimp, bits of chicken thigh, ham, and spring vegetables. Gingko nuts are traditional, if you can find them.
COLD SOBA NOODLES with DIPPING BROTH
for 4 servings:
2 bundles of soba (buckwheat) noodles
1 oz. bottle of soba tsuyu dipping broth
finely shredded nori (dried seaweed)
toasted sesame seeds
2 scallions, finely sliced
4 quail eggs, cooked and peeled (optional)
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and stir in a circular motion. Cook for 3-4 minutes until just tender, checking to ensure they’re not overcooked. Drain the noodles in a colander, rinse with ice cold water to remove any slimy texture, and drain well. Serve the noodles with toasted sesame seeds, shredded nori, scallions, a quail egg (optional), and a small bowl of the cold soba tsuyu.