Tenshinhan is a delicious dish made up of a fluffy crab meat omelette served on a mountain of rice and then drizzled with a glossy sweet vinegar sauce. Not only is it extremely tasty, but it's super easy to make too!
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What is Tenshinhan?
Tenshinhan (天津飯) is a Chinese-influenced Japanese dish. It's made up of a fluffy omelette mixed with imitation crab and shiitake mushrooms served over a mountain of rice and then coated in a thick glossy sweet vinegar sauce. It has some similarities to Chinese egg foo yung.
Although tenshinhan is a popular dish found in any Chinese restaurant across Japan, many Japanese people don't realise that it's not authentic Chinese food. In reality, it's actually a Japanese creation!
History of Tenshinhan
There are a few theories about the origin of Tenshinhan, but it is believed to have started when crab meat was mixed with eggs and baked, then served over rice during the food shortage after World War II.
During this time, the Chinese city of Tainjin (天津) was known for its high quality rice and it became popular to serve crab omelette on top of "tenshin rice". "Tenshin" is how the Chinese characters are read in Japanese.
As for the roots of the birth of Tenshinhan, there are two theories. One is the dish was created in a restaurant called "Raizen" in Tokyo, the other is from "Taisho-ken" in Osaka.
In fact, tenshinhan has slightly different sauce depending on the region. Tokyo style is more like sweet and sour sauce and contains rice vinegar, whereas Osaka style is more savory and swaps the vinegar for sake. My recipe is Tokyo style.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Tenshinhan is made with cheap and accessible ingredients! Here is the complete ingredient list: (Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
- Eggs - I use medium size eggs, if using small or large eggs, be sure to adjust the quantity accordingly.
- Imitation crab sticks - add great flavor and color to the dish. If you prefer, you could use canned crab, fresh crab or even shrimp.
- Green onion - the white part finely chopped adds depth of flavor to the omelette. You can finely slice the green part and use them as a garnish instead of green peas if you like.
- Dried shiitake mushrooms - these are rehydrated in water to make an umami-rich sauce, and then the mushrooms themselves are used in the omelette. No waste in this recipe!
- Japanese mayonnaise - helps break down the proteins in the eggs resulting in an extra fluffy omelette!
- Grated ginger (or ginger paste for convenience) - adds depth of flavor and a fragrant taste.
- Salt and pepper - to season. I use regular sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Sesame oil - drizzled at the end for some subtle nutty flavor.
- Green peas - these are mainly for an authentic presentation.
- Cooked rice - I use plain Japanese white rice for this. I recommend using a rice cooker for convenience, but if you don't have one, check out my recipe for cooking Japanese rice on the stove.
Real crab meat is an expensive ingredient so for home cooking, we tend to use imitation crab (crab sticks) instead. It also makes the dish more colorful. It's also fine to use canned crab if you prefer.
For the sauce, I use the following ingredients:
- Unsalted butter - makes the sauce rich and delicious! I prefer unsalted so that I have more control over the salt content. If using salted, you might need to reduce the amount of salt or soy sauce.
- Soy sauce - adds soy flavor, umami and color to the sauce.
- Chicken stock - I use 2 tsp of Youki garasupu mixed with 200ml of hot water for this recipe. I recommend using an Asian-style chicken stock rather than Western-style which usually contains more herbs geared towards Western cooking.
- Light brown sugar - for sweetness and depth.
- Rice vinegar - makes the sauce slightly tangy and balanced.
- Salt - to bring out the flavors even more.
- Potato starch - to make the sauce thick and glossy. Corn starch or tapioca starch also work as substitutes.
The sauce is essentially like a sweet and sour gravy, it's seriously good!
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Tenshinhan is delicious and extremely easy to make! Here are my step-by-step instructions, including process pictures for clarity and tips and tricks to get it perfect every time! (For ingredient quantities, scroll down to the recipe card below.)
Soak shiitake mushrooms
The first step is to rehydrate the dry shiitake mushrooms in water. Make sure you only use dried shiitake mushrooms for this recipe as the flavour of fresh ones is not so strong.
For 1-2 servings, I suggest two shiitake mushrooms, however the ones in my pack were small so I used 3 this time.
Soak them for about 20-30 minutes until softened. You can also use this time to set your rice. (If you don't have a rice cooker, check out my post on how to cook fluffy Japanese style rice on the stove!)
Make the sauce
Start by melting butter in a pan over a low heat.
Once melted, add the soy sauce and mix.
Add the chicken stock, light brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Turn up the heat to medium and bring it to a boil.
Allow the sauce to boil for 1 minute and then turn it down to a simmer.
Make a slurry by mixing potato starch and cold water in a small bowl, then add it to the sauce along with the rice vinegar.
Allow the sauce to simmer until it becomes slightly thickened and glossy.
Once it's thickened, turn off the heat. You can leave it on the stove to keep it warm or reheat it just before serving.
Prepare the ingredients
Once the shiitake are rehydrated, remove them from the water. Don't discard the water; this is now a shiitake dashi (broth) that we will add to the eggs later!
Cut the shiitake into slices.
Finely dice the spring onion and shred the crab sticks using a fork.
Whisk the egg
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them until the whites and yolks are combined.
Add the shiitake, spring onion and imitation crab and whisk them all together.
Add 1 tbsp of shiitake dashi per portion.
Then add Japanese mayonnaise, grated ginger and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Mayonnaise helps to reduce the protein binding caused by heating the eggs, preventing them from hardening and making the eggs fluffy. Fluffy eggs is a must for tenshinhan!
Whisk them all together and then you're ready to cook!
Cook the omelette
Heat a pan on medium-high and once hot, add the oil and swirl it around the pan. To make sure the base is evenly coated with oil, you can use kitchen paper to rub it all over the surface, this will ensure your omelette doesn't stick. I recommend using a pan that is roughly the same size as your serving dish.
If you're making multiple portions, you should divide the egg and make each portion separately to ensure a beautiful presentation. Make sure to oil the pan between each portion.
Once the pan is hot, pour the egg mixture in.
Whisk the egg with chopsticks while it's still raw to ensure a fluffy texture. Once you start to see the edges setting, stop whisking. I usually whisk it for about 30 seconds.
Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook until it's half done.
Eggs tend to hold onto heat and continue cooking even after you've taken them off the stove. In addition to this, placing them over hot rice will add even more heat. If you cook the eggs all the way, you could end up with a rubbery omelette. Turn off the heat before the egg is fully cooked, the top will still be runny and that's okay!
I took my omelette off the heat at this point. (If you prefer your eggs well done, you can flip it and cook the other side for 30 seconds or so.)
Make a small mountain of rice in a bowl. I recommend using a deep dish with raised edges so the sauce stays in the bowl.
Carefully slide the omelette from the pan over the rice.
Pour the sauce over the top. (Reheat if necessary.)
Drizzle with sesame oil and top with a few green peas for an authentic presentation!
I hope you enjoy this simple yet delicious Tenshinhan crab omelette! If you try the recipe, be sure to let me know what you thought in the comments below!
Tenshinhan (Crab Meat Omelette on Rice)
- 15 g unsalted butter
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 200 ml chicken stock
- ½ tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ tbsp rice vinegar
- slurry - 1 tbsp cold water mixed with 1 tsp potato starch or corn starch
- 1 tbsp green onion(s) - white part, finely diced
- 30 g imitation crab(s) - crab sticks
- 4 medium egg(s)
- 2 tsp Japanese mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp shiitake mushroom dashi - from soaked shiitake
- 1 tsp ginger paste - or grated ginger
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- green peas - to garnish
- Place 2 dried shiitake mushroom(s) in a small bowl of 100 ml water and soak for about 20-30 minutes or until softened.
- Use this time to cook your rice. (I often use frozen rice and microwave it while cooking the sauce.)
- Place a saucepan on the stove and 15 g unsalted butter over a low heat.
- Once melted, add 2 tsp soy sauce and mix.
- Add 200 ml chicken stock, ½ tbsp light brown sugar and 1 pinch salt. Turn up the heat to medium and bring it to a boil.
- Allow the sauce to boil for 1 minute and then add the slurry and ½ tbsp rice vinegar.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir continuously until it becomes slightly thickened and glossy.
- Turn off the heat and leave on the stove to keep it warm.
- Remove the soaked shiitake mushrooms from the water (but don't throw away the water!), cut off the stems and then cut them into thin slices.
- Shred 30 g imitation crab(s) with a fork and finely dice 1 tbsp green onion(s).
- Crack 4 medium egg(s) into a bowl and whisk.
- Add the green onion, shiitake mushrooms and imitation crab, then whisk again.
- Next add 1 tbsp shiitake mushroom dashi (left over water from soaking the mushrooms) per portion along with 2 tsp Japanese mayonnaise, 1 tsp ginger paste, 1 pinch salt and 1 pinch black pepper. Whisk until evenly distributed.
- Heat a frying pan (preferably non-stick) on medium-high and once hot, add 1 tbsp cooking oil. Swirl it around and evenly coat the pan.
- Pour the egg mixture in and whisk while still raw (like you would with scrambled eggs) for about 30 seconds.
- Turn down the heat to medium and continue to heat without mixing until the egg is cooked half way through (it will be a bit runny on top - if you don't like runny eggs you can flip it to cook the other side.)
- Make a mountain of rice on a plate and carefully slide the omelette on top of the rice.
- Pour the sauce over the top and garnish with 1 tsp sesame oil and a few green peas.
Other Chinese-Inspired Japanese dishes
Why not cook up a Japanese Chinese-inspired feast? Serve tenshinhan with some of these delicious recipes: