Tomato chawanmushi with Piccolo cherry tomato salad

Chawanmushi is a steamed egg custard starter popular in Japan. Robert Thompson cleverly flavours his with a sweet and savoury tomato water made from Piccolo cherry tomatoes, shallot and a touch of vinegar. Served with a fresh tomato salad and plenty of herbs, this is a flavour-packed starter sure to intrigue guests.

First published in 2021





  • Muslin cloth
  • Kitchen string
  • Blender



First prepare the tomato water as it needs a minimum of 2.5 hours to make. Place half of the tomatoes in a bowl with half of the diced shallot, the white wine vinegar, white wine, soft herb stalks and 1 tsp of Maldon salt. Use your hands or a potato masher to mash the mixture into a pulp to extract the juices (but do not blend). Leave for 30 minutes


Pour the tomato mixture into a bowl lined with a piece of damp muslin cloth or clean J cloth. Tie together with string and then hang up above the bowl for 2 hours or overnight, allowing the clear tomato water to drain out


To make the chawanmushi, measure out 250ml of the clear tomato juice in a bowl. Add the tofu, eggs and a good pinch of Maldon salt and a little freshly ground black pepper. Blend in a food processor or use a stick blender until you have a smooth mix


Divide the mixture into 4 ovenproof bowls or tapas dishes. If you don’t have tapas dishes use 4 wide ramekins or similar; you ideally want a larger surface area to display your tomato salad on top. Preheat an oven to 140ºC/gas mark 1


Place the dishes into an ovenproof tray and fill up with boiling water two-thirds of the way (it is easier to fill the tray with water once it is already in the oven.) Place the tray in the oven and cook for 30–45 minutes or until they just wobble in the centre


Carefully remove the dishes from the water-filled tray, leave to cool then place in the fridge to chill


Place the remaining tomatoes in a bowl with the remaining diced shallot, a good pinch of salt and pepper, the remaining tomato water and the rapeseed oil and mix well


Divide the mixture between each of the dishes, draining the tomatoes slightly as you go so you don’t have any liquid settling on top of the chawanmushi


Decorate the tomato salad with the soft herbs and flowers (if using) and finish with a little more of the dressing created from the tomato salad

  • 1 handful of soft herbs, such as basil, coriander and chives, leaves only
  • 1 handful of edible flowers, (optional)

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Robert Thompson's cooking is full of character and classical skill.

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