The typical egg dish in Japanese cuisine, dashimaki tamago (出し巻き卵, Japanese rolled omelette) is made by rolling thin layers of egg in the frypan. The beautiful layers of the egg when sliced, and the sweet dashi flavour make this omelette so unique.
Japanese cuisine and dashimaki tamago are like omelettes for breakfast in Western culture. But dashimaki tamago is served not just for breakfast but for many different occasions and in different dishes.
If you have a Japanese style breakfast, often you will find a slice of dashimaki tamago among the several dishes on the table. You will also find dashimaki tamago in lunch boxes, particularly in the popular lunch box called makunouchi bento (幕の内弁当) which consists of rice, pickles, meat, fish, vegetables and egg.
At Izakaya (Japanese style taverns), a large portion of dashimaki tamago is served with grated daikon (white radish). Why grated daikon? I am not sure the real reason for it but all I know is that daikon goes well with dashimaki tamago.
Dashimaki tamago is also a regular sushi item, particularly nigirizushi (small rice ball with raw fish on top). When you order a set of nigirizushi, you always get a piece of nigirizushi with a slice of dashimaki tamago on it. This is the only traditional nigirizushi item that is not fish.
Unlike Western style omelettes, dashimaki tamago has a sweet flavour with dashi, sake, sugar and soy sauce. Some recipes even add mirin to it. I am not fond of very sweet dishes so my recipe does not use mirin. It uses a small amount of sugar to give only a subtle sweetness. You do taste dashi and that’s where the name “dashimaki tamago” came from. The word “maki” means “rolled” and “tamago” is “egg”.
Dashimaki tamago is made by rolling the thinly spread egg. The rolled egg is pushed to one side, more egg is added into the pan and the previously cooked egg is rolled over the thin egg to make layers of egg. It is meant to be a long rectangular shape and the Japanese use a rectangular tamagoyaki pan (omelette frypan) which is made just for this. It makes the shaping of dashimaki tamago easier. You can see in the step-by-step photos at the end of the recipe how it is used.
Most households outside of Japan are unlikely to have such a frypan. But no worries. You can make rectangular dashimaki tamago using a round frypan too. See the photos below. I am afraid it is not a perfect dashimaki tamago. Since I always use the rectangular tamagoyaki pan, I am not used to making it with a round frypan!
Just like making an omelette, making dashimaki tamago looks simple but it is technically challenging. It is quite difficult to make a perfect one like those served at expensive Japanese restaurants or sushi restaurants. I cannot make them like that. But I believe anybody can make dashimaki tamago which looks like it and tastes great. You just need to know a few key things.
- Amount of dashi – dashi gives better flavour to dashimaki tamago and makes the egg juicier but too much dashi makes it more difficult to roll as the ratio of the egg, which helps glue everything together, in the egg mixture becomes less.
- Beating the egg – to make a fluffy rolled egg, you don’t beat the egg vigorously but make sure that the egg whites are broken down into smaller bits. Move the chopstics or the fork sideways in the egg to beat the egg instead of using a whipping action. Lift up a chunk of egg whites with chopsticks or a fork and let it dribble through the chopsticks/fork to break into small chunks.
- Oil the frypan each time before pouring in the egg.
- Temperature of the frypan – the egg should not be cooked too fast or too slow, so the frypan should be on medium low to medium heat.
- Timing of rolling the egg – the surface of the egg should neither be completely cooked, nor completely wet and uncooked.
Professionals make dashimaki tamago using chopsticks which is a pretty hard thing to do. You would say, “how can you fold a soft and thin wide sheet of egg with just two sticks?”. I can tell you, it’s really hard. I used to be able to do it when I was cooking Japanese meals everyday but not anymore. I was actually shocked to learn that a different lifestyle takes away certain culinary skills!
When you slice dashimaki tamago, you will notice the layers of egg. I love the pattern of the thin layers of the egg. So I purposely burn each layer slightly to make the lines stand out. But the down side of making burnt lines is that the each layer tend to get separated unless the timing of rolling the egg is perfect. You can see the separation of the layer in my photo. They are meant to be glued together but I was too slow to roll! My son was very quick to point it out when he taste tested.
If you Google search “dashimaki tamago”, you will notice that most of them don’t have brown lines in the layers like mine. Perhaps dashimaki tamago with brown lines is not the common version but I like it that way. If you prefer, you could make dashimaki tamago without distinct lines. Just use a slightly lower heat and start rolling the egg before it gets browned.
We had a family temakizushi (手巻き寿司, hand rolled sushi) day few weeks ago and dashimaki tamago was one of the ingredients to go into the temakizushi. Here is a snap peek at “Temakizushi” which I will be posting soon. So watch this space!
- 4 eggs (note 1)
- 4 tbsp dashi stock (note 2)
- ½ tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tbsp sake
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1½ tbsp oil with a small piece of paper towel soaked in
- 2 tbsp grated daikon (white radish)
Gently beat eggs in a bowl or a large measuring cup, trying to cut the egg white into small chunks but do not beat hard (note 3).
Add all the ingredients except oil into the bowl/measuring cup and mix until sugar is dissolved.
Place a non-stick frypan (note 4) or a tamagoyaki pan over medium low to medium heat and oil using the oil-soaked paper towel as if you are wiping the pan so that the amount of oil is not excessive.
When the frypan and oil is heated up (note 5), pour about 1/5 of the egg mixture into the pan. The egg should start cooking straight away and you should see some bubbles lifting the surface of the egg.
Poke the large bubbles to flatten using chopsticks or the edge of a spatula.
When the surface of the egg starts drying but is still half wet, fold the both sides of the egg sheet inwards using a spatula so that the sides are straight instead of round (frypan only). Use a spatula to roll the egg starting from the furthest end from you. Place the spatula underneath the egg about 1.5cm (½”) into the egg, then lift and flip towards you. It will fold with about 1.5cm (½”) width.
Repeat to roll the rest using the first fold as the core of the roll until the egg roll shifts to the end of the frypan closest to you.
Tidy up the rolled egg using the spatula so that the width of the egg is even (note 6).
Lightly oil the farthest end part of the frypan using the oiled paper towel. Slide the egg to the farthest end of the frypan and oil the rest of the frypan lightly.
Pour 1/5 of the original egg mixture amount to the frypan. Do not pour the egg mixture over the cooked egg roll but lift the egg roll slightly so that the new egg mixture goes underneath it.
Repeat steps 5 to 10 until the egg mixture is used up (note 7), ending with step 8.
Transfer the egg to a cutting board (note 8). Slice it or dice it and place the pieces on serving plates.
Squeeze excess water out of grated daikon, add it next to the egg slices and serve.
1. I used small eggs and total weight not including shells was just over 200g (7oz).
If your eggs are very large, the total weigh could go close to 50% more than what I had. Then please adjust the other ingredients, accordingly.
Slight variations to the total weight of eggs should not require adjustment.
2. Please refer to my post, Home Style Japanese Dashi Stock.
3. Move chopsticks or a fork sideways in the egg to beat the egg instead of using a whipping action. Ensure that egg whites are broken down into smaller bits.
4. I used 23cm (9") frypan which has the bottom size of 19cm (7½") in diameter. Any larger than this will make a flatter dashimaki tamago as the egg will spread wide and thin.
If the frypan is smaller you will need to add smaller quantity of egg at a time so that each layer of egg is not too thick. Small pan will make a thicker dashimaki tamago.
5. Drop a tiny amount of the egg in and if the egg cooks gently, making a sizzling noise, the frypan is ready (about 180C/356F). If the egg cooks instantaneously, the temperature of the frypan is too high.
6. It is important to shape the first roll with even width otherwise you will end up with deformed rectangular dashimaki tamago. You could also gently press down the egg roll using the spatula if the surface is uneven.
7. Until you are used to making dashimaki tamago, I would recommend using a measuring cup for the egg mixture so that you can cook the same amount of egg mixture each time. It is important to cover the entire frypan with the egg when poured.
8. If the shape of the dashimaki tamago is uneven, you could correct the shape while it is still hot. Place a baking paper over the egg and use both hands to hold and press to shape it (see the step-by-step photo below).
If you have a bamboo mat which is used to make sushi rolls, then you could place the dashimaki tamago on it and warp it to shape. This will make a dashimaki tamago with round corners.