Dear Japanese friends and all the experienced tamagoyaki makers, please be indulgent. What you see above is only my second attempt at the delicate task of preparing the Japanese omelette. The first time I tried making it, the result was tragical, so I expected a long series of failures. Surprisingly, this second omelette didn’t fall into pieces (even when I cut it) and, in spite of its messy looks, tasted wonderful. It made me so happy, I simply had to share my joy with you.
Tamagoyaki 卵焼き/玉子焼き, also called dashimaki tamago, is different from its European counterparts, not only because it contains some soy sauce and is sweet, but, most of all, because of a different frying method. Seasoned, beaten eggs are fried in thin layers, which are rolled successively with long cooking chopsticks and end up in a – hopefully neat – cylinder. A special rectangular or square pan is the traditional utensil, but it can also be made in a simple, round pan. I have seen the tamagoyaki making process dozens of times on television and internet and it always looked extremely difficult, especially for someone who, like me, lacks patience and dexterity and who isn’t used to cook with chopsticks.
Last year I decided to brave the tamagoyaki challenge and put the special pan as an obligatory item on the shopping list for my trip to Japan. I came back with a small rectangular pan and… didn’t have the courage to use it for over eight months! I don’t remember what has triggered my sudden urge to use it, but last week I thought I was fed up seeing the pan still unpacked in my drawer. I desperately needed very precise instructions, so I started to look for videos and finally followed the famous YouTube show called Cooking With Dog. I found it comprehensive, very well made and the concept of a talking dog funny and completely crazy. I have chosen this video also because the recipe called for mitsuba, the Japanese plant which starts forming a small forest on my balcony and which is particularly good with eggs. It was a sign I should choose this show and no other.
The video was very helpful and, apart from scaling down the recipe’s amounts, the only thing I changed was eliminating the sugar. Japanese omelettes are always sweet, the thing which doesn’t suit my taste buds, so my home-made tamagoyaki, even though clumsy and messy-looking, was the best because it was 100% savoury, just the way I love it. Check the Cooking with Dog show to see the original three-egg recipe and very comprehensive instructions, but, please, do not compare the final result to mine!
PAN: The special square or rectangular pan is not necessary. Tamagoyaki can be prepared in a round pan too. The important thing is to adapt the size of the pan to the number of eggs you want to use. I have bought the smallest pan I found because it was adapted to a two-egg omelette, perfect for one serving. My rectangular pan’s measures are: 18 x 13 cm (7 x 5 inches), so if you want to make an omelet with two eggs, take a similarly-sized round pan.
HERBS: I have used here mitsuba because I love it and am lucky to grow it on my balcony, but of course any fresh herb of your choice will be great here. I recommend chives, tarragon or dill.
SERVING: My favourite way to serve tamagoyaki is with good French buttered bread (baguette or similar bread with crunchy crust), but you can have it as a snack or in a more Asian way, as a part of a meal with rice, pickles, vegetables…
Tamagoyaki is often served cold, but personally I like it still slightly warm, with a splash of soy sauce.
Special equipment: long cooking chopsticks. As difficult as it may seem, in my opinion cooking chopsticks are a perfect tool for this omelette. You can try also with normal eating chopsticks, but they might be too small.
Preparation: 15 minutes
Ingredients (serves one as a main course, for example breakfast):
2 tablespoons Japanese stock (dashi), but in my opinion chicken stock will be perfect here too (you can dissolve a pinch of instant stock of course)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
(ground black pepper)
pinch of salt
about 10 sprigs mitsuba leaves or any other herbs of your choice (chives, tarragon, dill…)
(soy sauce and grated daikon radish to serve)
Chop the herbs (if you use mitsuba, use also the stalks!).
In a wide bowl mix the eggs, add the stock, the salt, the soy sauce and the pepper, if using. Combine with the chopped herbs.
Heat a pan (keep in on medium heat) and grease is slightly using chopsticks and a piece of folded paper towel soaked in oil and brushing the surface with it.
To check if it’s hot enough Cooking with Dog’s chef advises pouring a small drop of egg mixture: if it sizzles, it means the pan is ready.
Pour a part of the omelette mixture (in case of my pan’s size 100 ml/about 3,5 fl oz was the ideal amount) onto the pan and move the pan so that the egg mixture covers the whole surface.
When it’s half-cooked, lift the pan from the heat and start rolling the omelette. I found that rolling in the direction towards me was easier.
Push the roll towards one side of the pan (the one with the handle is more practical).
Grease the pan once more, holding the soaked paper towel in chopsticks.
Pour once more the same amount of egg mixture. Spread it evenly, moving the pan.
Make sure it arrives under the rolled first part of the omelette (lift the roll slightly while spreading the mixture).
Fry it, destroying with your chopsticks the bubbles forming on the surface.
When this portion is almost cooked, lift the pan from the heat and roll the omelette, starting with the roll you have previously made.
Push it towards one side of the pan (preferably close to the handle), grease slightly the surface and repeat the whole process until you finish the egg mixture.
Make sure you are not left with a tiny amount of egg mixture! It’s better to make the last rolled layer too thick than too thin. If it’s too thin it will break or/and be overcooked.
Squash slightly the roll with a wide spatula, transfer it onto a chopping board.
Let it cool down slightly and cut into 4 equal pieces.
Serve cold or slightly warm (it is usually served cold).
Cooking with Dog show’s chef recommends serving it with grated daikon radish and a splash of soy sauce. I like it served still warm, with good buttered French bread (with crunchy crust), with a splash of soy sauce and, optionally, with some chili or chili paste.