11 July 2007

how to cook tamagoyaki

here's a guide to cooking tamagoyaki. "tamago" means "egg" in japanese, and "yaki" is "to bake/roast/etc", well all sorts of things, in other words, "to cook". so this is a version of the japanese omelette. there is another version, called dashimaki. "dashi" is "stock (usually made from fish or chicken or vegetables)" and "maki" is "roll". tamagoyaki is usually sweeter, and dashimaki is a little salty because of the stock base.

i prefer tamagoyaki, which is what you would normally find in sushi restaurants. you can eat it on its own, or with japanese rice, or you can also add bacon or whatever to the egg mixture before it's cooked. there are many different versions of the recipe out there, but here's what i have found to like best.

psst. i tried to take a video. but i realised i sounded like shit. also, i was concentrating on the egg and forgot what to say... and if i remembered what to say, i'd mess up the egg. so, pictures will have to do. heh.

ingredients (for 2-3 people)
4 medium sized eggs
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of mirin
pinch of salt
cooking oil
+ alternatively, you can substitute japanese cooking wine for mirin. or use about a teaspoon of each.
+ i like my tamagoyaki a little sweeter, and sometimes add half a tablespoon more. i also find that if the egg cools down or if you refrigerate the egg, it's less sweet than when it was just cooked so bear that in mind.

clock-wise from 4 eggs: some oil, small piece of paper towel, 2 & half tablespoon sugar, mirin, and japanese cooking wine.

small rectangular frying pan
chopsticks or spatula (spatula for beginners!)
small piece of paper towel
+ if you don't have a rectangle fry pan, you can use a round one too. it's the same cooking method, just that you end up with a different shape!

prepare the egg mixture.
1. if you can, before cracking open the eggs, leave them at room temperature for about 30 minutes. crack them into a mixing bowl just before you want to use them. use your chopsticks to beat lightly, but don't over-do it. just a few stirs is fine.
2. add in the sugar, wine/mirin, and salt. (the salt is meant to actually bring out the sweetness of the sugar)
3. once again, if possible, use a fine metal mesh sieve and drain the egg through it, so that the end product will be really smooth. but this is too much of a trouble for me so i don't usually bother.

two important things to remember before you start
ONE: spread the oil evenly all over the pan and make sure every spot is oiled!
TWO: roll the egg up before it dries and gets totally cooked!


using a medium fire setting, heat the pan up. oil the pan a little and spread it VERY well, using the paper towel to really make sure you've covered all grounds.


using your chopsticks, "sprinkle" some of the egg mixture onto the pan. if it gives you a sizzling sound, you're ready to start. if it sizzles and turns brown immediately, make the flame smaller.


pour a small amount of the egg mixture into your pan, enough to cover the whole pan. never pour too much or it just won't turn out right! you will see it swelling up, or bubbles forming. use your chopsticks and poke it to death! you don't want air to get in. then swirl the egg mixture around to fill in the "holes".


when it is semi-cooked (it should still be quite watery), start rolling it to either the top or the bottom of the pan. make sure to do so when it is still not 100% cooked, or the layers won't stick together. it doesn't really matter which side of the pan you push it to, or how small your roll is. i usually just flip it in half, but you can roll it up a third or a quarter of the pan size.


with the egg pushed to one side, using the paper towel, lightly oil the rest of the pan. once again, make sure to spread the oil well, or you will have problems rolling the egg up.


pour in another thin layer of the egg mixture.


use your chopsticks to lift up the rolled egg, and let the egg mixture flow in underneath. again, do not allow the egg mixture to swell up or bubble. poke it, then swirl it around to fill in the gaps.


when it gets half-cooked again, flip the rolled up omelette onto the half-cooked portion. the most important thing is to make sure you roll it in before the egg mixture dries up and gets cooked. now you see why this is also called egg "maki"? because you're basically rolling the egg up as it cooks.

repeat steps 5, 6, 7, and 8, until you have used up all your egg mixture.


turn your fire to low heat. making use of the shape of the pan, lightly press the egg against the sides to make it rectangular in shape. (if you're using a circular fry pan, don't bother making it rectangle!) you can flip the egg around several times to lightly brown the sides. i like my eggs 80-90% cooked, so i don't leave it on too long. but if you prefer it 100% cooked, lightly press the egg down against the pan to get the insides cooked.

transfer to a plate, and cut into 1cm slices or thicker if you prefer. then,

"dekita!! tamagoyaki desu! cho--- umai yo!"
(done!! it's tamagoyaki! totally delish!)

the first time i did this, it was really difficult to flip and roll the layers around. well, i'm a really terrible cook. so i tried using a spatula and it was a lot easier. it also took me a few times of trying, to get the portions of sugar, mirin and wine that i personally like. now, i don't measure at all, but just pour straight from the bottle cos i know what i need to get it to taste the way i want it to taste! experiment until you find something you fancy! it looks difficult but it's really quite easy! even for me!

good luck!!! leave a comment or email me to let me know how it went! :)

ps: it can be eaten warm or cold, so if you store it in the fridge, you don't have to warm it up again before you eat it. i prefer mine a little chilled, or at room temperature, but that's totally up to you.

according to my fabulous japanese friend, michiko, who commented on this post, she says it also tastes brilliant with mayonnaise added to the recipe!! just remember not to use western mayonnaise, but the japanese kind. my favorite brands are kewpie and saralear by ajinomoto (yes, shingo is advertising for them). they are just as good but kewpie should be readily available worldwide. and by the way, japanese mayonnaise is so yummy, you can add it to just about everything.