In Japan, it’s often said that you can judge the quality of a restaurant by the quality of their dashimaki tamago (だし巻き卵). It’s a rolled omelette that makes for a great benchmark because it’s not only ubiquitous, it takes an enormous amount of skill and experience to produce a good roll.
While there are many seasoned and rolled egg dishes in Japan, dashimaki tamago, which literally translates to “dashi rolled egg” has a smile inducing elegance that belies its simple looks. As the name implies, dashimaki tamago contains almost as much dashi as there is egg, creating a magical suspension of liquid within the egg making each bite melt away into a pool of flavorful soup. White soy sauce not only seasons the egg, it makes the umami in the dashi bloom without discoloring your egg.
While the ingredients may sound simple enough, it’s the acrobatics required to roll something so delicate that makes this a challenge, and meeting the exacting standards of an old-school Japanese chef can become a maddeningly difficult cycle of failure.
When I staged at a Kyoto restaurant a number of years ago, I was taught to roll the egg using chopsticks in one hand and a circular Ferris wheel motion with the pan in the other. Like trying to eat pudding with chopsticks it’s a task that seems impossible at first.
As I destroyed roll after roll, I remember thinking to myself “Spatulas were invented for a reason!”. But a look over my shoulder at the stern look on my master’s face, along with the well worn “encouragement stick”, hanging on the wall, and I chose wisely not to question his methods. While I did eventually manage to roll one using chopsticks, at home, I use a spatula.
Because of the simple list of ingredients in dashimaki tamago, the quality of the eggs and dashi is paramount. Start with the best farm-fresh eggs you can find. As for the dashi, avoid the granulated variety and make your own dashi from scratch or at the very least use a dashi bag.
Ideally, you’ll have a rectangular tamagoyaki pan to do this because the delicate egg is hard enough to roll without having to worry about shaping it too. That said, I know it’s unlikely that most of you will have one of these, so I’m going to show you how to do it in a round pan. Don’t be too disappointed if your dashimaki tamago doesn’t come out looking perfect the first time, or even the first dozen times you make it. Regardless of what shape it ends up being, it should still taste delicious.
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