Monday, June 7, 2010

卵焼きの物語 Chronicles of Tamagoyaki

As I mentioned in previous posts, motivated by the upcoming 中体連 ("Chuutairen" the Kamikita District (Junior High School) Sports Tournament) and inspired by Shinya Shokudo (both the manga and drama), I've recently set myself a goal of learning to make 卵焼き ("tamagoyaki" = Japanese style omelette) "reasonably well."

My aim is to have a nice-looking bento for the Chuutairen.

Friday night I went to Shimoda Jusco to buy the tamagoyaki pan from Muji. I could've bought the pan anywhere, I suppose, but the first time I went to Muji in Japan (Oct. 2007, between arriving by night bus at Tokyo Station and taking the train to Narita Airport to fly back for A&L's wedding) I really wanted to buy it--even though I knew at the time that I knew I wasn't likely to cook anything, much less tamagoyaki! Considering my usual spend-thrifty ways, it's quite amazing that I actually held off on buying it for almost three years! =P

Anyway, I put my purchase to use pretty much right away. I happened to have two eggs in the fridge that needed to be used up before Sunday (Jun. 6), so I made my first tamagoyaki attempt on Saturday afternoon.

Here's a basic recipe (from the magazine 毎日ラクちん!朝つめるだけ!3分弁当―おかず&アイデア214, "Every day's a cinch! Just assemble in the morning! 3min. bentos-214 side dishes & ideas"):

基本の卵焼き (1台分) Basic Tamagoyaki (makes 1 roll)

材料 Ingredients:
卵...2個 Eggs - 2
砂糖...小さじ2 Sugar - 2 teaspoons*
しょうゆ...小さじ1/2 Soy Sauce - 1/2 teaspoon
水...大さじ2 Water - 2 tablespoons
サラダ油...少々 - "Salad" (vegetable) oil - a little
*This recipe is for 甘い卵焼き ("amai tamagoyaki") so feel free to adjust the amount of sugar/soy sauce to suit your tastes

1. Mix the eggs, sugar, soy sauce and water in a bowl.
2. Heat oil in a pan* on medium-low heat, making sure to coat the pan evenly with oil.
3. Pour about half of the egg mixture into the pan, spreading evenly
4. When the bottom starts to solidify, roll the egg into the omelette shape (from the "top" of the pan (i.e. the side of the pan furthest away) towards yourself)
5. Place the omelette on the "top" side of the pan
6. Put a bit more oil into the pan**
7. Repeat steps 3 & 4 using the remaining egg mixture
* If you don't have a rectangular tamagoyaki pan, it's possible to make it using a circular pan, but it's more work. Basically before step 4, you need to fold in the sides of the egg to make it a rectangular shape.
** So far I haven't actually used this step...Maybe that's part of the problem?

Note: If you're making tamagoyaki for a bento, to prevent it from spoiling easily after you've cooked it, wrap it in plastic wrap and microwave it for about 30s to ensure that it's completely cooked through to the center. (If you serve it fresh/hot off the pan, it's OK if it's slightly undercooked in the middle...)

I think I had beginner's luck on my side the first time since I actually managed to roll it quite nicely and the shape turned out pretty well. The insides were kind of unevenly cooked, though, so I did end up microwaving it, just to be safe.

You can see that although the ends look deformed, when you cut them off, you get the proper looking tamagoyaki. Looking at the colour variation between the two different ends of the omelette (particularly the side with all the white showing), however, you can tell that it wasn't cooked evenly/properly. ^^;;

Still when I plated it with octopus shaped wieners (I only used half the bag the first time I made them), it looked very cheerful and made me feel really happy eating it.

In my two attempts since then, I managed to cook it more evenly in the middle, but I messed up on the rolling part so it ended up not looking as nice.

My second tamagoyaki (made today,  Mon., Jun. 7) was just an overall disaster. The egg "ripped" when I was rolling it, and one side was really bumpy and uneven (although I placed it on the plate bad side down, so it actually looks better in the picture than in reality)..

It was pathetic that I had to try to redeem myself and made another one (third overall) right away. This time the the first half was really nicely cooked and shaped, but I messed up when I was trying to roll the omelette the second time. I think I tried to roll it a bit too early so it ripped and again made the final product look rather deformed.

But when I sliced it up, it turned out to actually have quite a nice, well-balanced oval shape, so I was able to make decent looking hearts out of them!

Here you can see what happens if you try to make hearts with an omelette (i.e. tamagoyaki #2) that wasn't rolled nicely and therefore had an uneven/deformed oval shape:

Anyway, as you may have guessed, my dinner tonight was two (rolls of) tamagoyaki. Not the healthiest or most balanced meal, but considering that lately I've been forgetting to eat dinner, I guess it's better than nothing. ^^;;

Given that the Chuutairen is only 12 days away, I suspect I will have many more meals of tamagoyaki in the near future--unless I can learn to make them "reasonably well" quickly. =P