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.
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.