Itadakimasu! – だし巻き玉子 Dashimaki Tamago
Sometime back, I can’t remember exactly when, I was told that the art of making tamagoyaki is the true litmus test to the “greatness” of a sushi chef. There are many things which a good sushi chef needs to master, i.e. his fish handling skills, his knife work, his sushi rice clasping technique, down to the proper way of toasting nori sheets… but a truly great sushi chef has to know his tamagoyaki well too! Well, I didn’t really buy it then. I mean… “how difficult could making tamagoyaki be?” I told myself. It was not until I attempted to make tamagoyaki on my own did I realise that yes indeed… not the easiest thing to do for sure. To make something which “looks like” tamagoyaki is manageable but to get all the ticks in texture, taste, colour, level of moisture, presentation etc… definitely requires quite a bit of dexterity. So this post is basically a little documentation of my experiments with the famed Japanese egg omelette (that is “omelet” for you guys in the US). I’ve not perfected it yet… no where near yet in fact.
According to Taro of Haru Cooking Class in Kyoto, there are 3 types of Japanese egg omelette. Tamagoyaki, Atsuyaki Tamago and Dashimaki Tamago. They defer in terms of the ratio of dashi stock to egg as well as the combination of seasoning, e,g. with or without sugar, mirin etc. I won’t go into the details here but you can watch his youtube video for more information. That’s where I get the base recipe for the version which I’d tried. Yes, I tried だし巻き玉子 Dashimaki Tamago which is purportedly the most difficult to make of the three according to Taro. Oh well…what’s life without some challenges. I’d also watched countless times the video demonstrated by the master sushi chef at the Shunraku Kaiten Sushi Restaurant in Hokkaido on youtube. He did it so effortlessly… and deceivingly so I tell you!
The basic ingredients for making だし巻き玉子 Dashimaki Tamago, i.e. eggs, dashi stock, mirin, cooking sake, sugar and salt. Japanese omelette is made using a special pan with straight sides called “tamagoyakiki” 玉子焼き器, or otherwise “makiyakinabe” 巻き焼き鍋, Traditionally, it is made of copper lined with tin but nowadays, there are teflon coated non-stick ones as well which makes the job much easier. Apart from the choice of seasoning, there is also a difference in terms of the shape of the pan used between the Kanto and Kansai versions. The one which I have is the squarish Kanto version which we bought from Kappabashi, near Asakusa Tokyo. The Kansai version is more rectangular. The eteral pursuit to be different between the folks in Kanto and Kansai regions is an age old thing. It stems from their spoken dialect, to their local cuisine and now, their tamagoyaki pans as well! Functionality wise, they are pretty much the same. When you get your tamagoyakiki, be sure to get the “wooden cover” as well. It is used to shape the finished product to into a oblongish block which we are accustomed to see. I’m using a Kanto tamagoyaki pan to make a Dashimaki Tamago, which is essentially a Kansai version of this celebrated egg dish. A possible means of amalgation, harmonisation or reconciliation? Well, I’m not that noble really…I just like the kansai version more as it is softer, juicier and to me, a lot tastier!
Recipe wise, I’d basically followed the one in Taro’s video as a guideline but the procedure is pretty much similar to the one from the Hokkaido-based sushi chef. First is to heat up the pan…
Then I added a lot of cooking oil (as shown in the video by the Hokkaido sushi chef) and smeared it along the sides of the pan with a makeshift “oil brush” using a piece of kitchen napkin secured to a disposable wooden chopstick with a rubberband. The excess oil is then poured back into the oil vessel, leaving behind just a thin layer to prevent the omelette from sticking.
In goes the first layer… pan was too hot on my first trial and the base turned crusty and crisp. It takes a bit of getting use to the pan and temperature control.
The second and third layers are basically built on the first , flipping and “rolling” while the omelette is still runny. The base has to be oiled for introducing the egg mixture for the next layer, a crucial step which I’d forgotten quite a few times for my first few attempts. And the next thing which I need to get use to is to work with only a pair of chopsticks. I’d not gotten used to the “hand technique” for flipping the egg roll for the first few attempts and resorted to using a wooden spatula for the job. Yeah, that’s technically cheating I know… but whichever way that works yeah? Using only chopsticks takes a bit of getting used to and it got better after my 5th roll or so… I think. I’d lost count how many I’d made over the last month or so. Oh well…
Oh the whole, I would say that making dashimaki tamago is both nerve wrecking and experientially rewarding. It is especially gratifying to see how the results defer from one omelette roll to the next, hopefully getting better and better as you go along. After 2 trays of eggs, I think I’m slowly getting the hang of it. Decently shaped but not perfect yet. The quest to making dashimaki tamago will continue, but I guess I’ll take a
short break from making dashimaki tamago, or for the matter, any egg related dish for now. I think I’d easily expended my egg quota for the next few months. Perhaps I should try tamagoyaki next, since Taro said it is easier… or is it?
だし巻き玉子 Dashimaki Tamago Recipe (serves 3) recipe adapted from here with reference from here.
2 medium eggs (preferably corn-fed chicken eggs)
50 ml dashi stock
a pinch of salt
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cooking sake
To a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and mix very well with chopsticks
Heat tamagoyaki pan over medium-low heat and pour a generous amount of oil into it.
Drain off excess oil, leaving only a thin layer behind. Using a piece of kitchen napkin and pair of chopsticks, grease the sides of the pan generously as well.
When the oiled pan is sufficiently hot (about 180C), add one-third of the egg batter into the pan. Swirl the egg mixture around until all sides are as evenly coated as possible. Use the chopsticks to run along the sides of the pan to prevent the omelette layer from sticking, especially the corners.
While the omelette layer is still moist, carefully flip it gently to form a roll, which is as tightly rolled as possible.
Grease the pan once again and proceed to pour into the pan another one-third of the egg mixture. Carefully “lift up” the egg roll to allow the egg mixture to go beneath the roll.
Similarly while the new layer is still moist, proceed to flip over to form a roll. Repeat for the last one-third egg mixture.
Turn off heat and press the egg roll gently against the sides of the pan into a oblongish shape.
Plate, leave to cool down slightly before cutting.
3 different attempts at making dashimaki tamago from right to left, with slightly better control of the flipping with each successive attempt. Will continue to practise in future but for now, I think I’ll take a break from it. Eggs overdose already!