Tamagoyaki is a rolled omelette that is savory yet slightly sweet. It’s such a popular bento item in Japan that many people insist on having a piece or two in their bento box every day! It may take a couple of tries to get the technique down, but you’ll soon be rolling your own tamagoyaki with ease.
For this bento, everything else is prepped the night before so that you can concentrate on making a delicious tamagoyaki in the morning.
- Yield: 2 Servings
- 4 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp mirin
- ⅛–¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp soy sauce
- vegetable oil, for frying
- parsley, for garnish
- Mix together all of the ingredients, except for the oil, until the egg yolk and white are amalgamated, but not frothy.
- Heat up the frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour in some oil and tilt the pan to spread it around. Take a small wad of paper towel and rub it around the pan to soak up any excess oil. Put the oil soaked wad on a small plate next to the stove.
- Use cooking chopsticks or a fork to draw a little of the egg mixture along the bottom of the pan. If the egg cooks immediately, the pan is hot enough and ready to go. If the egg browns too fast, cool the pan down by putting the bottom on a moistened kitchen towel and lower the heat a little.
- Pour a thin layer of the egg mixture into the hot pan. Tilt the pan to spread it around the bottom. Pierce any large bubbles that form with the chopsticks or fork.
- As soon as the egg starts to set, start rolling it to one side of the pan. Flip one end over with the chopsticks or fork and keep flipping until you have a skinny roll. If you can’t roll the egg you can just push it along to one side until you have a skinny little omelette.
- Leaving the first roll at one side of the pan, rub the oil-soaked wad of paper towel firmly along the bottom of the pan. This adds just enough lubrication while also cleaning up any stray bits of egg.
- Add a little more of the egg mixture to the pan, tilting the pan around to spread it. Lift the first roll up a little so that the uncooked egg runs beneath it (7, overleaf).
- Puncture any large air bubbles that form, as before. As soon as this layer starts to set on top, roll it around the cooked egg roll to the opposite side of the pan (8, overleaf). As before, if the egg is browning too fast, place the pan on a moistened towel for a few seconds.
- Repeat the preceding three steps until the egg mixture is all used up (9). The thinner the layers, the more delicately textured the tamagoyaki will be. Try to do a minimum of 4–5 layers.
- When the tamagoyaki is done, turn seam-side down into the pan and press briefly to seal it. Flip the egg out onto a sushi mat or paper towel.
- Roll the sushi mat or towel around the tamagoyaki, forming a rectangular shape. Leave to cool.
- Cut into even slices before packing. Garnish with the parsley.
- Don’t despair if your tamagoyaki doesn’t quite look perfect. It will still taste great! Ham and Cream Cheese Vegetable Rolls
- This is preferably made the night before and refrigerated, so that the cream cheese can firm up.
- ¼ small carrot
- 5–6 long, straight green beans, topped and tailed
- pinch salt
- 2 slices ham
- 2 Tbsp cream cheese, softened
Garlic Sautéed Spinach
- Peel the carrot and cut into strips the same thickness and length as the green beans.
- In a small pan, bring 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Put in the carrot and green beans for 3–4 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain, and cool rapidly under cold running water. Drain again and pat dry with kitchen or paper towels.
- Set aside the 2 best looking strips of carrot and 3 straightest green beans. Cut up the rest to sprinkle on the rice.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface, and lay 1 slice of ham on top of the plastic wrap so that a short side is closest to you. Spread the ham with all the cream cheese. Place the 2 strips of carrot and 3 green beans half an inch (1 cm) from the edge closest to you. Roll the ham around the vegetables as tightly as you can, using the plastic wrap to aid you if needed. Roll the second slice of ham around the first roll. Wrap the roll tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, unwrap the roll and cut into even pieces a little shorter than the height of the bento box.
- If you wash the leaves the night before, this can be made in a couple of minutes. The whole red chili pepper adds a hint of heat without overwhelming the other flavors.
- Garlic-infused Olive Oil, for frying
- 1 small dried hot red chili pepper
- 2 oz (60 g) baby spinach leaves, washed and patted dry
- salt and pepper, to taste
Basic White Rice with Mixed Vegetables
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the chili, whole, and stir for a minute. Remove the chili and reserve.
- Add the spinach and stir-fry rapidly. It will shrink down in mass in no time. Season with salt and pepper.
- Turn out into a fine-mesh colander to drain off any excess moisture, and leave to cool. Pack into a bento divider cup or cupcake liner. Use the reserved whole red chili as decoration if you like—though you may want to leave it out if you think the bento recipient may eat it by mistake!
- Have hot precooked rice ready to go. Either set the timer on your rice cooker the night before so that the rice is ready in the morning or defrost some precooked frozen rice in the microwave. See this page for how to make great-tasting bento rice, and this page for rice packing instructions.
- 1 cup (200 g) cooked Basic White Rice
- remaining green beans and carrot strips from Ham and Cream
- Cheese Vegetable Rolls, chopped
- Pack the rice into the bento box and sprinkle with the vegetables.