We eat a lot of chawan mushi in this house. There is nothing like the silky custard with slightly sweet and smokey broth topped with delicacies like crab, lobster or just a really good roasted shiitake sliced paper thin. I recently tried David Chang's bacon dashi which substitutes bacon for the bonito flakes and could not shake the idea of taking it a step further. In order to replace the seaweed I needed some other umami booster and pondered the tomato. I wanted the custard to stay a lovely pale yellow and settled on making a bacon-infused tomato water in place of the broth. This will obviously be a better dish to make at the end of summer when tomatoes are abundant, but I couldn't shake the idea and gave it a go. The garnish, I think, is crucial, but could be a variety of options on hand. —savorthis
Test Kitchen Notes
Savorthis’s Bacon Tomato Mushi is a canny mix of western flavors and eastern techniques. A creative broth preparation lends an accessible taste to this traditional Japanese dish. Make sure to use very ripe tomatoes and very smokey bacon for maximum effect. The suggested garnishes are well paired, and bring out the subtle flavors in the custard, but the real fun of this dish is imagining what else you can do with it. All you need is eggs, liquid, a steamer and your imagination to open up a whole world of possibilities. Long live the savory custard. —Erik Hellman
Bacon-infused Tomato Water
very ripe heirloom tomatoes (light color preferred but not necessary)
1 1/2 cups
soy sauce (white preferred, but regular ok)
Quarter the tomatoes, add to a bowl and mash with a potato masher until the juices are released. Add a small sprinkle of salt and place in a clean dish towel or several layers of cheesecloth and hang over a bowl. I tied mine to a wooden spoon over a bain marie.
It will take a few hours for the water to drip into the container. I gently squeezed the bundle every hour or so and this is fine as long as the pinkish pulp does not start to escape. You want the liquid as clear as possible. (I had thoughts of using the leftover pulp in a quick tomato sauce, but I tried it and have to say it had just about no flavor left. If you want to try though, you could quickly blanch the tomatoes first to removed the peels which will help.)
You should get about 2 cups of liquid. If not, add a little water to make up for it or drink any excess (it's fabulous!). Place the 2 cups in a pot with the bacon and simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until it has a nice, smokey flavor. Remove the bacon and reserve and refrigerate the liquid until the fat hardens and can be removed and discarded. Season to taste with salt if necessary.
Bring water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer. Render reserved bacon for garnish. Strain the tomato water into a bowl and add eggs and extra yolk, soy, salt and pepper. Gently whisk until incorporated. Pour back through fine meshed strainer into 4 ramekins or mugs. (Mixture can be refrigerated at this point for later steaming).
Place in steamer and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Steam about 15-20 minutes checking toward the end to not overcook. You can test by inserting a sharp knife in the center. The custard should separate and the clear broth will fill the void. If it appears yellow, continue cooking.
Garnish custards with tomatoes, arugula (you can chiffonade grownup arugula if you do not have any micro greens) and bacon bits. Serve with some buttered crunchy toast and any leftover tomato water (if you didn't drink it already).