If you skip this sometimes-overlooked part of a traditional sushi restaurant meal, you’re missing out!

Chawanmushi is a Japanese sushi restaurant staple. It’s a savory, steamed egg custard flavored with Japanese broth, usually cooked with added tasty ingredients like mushrooms, shrimp, gingko nuts, or whatever else you want to put in there. Of course, every self-respecting sushi restaurant has its own version, but which one is best?

That is, of course, where we come in. Our Japanese-language reporter and food aficionado K. Masami, a frequent customer at conveyor belt sushi restaurants, decided to visit her four favorite chains, Sushiro, Kappa Sushi, Kura Sushi, and Hama Sushi, and try each of their chawanmushi dishes. Which one is the best? Let’s find out.

First up is Kura Sushi. The special ingredient in their chawanmushi is imitation crab.

This cup had plenty of crab sticks. Every spoonful came up with a piece! It was super tasty. It also had scallops and Japanese parsley, too, and was plenty juicy from its broth. In fact, this chawanmushi was so flavorful that Masami felt as if her whole body was becoming infused with its deliciousness.

Next up was Sushiro’s chawanmushi. Though Sushiro is currently offering a special seasonal version that’s served cold, Masami resisted the urge to order that and instead went with the regular warm one, for the accuracy of her investigation. Upon opening the lid, she was pleasantly surprised to see a huge slice of kamaboko, or fish cake stick, baked into the top. “I see,” she mused, frantically scribbling this development in her notebook. “Not bad, not bad.”

Sushiro’s chawanmushi had lots of other delicious ingredients, including shrimp and scallops, but the key player in this dish was the chunky chicken. Just the seafood would have been plenty, but the chicken turned this dish into a feast! Masami was very pleased.

Let’s compare that to Hama Sushi’s chawanmushi. The restaurant boasts that it uses a katsuo dashi broth made of bonito from the Yaizu area of Shizuoka Prefecture, so Masami was prepared for it to be a major contender. This recipe contains shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, kamaboko slices, chicken, and gingko nuts.

It was a more classic style of chawanmushi that Masami thoroughly appreciated. Though it wasn’t the flashy sort, it left nothing to be desired; if chawanmushi is what you want, this will most certainly satisfy all your needs, and the Yaizu katsuo dashi broth added a very light flavor that complemented everything very well.

Lastly, let’s take a look at Kappa Sushi’s chawanmushi. This one felt like it had a lot more ingredients than the other three. With Japanese parsley, kamaboko slices, shrimp, and white fish, it is guaranteed to not leave you hungry. Masami was especially amazed by the giant slice of shiitake she got in hers.

In fact, she got not one but three huge pieces of shiitake. Because of them, this chawanmushi felt especially juicy, as with every bite of the shiitake, delicious broth filled her mouth. The fish also lent this dish a great degree on substantiality. “Delicious,” said Masami, nodding enthusiastically.

So, in the end, which one was the best? They all sound delicious, but one of them must stand out over the others, right? After finishing her tasting and reviewing her notes, Masami came to a conclusion:

“They’re all delicious in their own way!”

…Okay, clearly Masami couldn’t make a decision. She said each one has its own characteristics, so it could entirely depend on the diner’s preferences. Depending on what kind of ingredients you like or dislike, and how you prefer your chawanmushi, you might like one over the other, bur her conclusion was “For me, I liked them all!”

By the way, each of the sushi restaurants charged only 180 yen (US$1.68) for their chawamushi, so consider ordering one alongside your favorite nigiri sushi the next time you go. Once you’ve tried them all, let us know which one you think is the best!

Photos © SoraNews24
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