Usuyaki Tamago and Kinshi Tamago are variations of Japanese omelettes known as tamagoyaki. You can transform simple eggs into a beautiful wrapper or garnish often found in traditional Japanese cuisine with a few simple techniques. The process involves creating thin sheets of seasoned egg, known as Usuyaki Tamago, and then shredding them into fine, golden threads. This technique may sound intricate, but with a bit of patience and practice, you'll find it surprisingly achievable.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Using only eggs and salt gives the paper-thin omelette a tender, supple texture that's firm enough to shred into kinshi tamago.
- Beating the eggs without incorporating any air and straining them ensures an even texture and uniform golden color, making it easier to shred the usuyaki tamago into thin strands.
- By cooking the omelette at a moderately low temperature, the egg has time to set without browning.
- Adding the egg to the pan in a thin layer is tricky, but with practice, it becomes easier. Start with thicker sheets of usuyaki tamago and work up to making them thinner.
Ingredients for Kinshi Tamago
- Eggs - The key to making golden egg threads is to use eggs with a very orange yolk. The color of egg yolks is affected by the amount of beta-carotene in the hen's diet, so some egg farmers will feed their chickens foods high in this nutrient, such as red peppers and marigolds. This is more common in some countries than others, but in the US, I've noticed that higher-end eggs tend to have a better yolk color. I also recommend using relatively old eggs. This is because older eggs have thinner albumin (egg white), making it easier to evenly combine them with the yolks and flow more easily into a thin crepe.
- Salt - A pinch of salt is the only seasoning needed for making usuyaki tamago or kinshi tamago. That's because these preparations are used as either a wrap or garnish and are not the main feature of the dishes they're used in. Adding other ingredients like sugar will cause the egg to brown, and liquids such as water or dashi will change the texture of the omelette, making it tear more easily and difficult to shred into thin threads. Some recipes call for potato starch, but this is another ingredient I don't recommend, as it needs to be mixed with water to prevent it from clumping.
- Vegetable oil - A neutral flavored vegetable oil like canola oil, sunflower oil, or grapeseed oil are all good options. You don't want too much, or your usuyaki tamago will take on a mottled appearance, but if you don't use any, the egg crepes will stick to the pan.
How to Make Kinshi Tamago
The process for making these thin omelettes is pretty straightforward, but it does require some practice to get a perfect sheet of egg. You first want to beat the eggs with the salt until they're uniform in color. The tricky part is to do this without incorporating any air, as air bubbles will cause your omelette to puff up and make it difficult to shred into thin threads. Using chopsticks with a side-to-side motion (as opposed to a circular motion) does a good job of this. You could also do this with a fork; however, I don't recommend using a whisk.
The next thing you want to do is to strain the mixture through a tea strainer or fine-mesh sieve. This helps remove any large air bubbles and any bits of egg white that haven't been wholly incorporated into the mixture.
To cook usuyaki tamago, using a lightly oiled non-stick frying pan is easiest. This allows you to use a lower temperature so the egg crepe doesn't brown, and you don't have to worry about it sticking to the pan. Wipe the surface with a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil to oil the pan. This avoids leaving beads of excess oil in the pan, which can give your omelette a mottled appearance.
The temperature you set the stove at will range you're using, but I start the pan off at medium heat to warm it up, and then I turn the heat down to low before adding the egg.
The next trick is to add the egg into a thin layer that evenly coats the bottom of the pan. The process is a bit like spreading crepe batter across a pan. I usually pour enough egg mixture into the pan to cover about half of it; then, I swirl it around to coat the rest in a thin, even layer. With practice, you should be able to get four thin omelettes from three large eggs (using a 10-inch pan), but you may want to start by adding more egg mixture into the pan and making two or three sheets. The more you add, the thicker the omelettes will be, but it will be easier to coat the bottom of the pan without ending up with holes in your egg sheets.
The timing for flipping the egg over is also important. You want to wait long enough for the egg to set, but if you wait too long, it will brown. I test this at the edge of the sheet where the egg meets the pan. If the Usuyaki Tamago is dry and easily separates from the pan, you should be good to go. I use cooking chopsticks and my fingers to do the flipping, but this requires a relatively advanced degree of chopstick skills (as well as calloused fingertips). You can also use a thin spatula with a flexible tip by inserting a corner under the egg and then lifting and scooting it until it's far enough under the sheet to lift it without tearing it.
Once you've flipped the omelette over, smooth out any folds or wrinkles and then give it a few seconds for the egg to cook through before removing it from the pan. Stack the Usuyaki Tamago as they come out of the pan, and keep them covered in plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out.
You can then roll up the stack of egg crepes and use a sharp knife to shred the egg into very thin ribbons of egg.
How to use Usuyaki Tamago
After all the Usuyaki tamago has cooled, you can use each paper-thin omelette as a colorful wrapper for a wide variety of foods. Roll strips of asparagus and ham in usuyaki tamago for a colorful addition to bento boxes, or have your children use vegetable cutters to cut the sheets into fun shapes like flowers, stars, or hearts. You can also use the thin egg omelet to wrap rice dishes such as Onigiri or Omurice, and it can even be used to roll sushi rice with your favorite fillings to make various types of sushi rolls. Think of it as a low-carb, high-protein tortilla, and let your imagination run wild.
How to use Kinshi Tamago
As for Kinshi Tamago, the golden threads make for a beautiful topping for dishes like Chirashi Sushi, Poke Bowls, or Hiyashi Chuka (ramen salad). The ribbons of egg crepe can also be added to clear dashi-based soups for a splash of color or served as a condiment for cold somen noodles.
Other Japanese Egg Recipes
Usuyaki Tamago (薄焼き卵) are thin Japanese omelettes prepared similarly to tamagoyaki, except they aren't layered and rolled. They're not typically eaten on their own, but the golden sheets are used as a decorative wrapper for sushi rice or onigiri, and they can be julienned to make thin golden threads of egg called Kinshi Tamago.
Usuyaki Tamago can also be sliced into thin ribbons called Kinshi Tamago(錦糸卵), which literally means "golden threads of egg." The shredded egg crepes make for a vibrant garnish that's used as both a topping for sushi dishes like chirashi sushi and temari sushi. It can also be used as a topping for chilled noodle dishes like somen or hiyashi chuka.
Usuyaki Tamago is a 7-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
u like oops
su like soup
ya like yacht
ki like key
ta like tonic
ma like mall
go like ghost
Kinshi Tamago is a 5-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
kin like keen
shi like sheet
ta like tonic
ma like mall
go like ghost
A tamagoyaki pan will allow you to make the usuyaki tamago into a rectangular shape, but it can still be made in a normal round frying pan.
- 3 large eggs
- 1 pinch salt
- Vegetable oil (to oil pan)
- Break 3 large eggs into a medium bowl, and add 1 pinch salt. Use chopsticks to beat the egg using a side-to-side motion. Try to avoid whisking air into the mixture.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a container with a spout.
- Heat a 10-inch non-stick frying pan over medium heat until moderately hot.
- Fold a ½ sheet of paper towel over several times to make a thick pad. Dip this in some Vegetable oil and use it to wipe a thin layer of oil onto the pan (there shouldn't be any large visible beads of oil).
- Turn down the heat to low and pour in enough egg mixture to swirl around and evenly coat the bottom of the pan.
- Let this cook until the edges of the egg start to dry out and are easily separated from the pan.
- Use chopsticks or a spatula to flip the sheet of egg over and smooth out any wrinkles or folds.
- Cook for a few seconds until the egg is fully set, and transfer to a plate. Cover it with plastic wrap to keep the Usuyaki Tamago from drying out, and repeat steps 5-7 until you run out of egg mixture.
- If you want to make Kinshi Tamago, stack the sheets of egg and roll them up. Use a sharp knife to cut the egg into thin threads.