The versatility of the egg is perhaps no more apparent than when considering all the ways you can make an omelet. There’s the flat, French kind that cooks up in seconds on high heat, a method popularized by Julia Child that yields a soft, tender texture. There’s the Italian frittata, which gets finished in the oven for firmer, more structurally-sound results. In a pinch, we even have a method for making one in the microwave.
One unsung hero of the omelet world (at least in the U.S.) is the Japanese-style omelet, called tamagoyaki. In basic method, it bears resemblance to the French version—Julia Child even uses chopsticks when folding her eggs—but on a slightly lower heat. What makes it distinct, though, is the layers. Cut into a Japanese omelet and you’ll see a gorgeous, tender stack of distinct curds that looks similar to a laminated puff pastry dough.
To find out how to replicate this technique at home, we turned to chef Masaharu Morimoto, star of Food Network’s Iron Chef America, who has been introducing American diners to Japanese cuisine for decades through his restaurants like Morimoto in Philadelphia, New York and Las Vegas, and Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs in Orlando.
In his cookbook, Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, Morimoto offers a step-by-step guide for tamagoyaki, and as he says it, “the magic is in the method.”
First, he makes a standard omelet, which he folds onto one side of the tamagoyaki pan (though you can substitute a standard round nonstick pan, Morimoto highly recommends using this piece of specialty equipment, which is super affordable.)
He then adds another layer of egg to the empty surface of the pan to start building the layers.
He repeats this process until he has layers upon layers of egg in one delightful package that’s just slightly golden on the outside.
Beyond the texture, the eggs have a savory-sweet flavor that Morimoto achieves by adding a mixture of dashi (a Japanese stock that’s available in Asian specialty aisles and on Amazon), soy sauce and sugar.
Get his full recipe below to try it yourself at home.
Masaharu Morimoto’s Japanese Omelet Recipe
One approximately 7 x 5-inch tamagoyaki pan (highly recommended)
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. dashi, warm
1 tsp. usukuchi or soy sauce
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
1. Combine the dashi, soy sauce, and sugar in a large bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs to the bowl and beat to combine well.
2. Set a medium-mesh sieve over a measuring cup with a spout and pour in the egg mixture. Strain the mixture, stirring to get most of the liquid through, leaving just about a tablespoon of the thick whites in the sieve.
3. Set the tamagoyaki pan or an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Let it get hot for a few minutes. Pour a tablespoon or two of the oil into a small bowl. Dip a folded paper towel into the oil and briefly rub the surface and sides of the pan. Keep the paper towel nearby. Pour into the pan just enough of the egg mixture (about 3 tablespoons).
4. To cover the surface and immediately swirl the egg mixture so it covers the bottom in a thin layer, pushing down any egg that sticks to the sides. Use the edge of a nonmetal spatula (or, if you’re like me, chopsticks) to pop any little bubbles that appear. Let the egg cook, without stirring, just until it sets, about 20 seconds. Take the pan off the heat, tilt the handle down, and use a nonmetal spatula to gently fold the egg forward in half onto itself.
5. Set the pan back on the heat. Rub the empty space at the back of the pan with oil, then slide the cooked egg, using the spatula to help if need be, into the empty space. Rub the now-empty space in the front of the pan with oil. Pour about 3 tablespoons more of the egg mixture into the empty space, tilting the pan and slightly lifting the cooked egg so the liquidy egg runs underneath it. Cook until the raw egg has just set, 30 to 45 seconds. Take the pan off the heat, tilt the handle down, and use a spatula to gently fold the egg forward in half onto itself.
6. Set the pan back on the heat again and repeat the process until you’ve used all of the egg mixture. If the omelet is not by this point golden brown in spots on both sides, cook over medium heat for a few minutes on each side.
7. Transfer the omelet to a cutting board, let it cool slightly, and slice it crosswise into ¾-inch-thick slices. Serve warm. Wrapped in plastic wrap, the omelet keeps in the fridge for up to 2 days.