Savory Sea Urchin Custard

Savory Sea Urchin Custard (Uni Chawanmushi) is a steamed savory custard that makes a great appetizer or side dish.  Each serving of chawanmushi is steamed in its own individual cup and topped with delicious fresh sea urchin.

Savory Sea Urchin Custard (Uni Chawanmushi) is a type of egg custard that is topped with fresh sea urchin tongues and Mitsuba (Japanese Parsley) leaves.  Chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) comes from the Japanese words Chawan (teal bowl) and mushi (steamed).  Chawanmushi can be prepared many different ways and egg custards are popular throughout Japan, China and Korea.

Uni is the edible part of the sea urchin.  The bright orange shaped portions are called “tongues” and it may take some hunting around to find fresh sea urchin tongues.  Tongues lose their shape as time passes and sometime preservatives are used to help them hold their shape, but unfortunately they also give the sea urchin a bitter taste.  Fresh Uni should never have a bitter taste, so when preparing this dish it is better to look around and purchase your Uni fresh from a market where they clean and package the Uni onsite.

Sea Urchin Chawanmushi

Savory Sea Urchin custard is easy to prepare but it requires a steamer and bowls that can be covered and checked while steaming.  You can use ordinary ceramic cups or bowls and cover them with foil, or you can use special tea bowls with covers – check out my ads at the bottom of the page if you want to see what they look like.  It’s important not to overcook chawanmushi and you need to remove it from the steamer and serve it while the top of the custard is still yellow and moist- if it’s over cooked the custard will turn whitish and hard.

The recipe below is very simple to prepare, and you can add additional seafood or veggies to the Savory Sea Urchin Custard before cooking (see the notes section for ideas).

If you don’t care for sea urchin, or find it too difficult to find, then there are other chawanmushi recipes you can try.

Savory Sea Urchin Custard (Uni Chawanmushi)

Savory Sea Urchin Custard is a Type of Japanese Chawanmushi – a delicious custard made with egg and dashi and steamed in a tea bowl.  When steaming this custard you have to lift the lids before cooking is complete to add the sea urchin.  The bowls and covers will be extremely hot – so I usually use tongs or cooking mitts.  It’s important to garnish the custard quickly and replace the top to keep the ingredients hot while you finish steaming.  Do not overcook the Chawanmushi – it is supposed to be very soft when eaten and if it is overcooked it will turn white and develop cracking.

10 mins 20 mins Serves 4
PREP 10 mins
COOKING 20 mins
YIELD Serves 4


  • 2 cups konbu dashi, cooled to room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 tsp cooking sake
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • Fresh sea urchin – 12 small tongues
  • 4 mitsuba leaves


  • Whisk together the eggs, dashi, mirin, sake and soy sauce.  Try to avoid introducing too many air bubbles.
  • Strain through a sieve.

  • Pour evenly into four glass or ceramic bowls.
  • Cover each cup with foil or cheesecloth.

  • Steam over low heat for 15 minutes.

  • Carefully remove the foil.  Top each bowl with 3 uni tongues and a mitsuba leaf.

  • Cover each bowl and continue steaming for 3 more minutes.

  • Serve hot with the cover.   Remove the cover and eat immediately.


  • Use a sieve to be sure that the custard comes out smooth and silky.  Allow a few minutes for any bubbles that form to break.
  • You can add some additional ingredients to your chawanmushi by putting them in the bottom of the cup before steaming.  Shrimp, scallop and squid make nice seafood adders.  Mushrooms also make a great adder.  Sea Urchin has a light taste so be careful not to overpower it.
  • Chawanmushi must be served hot.  I recommend making just enough to serve your guests and not refrigerate leftovers.  However, you can refrigerate the egg batter before cooking for up to two days – be sure to blend it well before cooking.


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