Chawanmushi recipe from chef Shinobu Namae of L'Efferverscence

SINGAPORE - (THE BUSINESS TIMES) Could there be anything better than bread and butter? How about a spread made of sour cream and dehydrated tofu?

This unlikely combination is served at L'Effervescence, in place of butter, as there is a shortage of it in Japan.

Its executive chef Shinobu Namae introduced it at his restaurant six months ago, and says the spread is "a most appreciated item on the menu. Sometimes, diners end up eating too much bread as a result". He couldn't get a ready supply of quality butter, and didn't want to have olive oil as an alternative.

Chef Namae was in Singapore earlier this month for a "four hands" dinner with Bacchanalia's head chef Ivan Brehm. The two met when they were working at The Fat Duck in 2008.



    1 litre soft water (water that is low in minerals such as Polar mineral water)
    30g kombu
    30g katsuobushi

    1 egg
    200g dashi (recipe below)
    Soy sauce

    Optional Ingredients
    Any savoury ingredients can be combined with the custard, such as chicken, crab, shrimp, bamboo shoots, lily bulb, ginkgo nuts, shiitake mushroom, truffle or fishcake.


    1. Combine water and kombu together in a pot and heat it gently at 65 deg C for an hour.
    2. Remove kombu and bring the liquid to a boil.
    3. Remove from heat and add katsuobushi to infuse for one minute.
    4. Strain mixture through a fine sieve and leave to cool.

    1. Combine and whisk egg, dashi, salt, soy sauce and mirin together.
    2. Pass the mixture through a sieve.
    3. Place any optional ingredients into a bowl.
    4. Pour egg mixture into the bowl.
    5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and steam for 13 minutes, at 90 deg C.

The Yokohama-born chef had initial plans to be a journalist before he decided to settle for a career in the kitchen. The turning point was when he stumbled upon Bras, a cookbook by acclaimed French chef Michel Bras, which got him interested in French cooking.

Chef Namae was a sous chef at Michel BRAS TOYA Japon in Hokkaido before joining The Fat Duck. "I learnt from chef Bras what a good chef should be - honest and sincere. You have to be sincere to your creations. You can copy an idea but you have to be yourself," he recalls fondly of his mentor.

He returned to Tokyo to open a restaurant when the opportunity cropped up. L'Effervescence, which opened in 2010, is a two Michelin-starred establishment, and is ranked No 12 on the Asia's Best 50 Restaurants list.

Chef Namae describes his cuisine as modern French - "food cooked using French cooking techniques but with Japanese flavours", he explains. "I am Japanese, and I want to acknowledge my palate and background."

This article was first published on January 30, 2016.
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