Lesson Three 

A basic kitchen skill... flipping a thin omelet with a single chopstick!

 Thin Omelet (recipe on page 122) Usu Tamago Yaki

Basic Sea Stock (recipe on page 92) Dashi

Making a Thin Omelet

Flipping an omelet requires only one chopstick... using it first to trace the edges of the pan (above)... then twirl and twist under the egg sheet (below, left)... lift and invert (below, right). Practice will make perfectly even, perfectly thin, sheets. 

Until you have perfected your technique, you may find yourself poking holes, or tearing your egg sheets. Don't worry: these less-than-perfect thin omelets can be shredded and used to make attractive platters of pilaf-like Chirashi-Zushi ("scattered-style" sushi), pictured below, left.

Once you have perfected your thin omelet-making skill, you can use your sheets to wrap or enclose seasoned sushi rice. Pleat your omelet around a sphere of rice Chakin-Zushi ("Purses of Sushi") style, pictured below, center. Or, fold your omelet around a pressed square of rice Fukusa Sushi ("Tea Cloth" Sushi) style, below right.

The Language of Food

Tamago                    Tamago                  Tamago 

玉子      卵      たまご

an egg is an egg...  is an egg (sort of)

The word tamago, used to describe eggs for both culinary and reproductive purposes, is well established in the Japanese language. The Japanese have been consuming eggs -- various fish roes, chicken, quail and duck eggs -- for a very long time.

Currently there are three ways of writing the word tamago:

  1. Above,  on the left is a combination of two calligraphy: tama (a spherical object) + ko (a child, or progeny). Indeed, eggs are spheres containing progeny.
  2. In the center is a single calligraphy: ran. It is used most often when referring to an egg in its shell. (I think it looks a bit like an anatomical drawing.) 
  3. The three symbols on the right are hiragana, a syllabary that "spells" out words without suggesting intrinsic meaning. Hiragana was the native writing system before Chinese calligraphy was adopted and adapted to suit the needs of spoken Japanese (that process began in the 4th century AD).

Not surprisingly, linguists, culinary historians, chefs and food writers do not always agree on the origins, and correct usage, of culinary terms. In many publications, such as cookbooks and food magazines, when eggs are an ingredient the middle, single-calligraphy approach is taken. When a finished dish containing eggs is referred to, the pair of calligraphy on the left. Want to hedge your bets? Use hiragana.

My thin omelet recipe (usu tamago yaki) 薄玉子焼きcalls for eggs (tamago)

My shopping list reads: eggs (tamago) たまご


Dishes in the featured menu can be found in my cookbook, WASHOKU: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2005). They are referenced here by page number. Click on the recipe titles above to download photo-illustrated documents that provide information not included in the book  -- details about ingredients, tools & techniques, menu planning and/or final presentation.

I welcome your feedback -- especially captioned photos with a brief description of your kitchen sessions when you try making the recipes above. Those interested in offering feedback, please download a set of guidelines for submitting and displaying your work.To further teaching goals, I may post some of the feedback to this site, adding my commentary.

Every 6 to 7 weeks, I will post a new lesson to this Washoku Workshop page

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