Hello Fenrir here tonight with a quick bite of something fantastic to feast on! It’s the new start to a new year–and that also means some really cool New Year’s traditions ranging from watching a big sparkly ball drop, to feasting on food meant to last for a week. Japan celebrates New Year’s feasting in style with several food traditions such as the osechi ryouri: a feast made of salty, sweet, and vinegar-preserved dishes much beloved because of long-lasting qualities–oh and because of the many auspicious meanings/symbols attributed to each dish. For instance, the renkon (lotus root) could be included because it’s a “lucky” tuber, and you can see through the holes into the future.
Amongst these many dishes with their various and sundry meanings is the datemaki, a relative of the familiar tamagoyaki–except this version is made with plenty of fish and or shrimp paste of some sort. Oh and it’s also named after Masamune Date, so what’s not to love?
So, I love traditional food ways–and yes that includes the heady combination of things that are too-salty and too-sweet, and maybe even doused in vinegar/some other preservation liquid to make food last. Typical osechi ryouri dishes–sucha s the datemaki–are built on these strong flavors during the 7-day period of feasting and “rest” following the dawn of New Year’s day. According to food-blogger and Japanese-cuisine expert, Makiko Itoh:
[quote]The original reason for this period of rest or non-cooking was supposed to be to appease the fire god, Kohjin, who might get pissed if one made fires so early in the year or something. Then in later years, this period of non-cooking was ostensibly to give the housewife a rest – though since she has to spend hours and days making tons of food in advance, you have to wonder how much rest she actually got.[/quote]
Truthfully, most osechi ryouri dishes are a bit complicated to make at home, and there’s actually big business for top restaurants and department stores in Japan to sell osechi ryouri boxes to the masses. Still, the old recipes are around for home chefs to work with–and this particular egg-dish is pretty easy to whip up from scratch, especially if you have a food processor on hand to help!
Again, according to Makiko Itoh, this special egg-dish is named after Masamune Date because: he was also known for his style and looks (the term date-otoko means a stylish, cool and/or good looking man) and his gourmet palate. People include datemaki in their osechi ryouri because they look “good”–and of course, last longer than the average tamagoyaki thanks to all the preservation qualities of the sugar and sake and mirin. And for another more tasty tidbit of some food for thought: the rolled shape also resembles a calligraphy scroll, signifying “culture” and “knowledge”.
So if that sounds tasty to you–let’s get started!
Cast of Characters:
– 1 package of hanpen (A mild Japanese fish cake made of Japanese yam, Alaskan pollock, and kombu) If you can’t find any hanpen on hand, you could always try it with shrimp, but I do urge you to try the hanpen! (You can also fry it up in some butter for a tasty seafood treat)
– 4 large eggs
– 2 tbsp. mirin
– 1 tbsp. sake
– 1 tbsp. sugar
– 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
– 8″ x 8″ Baking dish
– Parchment paper (Makes removal a cinch!)
– A bamboo mat/sushi mat
This all may be a bit complicated for just one relatively-long-lasting dish, but think of it this way–having a bamboo mat on hand opens a whole realm of culinary possibilities!
Anyroad, let’s get started…
1. First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line your baking dish with the parchment paper.
2. Next, cut your hanpen up into cubes and beat your four eggs into a bowl.
3. Pour your eggs, hanpen, and seasoning into a food processor or a blender and blend until smooth
4. Now pour your batter into your prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is nice and brown; brown is fine so don’t worry if the top gets a little darker than your average tamago dish.
5. Please note: We will be rolling the omelette while it’s still hot so be prepared for a bit of heat and make sure you have your sushi mat ready. Once the omelette is done, remove it from your pan, place your sushi mat on top, then flip it over and remove the parchment paper backing…
6. Now score shallow cuts into your omelette every 1/2 inch or so–this will help the omelette from breaking up as it cools.
7. Finally, roll tightly and set aside to cool for 2-3 hours. You can wrap rubber bands around the bamboo mat, or plastic wrap, to help it keep its shape. Also, keep it upright–it will release a bit of grease when you roll it up and this way it can drip down!
8. Once cool, simply cut into pieces and yay — you’ve got some datemaki to share! It will apparently last for up to 4-5 days when refrigerated, but be sure to serve it at room temperature!
By the way, if you need an in-depth guide on the rolling of the datemaki, check out this blog for tips and tricks–I got a little sidetracked towards the end, sorry guys!
Annnd that’s about it! So what does it taste like exactly? It’s got the tamagoyaki sweetness, and also the distinct taste of the hanpen–which is something I love so I’m not complaining over here. Also I might have flubbed a bit when baking my datemaki–typical datemaki are characterized by their dark outerskin; I would advise placing your oven racks a little closer to the top–or cooking the datemaki a little longer to make sure it gets some nice color.
Otherwise, this is a pretty tasty and long-lasting dish–make it for a light dinner or serve it up in bentos for a couple of days! Annnd yep, that’s all there is to this week’s Fantastic Feast–tune in next time when we tackle other new and inspiring dishes!