Tamagoyaki (literally “fried egg”) is perhaps best described as a rolled omelet. Those who frequent sushi restaurants will recognize it as the sweetened egg that tops egg sushi. It’s good for breakfast or as a side dish at dinner, but it seems to be most popular as a lunch item, as it’s quite delicious cold.
Here in Japan, we can buy rectangular pans specifically use in making tamagoyaki. I do not own one of these. I wish I could say this is because I’m a fan of Alton Brown and adhere to his warnings against uni-taskers, but the fact is, I always feel strapped for cash (mayhaps I should consider spending less money on food) and there are other things on my wishlist – like a kitchen table – that come before such luxuries. Besides, a round pan works okay.
In addition to the basic ingredients (egg, soy sauce, mirin) you can add a little bit of vegetable or nori. My favorite addition is finely chopped leek, but I’ve also made broccoli tamagoyaki with delicious success. A warning to the vegetable user: whatever you add, make sure to chop it finely first. Large pieces will make it harder to roll the egg, and have a tendency to poke holes in your lovely layers.
Here is my confession: I am very anxious about posting this recipe. The fact that tamagoyaki is a staple of Japanese bento should not decieve one into thinking that it’s easy to make. I mean, it’s no souffle, but it does take some skill. Furthermore, the amount of soy sauce and sweeteners used by any respectable homemaker vary – a combination of personal preference and pride. My host mothers in Nagano could all whip up tamagoyaki without batting an eyelash. They were also quick to tell me that this was a dish upon which, should I decide to make a future for myself in Japan, my desirability as a wife and efficacy as a mother might someday be judged.
I now have the hang of it, in that I’m pleased with the way that it tastes, and would not be shy to feed it to my non-Japanese friends and family. But it’s one thing to cook it for myself, and another to send it out into the world of the experienced and the scrutinizing. While my marriagability no longer hangs in the balance, I both fear and welcome judgement.
If you’ve never made tamagoyaki before, I encourage you to give it a try. If you’re a veteran, and have some recommendation on how it could be done better, yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
- 2 eggs
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 T mirin
- 1 T sake
- 1 T milk
- about 4 inches (__ grams) of a leek, finely chopped
- 1 T vegetable oil
- Combine all ingredients and whisk together until well combined and uniformly yellow. You may choose to do this in a large measuring cup, or other vessel with a pouring lip.
- Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet on low heat. (I recommend using a paper towel to remove extra oil, and wiping your pan down with the oiled towel again before laying down a new layer.)
- Pour about 1/4-1/3 of your egg mixture into the pan. Holding the pan, tip it gently, allowing the egg to spread out lengthwise in a somewhat rectangular shape.
- Once the egg has mostly cooked, begin from one of the short edges of your rectangle. Using a heat-resistant spatula or a pair of cooking chopsticks, fold the egg over about an inch. Continue to roll in this way until you reach the other side of the pan.
- Again, add egg to the pan, this time tipping it to make sure that the newly added egg is attached to the beginning of your roll. Once this egg has mostly cooked, this time roll in the other direction.
- Continue this process until you have used all of your egg.
- Turn the rolled egg out onto a sushi-rolling mat (or, if you don’t have one, onto a sheet of plastic wrap). Roll it tightly, pressing with your hands, and allow to cool.
- Slice into sections.