Tamago (egg). Yaki (grill). The recipe is right there in the name. Tamagoyaki is a simple, easy introduction to some of the flavors that form the basis of Japanese food. You can think of this dish as a Japanese omelet. But tamagoyaki isn’t only eaten at breakfast; it’s a common side dish in lunch boxes, and it’ll even appear on dinner tables when eating out. It’s a sweet and savory rolled omelet. I gave a recipe a shot a little over a year ago and the dish has been a staple of my breakfast menu ever since. Quick, satisfying, and even fun to make, tamagoyaki has given me many rich, satisfying starts to my day.
With just 5 ingredients, tamagoyaki is not a formidable food to make. If you’re a little unsure about Japanese food or are a bit nervous about investing your time and money into a dish you’re not confident you’ll like, tamagoyaki might be a great first foray. The only ingredient that might take a little tracking down is mirin, a sweet cooking sake. Some recipes may use sugar instead of mirin, but I’ve found that mirin produces a much better result that is less sickly-sweet. If you’d like to try this tamagoyaki recipe but don’t know where to find mirin, try checking the Asian food section of your supermarket. Alternatively, with a little advance planning, you should be able to order some on the internet for a reasonable price. If you buy a bottle, you can use the ingredient in other Japanese recipes, like pork shogayaki
(grilled ginger) (you can find my recipe notes for it here)
. It’s a key ingredient for Japanese cooking, not just for tamagoyaki. Go crazy.
I’ll be honest, though, this recipe does take a bit of practice. While we can think of tamagoyaki as a Japanese omelet, it’s a rolled omelet. Instead of folding the egg over itself, the egg is actually rolled up in a series of layers. If you can use chopsticks to do this, great! If not, there’s no shame in using a spatula. Also, there are pans that are specifically intended to produce beautifully-formed rolls with this recipe, but you can certainly give it a shot without one (I don’t have one). If you don’t use a pan with high, thick sides and a square shape (which helps create an egg log), you can certainly use your favorite frypan. Just note that the edges will not be uniform (like mine), and your end result will be a bit on the flat side. I don’t mind because I’m more interested in enjoying the flavor than ensuring I have a perfect roll every time.
Tamagoyaki is made in layers, so you’ll pour a bit of your egg mixture into the pan, let it cook for a bit, roll it up, push it to one side of your pan, and pour the next layer in next to it. Make sure to lift up the rolled layer and tilt the pan to the side to make sure the egg mixture for the next layer gets under
the initial roll. It may take some practice, but once you get the hang of it, tamagoyaki becomes quite fast and easy. You will, however, need to be careful with your heat control. Heat should be maintained at a medium-low. You also need to make sure not to let the egg stay in place too long before rolling it up. Otherwise, you’ll end up with something that looks like a very confused crepe (see left image below; did you know it’s very hard to take nice photographs and roll tamagoyaki?). For your first few tries, pay close attention to your egg; when all the liquid looks like it’s just about to be cooked is typically the moment you want to start rolling. It should only take about 20 seconds. The goal is to get it looking more like something on the right below.
As you can see, using a plain old pan will yield some rather misshapen results, but I really don’t mind. I just want to enjoy my breakfast. In case you haven’t guessed yet, yes, it did take me an entire week of photographing breakfasts to get some results that were worthy of sharing here. Not pictured are the tamagoyaki I poked holes in or ripped apart entirely when running seriously late in the morning. But hey, things still tasted good! Check out the recipe below. This is exactly how I make mine in the mornings (serving size is for one person). I’ve loved it since I first made it; maybe you will too.
TAMAGOYAKI (JAPANESE OMELET)
2 large eggs
2 tsp mirin
1/4 tsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp salt
- Crack eggs into bowl. Add mirin, soy sauce, and salt. Mix with a fork until incorporated.
- Heat about 2 tsp olive oil in pan over medium-low heat until oil shimmers. Pour thin layer of egg mixture into pan; pour enough to cover the pan, tilting the pan gently to distribute the mixture evenly.
- Let egg cook for 20-30 seconds. When almost all liquid in mixture has cooked, begin rolling egg from one side. Use chopsticks or a spatula. Roll entire layer up and move to one side of pan.
- Pour next layer of egg into pan. Gently lift the first layer up and tilt the pan so that egg mixture goes under the first layer. Cook for about 20-30 seconds. Roll first layer up in second layer, and roll the entire thing up, just as you did with the first layer.
- Repeat as needed until all of mixture is gone (I usually only do two layers, as I’m using a very large pan).
- Slide directly from pan onto plate and serve immediately.