18/10/2020

Instagram is mad for the egg-salad sando. But have you tried the kind filled with tamagoyaki, the Japanese rolled omelet? Here’s what you need to know

I LOVE THE WAY that in Japan, there always seems to be a sandwich close at hand, neatly wrapped and ready to go. At train stations, bakeries and the ubiquitous konbini, or convenience stores, sandos come filled with everything from fried pork cutlets to whipped cream and fruit, almost always on white bread with the crust cut off. Last year, egg-salad sandos had a stateside brush with celebrity thanks to the success of Konbi, a Los Angeles sandwich shop whose konbini-inspired version became an Instagram darling. With a whole hard-boiled egg at the center, revealing a sunny circle of yolk when the sando is sliced, Konbis iteration is indeed photogenic. But for me the ideal sando filling is the layered and rolled style of omlelet known as tamagoyaki.The tamagoyaki has such a supple, silky texture, and a gentle balance of savory and sweet flavors. Between two slices of sandwich bread, its a beautifully self-contained little package. Clearly Im not the only one who thinks so: The tamagoyaki sando is gaining a following of its own at coffee shops and sandwich counters around the U.S. (See Good Eggs, below.)

Its a beautifully self-contained little package.

When I set out to master it at home, the sando part was easy: Sliced milk bread or any soft white bread is the proper vehicle. Dijon mustard and Kewpie mayo, a thick, slightly sweet Japanese brand, are the condiments to use, if any. Filled with omelet and sliced in half or thirds, its ready to eat. But the omelet part required a bit more effort.
Strictly speaking, tamagoyaki just means eggs (tamago) and grill (yaki); in Japan the word is generally used to refer to any type of thick rolled omelet. This kind of omelet typically cooks in a small, rectangular panfirst one layer of egg, which is rolled up into a cylinder, then another, rolled around the initial layer, and so on. The basic tamagoyaki (atsuyaki tamago, or thick grilled egg, in the written form) is generally egg seasoned with mirin (rice wine), soy sauce and/or sugar and salt. Dashimaki tamago is a rolled omelet with all of the above plus dashi, a stock of dried kelp and bonito. Some regional variations include milk or cream in lieu of dashi; others are rolled with thin layers of nori or even cheese.
Whatever the seasonings, a few basic rules apply. Make sure the egg and dashi [if using] are at room temperature, said
Mutsuko Soma,
who serves a dashimaki tamago sandwich at her Seattle sake bar, Hannyatou. It makes a big difference in terms of not sticking. Some chefs whip eggs intensely to increase aeration. At Hi-Collar, a Japanese cafe and bar in New York,
Isaac Nikashima
makes an extra-fluffy omelet by thoroughly whisking eggs with salt and cream.
I bought a TeChef brand 7.5-by-5.5-inch nonstick rectangular skillet for about $20 on Amazon, but you can use a round nonstick pan as long as youre not too bothered about a perfect square shape. Heat the skillet to medium, and plan to add the egg mixture in three or four batches, depending on how many layers you want. Grease the exposed part of the pan with an oil-dipped paper towel between each layer to avoid sticking.
The rolling is arguably the trickiest part. Nancy Singleton Hachisu, author of the new cookbook Food Artisans of Japan, recommends using chopsticks or a rubber scraper to roll the first layer of egg across the surface of the pan, gently pressing the roll against the edge when you reach it. Leaving the rolled omelet there, pour in more egg and tilt the pan, picking up the omelet to allow the uncooked egg to slurp underneath it and into every corner. Let gravity do the work for you, said Ms. Singleton Hachisu. Tilt the pan and pick it up off the flame frequently to avoid overcooking each thin layer. The goal is for the egg to be very lightly golden and a little jiggly throughout.
At Konbi, chefs
Nick Montgomery
and
Akira Akuto
make a dashi omelet thats more folded than rolled. The technique is the same: Pour, tilt, lift and fold. They employ a custom-made block to press their omelets into perfect rectangles, but thats hardly necessary at home. Building each layer properly is the thing. They should be together but separate, Mr. Montgomery said. Meaning theyre all stuck together, but you can still tell the difference between each fold.
It didnt take much practice before my omelets were evenly shaped and a consistent pale gold. Even for a beginner, the recipe is forgiving. The most important thing is not to be intimidated, said Ms. Singleton Hachisu. It might not be picture-perfect. Sometimes a layer sticks or tears. But it will still taste good. And you can always make another layer.
GOOD EGGS / TOP SPOTS FOR TAMAGOYAKI SANDOS
Hannyatou
Mutsuko Soma, who also runs the acclaimed soba shop Kamonegi, wanted to put a dashimaki tamago sandwich on the menu at this new sake-and-snack spot in Seattle, as another way to showcase the delicious dashi broth she makes for her noodles. Her omelet is served cold on toasted Wonder bread with hot Chinese mustard and Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise. Its a good drinking snack, she said. The dashi flavor pairs really well with sake. 1060 N 39th St, Seattle; hannyatou.com
Konbi
This L.A. sandwich shop, Instagram-famous for its egg salad sandwich, offers a thick layered-omelet sandwich too. The eggs are mixed with light soy sauce, dashi and a mildly sweet sake. Chefs Akira Akuto and Nick Montgomery burn the alcohol off before adding the sake to the mix to avoid imparting an overly boozy flavor. The omelet is gently compressed into perfect sandwich dimensions using a custom-built wooden press and served hot, with a squeeze each of Dijon mustard and Kewpie mayo, on milk bread made by L.A. bakery Bub & Grandmas 1463 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; konbila.com
Hi-Collar
At this New York coffee shop and bar, the ultra-fluffy tamagoyaki inside the sando contains no dashi; only eggs, salt and a bit of cream for richness. Its cooked in a round skillet and served warm on toast with mustard, Kewpie mayo and butter, plus a few thin slices of cucumber. According to general manager
Yuki Izumi,
The trick is to let it sit a few minutes before serving, so all the butter melts into the egg, and the bread soaks up the mayo and mustard. 214 E 10th St., New York; hi-collar.com
STEP BY STEP / HOW TO MAKE TAMAGOYAKI (ROLLED OMELET)
1. In a small bowl, use chopsticks to briskly whisk together 6 medium eggs, at room temperature, with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and ½ tablespoon granulated sugar.
2. Heat a rectangular Japanese egg pan over medium-high heat. Pour a little canola oil on a folded-up paper towel until it seeps in. Use chopsticks to wipe paper towel around pan, making sure to get into the corners and oil the entire surface.
3. Give eggs another quick mix, then pour a quarter of mixture into pan, tilting to cover bottom with egg. When egg is set on bottom but still runny on top, tip pan toward you and use chopsticks to gently roll egg. The idea is to keep building up the egg roll with about three more additions of egg mixture.
4. Rub pan again with oiled paper towel. Leaving rolled omelet in pan, pour in another quarter of egg mixture and tip pan to cover. Lift roll to let raw egg mixture run under. When bottom is set but top is runny, roll cooked egg so it gathers up semi-cooked egg layer. Repeat twice more with remaining egg mixture.
Adapted from Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
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