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Tamago – The Mouth-watering Japanese Omelet Roll

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Tamagoyaki, commonly known as tamago, is a traditional Japanese omelet recipe. It is known for its unique flavors and texture.

Many people confuse it with a simple omelet roll and try to make it using the same old omelet recipe, but tamago is distinctively Japanese, with special ingredients added to its batter. It is an all-egg recipe, made out of a well-whisked sweet and savory mixture. Tamago is popular not only in Japan but all around Asia and beyond.

There it is a commonly served meal, and most people only enjoy their breakfast eggs in the form of tamago rolls.

The first time I experienced tamago I was amazed at the sponge texture of the egg roll. At no point in my life had I ever enjoyed such an omelet.

Its many layers made my heart melt for it. I tried making an omelet roll by myself, but it didn’t taste like the typical Japanese tamago, so I then ventured to find that particular flavor for my omelet roll. When I finally found the complete tamagoyaki recipe, I also happened to find many interesting facts about tamago.

What is Tamago?

The word tamago is used for “egg” in Japanese. It is an omelet roll cooked by rolling layers of egg batter. The recipe is made using egg as the main ingredient, and it is cooked in a special pan known as makiyakinabe in Japan. Such pans are famous as Tamago pans.

With the increasing popularity of tamago around the world, all of its ingredients and tools are also made easily available. The recipe is cooked using a special technique which gives you one big roll of egg omelet with a super fluffy texture and several layers.

Most often the tamagoyaki is served as ‘nigiri’ which is a type of sushi roll. Whether it’s the top-notch Japanese restaurants or the street carts, the tamagoyaki is often served as breakfast.

When the recipe is cooked with rich ingredients like dashi stock or shrimp puree, it becomes a perfect main course for dinner . Similarly, for a full meal, tamago is also served in sushi rolls. These all are the different varieties of this recipe which will amaze you with their epic blend of flavors.

What’s so Special About It?

There are several features of this Japanese omelet recipe which makes it a must-have for everyone. What I personally like about this dish is the ease and the convenience of preparing an egg roll which can be served at all times. There are other many qualities of this roll which people generally cherish about it.

  • The mild sweetness

The batter made for the tamago contains a small amount of mirin and sugar. Both of them, when mixed with eggs, give a very mild sweet taste to the roll. This sweetness is the essence of a good Japanese omelet roll.

It is not necessary to add white sugar to the batter; it can be easily replaced with brown sugar or even with a tablespoon of honey. All these options are good both for the taste and for the health. Mirin is the sweet Japanese wine which complements the combination of ingredients used in the roll.

  • Earthy Soy taste:

No Japanese dish is complete without some use of soy sauce. Same is the case with the tamago egg roll. A small amount of it is added to the egg batter before the roll is cooked. This adds an earthy touch to the flavor of the tamago.

Due to the addition of soy sauce, there is no need to add any other spices, or even salt. Do not go overboard with this, as excess soy sauce can increase the salty flavor in the eggs and makes it extremely high in its sodium content.

  • The essence of Dashi:

The Dashi stock makes the most of the tamago’s distinct taste, though not all Japanese rolls are made using this stock. I make sure to add at least a tablespoon or more to every tamago roll. In this way, the roll tastes more Japanese and exotic.

The only way to create a sharp difference between a regular omelet and the tamago is the special dashi taste. That is why it is great to always go for it. However, if you do not feel comfortable with its peculiar taste, then there is no strict need to add it.

  • Nutritional value:

A single slice of the tamago roll can provide as much as 69 calories. Out of the total nutrients, about 5 grams of it are protein and about 4 grams are fats, while 2.8 grams are carbohydrates. People on special diets can add this recipe to their menu.

Its sodium content, however, makes it not suitable for people with hypertension. They should replace the soy sauce with coconut aminos to enjoy the similar dashimaki tamago taste, or simply omit the soy sauce and enjoy the rest of the ingredients mixed in with the eggs. Having the eggs as its main ingredient, the tamago proves to be a complete, balanced diet.

How is Tamago Made?

A plain egg tamago is made out of two basic steps. One is to prepare the batter out of the eggs and other ingredients, and the second is to cook an omelet while adding successive layers to the pan. The layers are cooked one after the other and also rolled in the meantime. For a nicely cooked tamago, even mild cooking is quite necessary.

But first comes the batter.

There are no complex rules to making this batter; it is all whisked. While you prepare the batter, you can heat the pan. With a good nonstick, you can have a fat-free tamago, as there is no need to add vegetable oil for greasing.

Contrary to this, if you are opting for a rich meal, you can use a teaspoon of butter to grease the pan. The butter itself can infuse a very appealing taste to the egg omelet.

Special Tamago Pan – My Savior!

The special tamago omelet pans are available at all stores selling kitchenware. Its different varieties are also available on the Amazon. Since tamago needs a special method of cooking, it is best to use a pan which is specially designed for this purpose.

The shape of these pans is somewhat rectangular or squarish, so it becomes easy to roll the edges of the cooked layers into a compact tamagoyaki roll. Such pans give the tamago the shape which every traditional recipe prescribes. Moreover, the thickness of its base is perfect for providing even heat for cooking the egg batter into the desired firmness.

The great thing about these pans is that you can not only use them for making these rolls, but they can also be used for cooking several other recipes. This multipurpose cookware comes in all shapes and size. The peculiar feature of these pans is the outward-tilted sides from the other side of the handle.

This makes it easier to insert the spatula beneath the layer of the egg and then to roll it. This feature makes a tamago pan different from the rest of the cooking pans available in the same shapes. So look for these features and then get yourself a suitable tamago pan.

These pans also come in several different sizes. The medium size is best to use for routines servings or special servings. It really does not make a difference which size you use, as the roll itself is later sliced, but, the longer the pan in length, the more layers you can make in your tamago roll.

Different sizes are available accordingly. It can either be completely square in shape or entirely rectangular with greater length.

The Complete Traditional Japanese Tamago Recipe

Here comes the complete recipe of the traditional Japanese tamago. You will be surprised by the simplicity of its ingredients. It makes excellent use of eggs, dashi stock, sugar, and soy sauce.

There are no basic spices; you can add some black pepper to make it suitable to your taste, but soy sauce is enough to infuse a good amount of flavor into the egg batter. This is only the basic version of the tamagoyaki; there are several other varieties that are out there. They are all made with some additional ingredients and this very basic combination.

Dried herbs, spices, and vegetables can all be added to the egg roll to enhance its taste. Now you can try these super delicious egg rolls right at home and adorn your dinner tables with its bright yellow colors and the hues of the fresh vegetables mixed within. Garnish it either with a drizzle of soy sauce or simply with a pinch of black pepper for the best experience.

Ingredients:

This recipe can serve as many as four individuals. It depends more on the way you serve them. As a snack, or as a side meal, a single slice from the roll is enough to serve a person, whereas as a breakfast, at least one egg per serving should be used. Compare and change the ratios of other ingredients accordingly.

The sugar, soy sauce, and mirin are added as per the desired taste. Stock keeps the consistency of the batter in check. Too much of the stock or too little of the stock will both result in an undesirable texture of the omelet.

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup prepared dashi stock
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil, or more as needed

Directions:

Take a bowl and beat the eggs until thoroughly mixed. Start stirring in sugar, mirin, dashi stock, and soy sauce. Mix all these ingredients together until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remember, all these ingredients should be thoroughly mixed with the eggs for best taste.

Place a nonstick pan over the stove and heat it on medium heat. Grease this pan with some vegetable oil (olive oil will do great, or you can also use some canola oil or sesame seed oil). Start pouring the egg mixture into the pan, only adding just enough egg batter to form a thin coating of the egg over the pan base.

Swirl around the batter to form a smooth omelet and allow it to cook on low heat until the egg is firm. Use a spatula to lift off the edges of the omelet from one end and start rolling the egg towards the other end.

Push this egg roll to the other side of the pan and add more batter and cook again a thin layer of omelet. Once this layer is firm, start rolling again from the already rolled part of the egg.

This rolling and rerolling of the egg is the important part of this recipe, and it is what makes a nice tamago, so be careful about while doing it. Make sure the egg is firm before you start rolling it, otherwise it will break in places, and you will never get a good egg roll out of it. Use a thin spatula to deal with the egg and its rolling.

Transfer the prepared roll into the plate. Grease the pan again to make new rolls, or you can simply add more layers to one roll by doing the same process. Slice the rolled omelet into 6 pieces for serving.

The Dashi Stock

This stock is not something you read about in the cookbooks. But when it comes to Japanese cuisine, the distinct flavor of dashi is added to most recipes. The stock is not generally available in stores except the Asian ones. It is made by cooking dried kelp with dried tuna sardine in water.

When all essences of these ingredients are completely released into the water, the stock is allowed to cool, and then it is strained. It can be preserved for a week at most when kept in a sealed bottle in the refrigerator.

However, if you don’t have the time to cook the stock, there are Dashi bouillon cubes also available in the market, so you can make the stock by mixing these cubes or granules in the boiling water and then allowing it to cool. The distinct dashi flavor is the emblem of Japanese cuisine, and without it, no tamago recipe is complete.

Roasted Black sesame

I haven’t added this special ingredient to the actual recipe because it is rarely added as the topping. Sesame seeds are famous for their distinct flavor and nutritional value. I make sure to sprinkle a teaspoon of toasted black sesame seeds over the freshly-cooked tamago roll.

In most Japanese restaurants, the roll, in fact, is served with the seeds. You notice the aroma miles away. Toasted white sesame seeds can also serve this purpose. You can use either of them if the taste is as per your desiring. Otherwise, finely chopped fresh herbs can be used instead.

Making Perfect Layers

Tamago is famous for its layers; without those, the tamago is just an ordinary omelet. Sure, the ingredients are special with the dashi stock and all, but that fluffy texture and bright color can only be achieved when cooked in this way.

People often complain about not having perfect layers in the roll or having them either overcooked or undercooked. So I came up with some simple solutions to make their life easy. These tips should be kept in mind while you make this Japanese egg roll:

  • Choose the right pan

Without a right pan or good one, forget enjoying a nicely cooked tamago. It has to have a suitable shape, and it has to be nonstick. It should be heated and greased but not overheated, otherwise you will not have enough time to deal with the egg and the rolling. It can actually cause burning of the omelet from one side which does not look good when you start making the layers.

I recommend either choosing the special tamago pan or anything which can serve the purpose. Don’t worry, the first attempts are not usually successful. I made a mess out of this omelet several times in the start, but later when I finally learned the technique, I actually got very good at it.

  • Slow cooking

The important tip is to maintain the heat of the pan. Some people try to cook it at high heat for quick results, which results in nothing but overly-cooked omelet. It does not take much time to make this recipe, so be patient and cook it slowly on extremely low heat, which is best for making the egg firm.

Remember, it does not take much heat for the egg to cook, so low heat is just fine. Slow cooking is the essence of making this Japanese omelet.

  • The good spatula

Well, it does sound quite basic, but when it comes to good cooking, every single detail is important. That is why you should also be careful about the type of spatula you are using. The one with the thin flexible head is used to turn the egg omelet around. It should also be wide around the head so that it gives a greater span to roll over the egg omelet.

Multipurpose silicone spatulas are perfect when dealing with this omelet. I even use those for ordinary omelet recipes or other egg recipes, as they are so easy to handle.

  • Be tedious

Get ready to be patient. Those who are pros at this might not need such care, but for newbies or those who are not familiar with Japanese cuisine, be extra careful and put the extra time to roll the layers of omelet one after another.

Wait for one layer to cook and then start rolling it into another. Otherwise, all the layers will stick together into a single thick chunk which does not look like the traditional Japanese Dashimaki.

  • Wait for the firmness:

This basic technique is what the recipe needs the most. Wait for each layer to get completely firm from the base, but not cooked altogether from the top. Unlike the other pan fried omelet, it will look little soft or sticky from the top, but when rolled together while slow cooking, the egg is eventually cooked from inside out.

Since the layer of the batter poured into the pan is not that thick, it hardly takes a half of the minute or a minute to get the desired firmness of the omelet.

Serving styles

The best part of the tamago is that it can be served in so many styles that it can become any part of your routine menu. In Japan, it is also served in a variety of style and forms. I usually make these for my breakfast as it is so full of energy and all the protein that I get for a great start to the day.

There are other several ways that I have tried serving these Japanese rolls, and they’ve all turned out great. I’d like to share all of them here since we have already discussed the tamago so much.

  • Easy Breakfast

When cooked as it is, this recipe can be served as the best breakfast. The sliced rolls can be paired with crispy bacon or toasted bread slices. Avocado guacamole is also delicious in the morning when served with these rolls. They have that peculiar Japanese flavor which makes it great to serve without anything else additional.

A sprinkle of black pepper or salt or chopped parsley over the slices taste great. To add some variation to the flavor, I keep on changing the toppings which simply adds variety to my routine breakfast. Keep the batter ready in your refrigerators for the weekdays to get a quick omelet roll right away.

  • The energy snack

For those who need an energy-rich snack between meals, they should definitely go for tamago rolls.

There are two reasons: one is that the rolls are so high in energy value and protein content, and secondly, they are so light, so you feel fresh and energized after having a single slice. You can also reduce the size of your serving according to the time of the snack or your caloric needs.

  • Meal on the go

For me, tamago rolls are perfect on-the-go meals as you can pack them and carry them with you easily. For picnics or long travels, these are my energy boosters.

Place a slice between slices of bread or buns, along with mayo or any sauce, and it will be your juicy egg sandwich. Or wrap them in a tortilla and served them as tortilla egg rolls. Pack them with some pasta or noodles, and it tastes amazing and becomes super healthy too. Next time you set out for somewhere, don’t forget to take the tamago Japanese roll.

  • Well desired side meal

If you are not planning to have these rolls exclusively, than there is yet another way to enjoy them: try them as a side meal. It will complement any good and rich meal. Do not serve it with any protein-rich dish as it will double the protein value — not suitable for good digestion.

It can be served with all the rice recipes, roasted tofu, pasta, or noodle and even soups. Place a slice of tamago roll over the noodles soup bowl and you will love the combination.

The Tamago Sushi

I am not sure if you ever have tried tamago wrapped in the sushi, but I have! It tastes heavenly. A chunk of this roll is wrapped in a layer of nori sheet and sushi rice, and then it is sliced. This egg sushi is best to serve for people who don’t like the taste of salmon, tuna or other seafood in sushi.

Pair the egg roll stuffing with shredded carrots or thinly-sliced bell peppers, and you will love the looks and taste of it. Simply wrapping the tamago slice in the nori strips can also be served without adding the layer of rice to the wrap. Such sushi is thicker than the traditional salmon sushi.

The Vegetable Tamago

The basic recipe I shared here does not make use of any of the vegetables, but there are many varieties of tamago that are made with colorful chopped vegetables. These may include finely chopped onions, red or green bell pepper or even chopped spinach or parsley. The addition of these vegetables to the egg batter gives a very nice and appealing look to the rolls.

Such vegetable tamago rolls show off bright, attractive colors. Simply select any one of those vegetables or use them in different combinations and add them to the egg batter when it is already thoroughly mixed. Give a gentle stir to this mixture to mix the egg with the vegetables and then cook as per the above-discussed method.

It tastes a lot better when you add juicy vegetables to the egg. It becomes more crunchy in texture. Moreover, it is also good for kids who avoid having vegetables at breakfast or during lunch. It is the best way to incorporate a decent amount of veggies to the egg.

Sometimes, instead of adding vegetables to the batter directly, I add them to a greased pan and saute for few seconds, then pour the plain egg batter over these sauteed vegetables. This gives a crispy touch not only to the veggies but also to the omelet roll.

To increase the nutritional value of this roll, either sprinkle shredded parmesan over the sliced pieces or stir it into the egg batter. In this way, it does not only get rich, but it tastes so creamy and cheesy. Of course, this method is far from the original Japanese recipe, but it always gives me pleasure to challenge my own creativity when it comes to cooking.

I keep experimenting with the ingredients in order to produce a new variety every time. Adding cheese to the roll is just one way of making it even richer in content. Sometimes I even add chopped bacon to the batter. Whatever you add in, do not over-saturate the batter with these extra ingredients; just add enough to enjoy their taste.

Conclusion

With tamago on the menu, you can enjoy all the deliciousness of Japanese cuisine in a single platter. It is as simple as the routine omelet yet as delicious as any exotic recipe. It looks amazing, tastes delightful and guarantees so many nutrients packed into a single slice of tamago.

With so many variations, it gives a range of options to try every now and then. Japanese eggs rolls are complete packages in themselves, suitable both for a whole meal or as a side. From making the batter to the final serving you won’t be needing anything outside of your comfort zone, as all the ingredients are easily available in any store. Happy rolling!

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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