Love Japanese pudding, but can’t find it anywhere near you? Just make it yourself!
Japan’s pudding, similar to a flan or a crème caramel (and much less like American puddings), is a beloved dessert staple found all over the country. The sweet treat started popping up in Japan at the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), through the grapevine of European influence, and by the beginning of the Meiji period (around 1872) it was a special indulgence found occasionally at nice restaurants. But pudding gained popularity throughout the 20th century, and by the 1960s the people of Japan were enjoying what they called “purin” (プリン) in their own homes. Nowadays, the ubiquitous dessert is found in supermarkets and convenience stores, and of course it makes regular appearances in popular TV shows and anime, the glistening caramel giving Japanese pop culture fans an inexplicable craving for a food they may never have tried before. For travelers who fell in love with Japanese pudding during a Japanese vacation but can’t find it at home, and for otakus who have always wanted to give this mysterious sweet a try, this is the recipe for you! All it takes are a handful of basic ingredients, most of which you probably already have at home, and a little dedication, and you’ve got yourself some homemade purin!
Ready to dig into your own batch of Japanese pudding? Let’s get started! First things first, mise en place!
(makes about 4 servings)
For the caramel:
15g warm water
For the pudding custard:
a dash of vanilla extract
Mix the sugar and the room-temperature water (20g) together in a small pan, and heat them on medium-high, stirring constantly, as the mixture begins to darken. When the sugar turns a deep brown, take the pan off the stove and mix in the warm water. (Be careful not to splash or burn yourself!)
Ready your ramekins, cups, or whatever dishes you plan to make the pudding in. Ceramic ramekins or small metal pans with tall sides (a little like cake pans) are commonly used for this, but you can use any heat-resistant container you have on hand. (I ended up using coffee mugs!) Then pour the caramel into the bottom of each, dividing evenly, and set them aside.
The first part of making the purin custard is to beat the eggs, but in this case, you’re actually trying not to beat air into the mixture. Break up the yolk and white and combine them well, but try not to incorporate too much air, because the bubbles can ruin the pudding’s texture! Add the sugar to the egg mixture, and beat until combined.
Next, add the milk and vanilla to a pan and mix well. Heat the mixture up just enough so that the milk starts to foam, and then take it off the fire.
This last step for the custard is probably the most difficult, because you have to temper the eggs, so take your time with it! Take the warm milk and slowly (slooooowly) drizzle it into the eggs, stirring the egg mixture the whole time. If you rush and pour too much of the hot milk into the eggs at once, you’ll end up with a sugary vanilla omelette, which does not sound delicious. Keep the milk to a thin stream, and mix it into the eggs as you go, until the two liquids are totally combined. (And again, try not to create bubbles, if you can help it!)
Take the pudding custard and pour it into each of the cups you prepared earlier, with the caramel on the bottom. You’ll want to use a sieve as you pour, to make sure no stray chunks of egg get in and ruin the texture. Additionally, once the cups are all full, scoop away or pop any bubbles on the pudding!
Finally, cover the cups (or ramekins, or little pans) with foil, and steam them over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t have a steamer of any kind for your pots, you can do what I did and put the puddings on a towel to keep them off the bottom of the pot! When the puddings have cooked and firmed up, take them out of the steam, let them cool for a bit, and then chill them in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Et voila, your Japanese pudding is ready to eat!
If you’re feeling confident in your pudding presentation skills, you can carefully flip over your cup or ramekin, and hope the pudding slides out onto a dish (like the pudding at the top of this page). But that’s not necessary to enjoy it! Grab a spoon and dig in! The recipe only takes a handful of ingredients, but you’ll be impressed with the final product, and how similar it is to the pudding you can get all over Japan. If you’re missing Japan, this might just tide you over until the next time you can finally travel to the land of the rising sun.
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