The Japanese egg salad sandwich has taken America by storm. Konbi, the little storefront near Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, was named the number one restaurant of the year by Bon Appetit for 2019; the ?Egg Salad Sandwich? is its signature item. Other restaurants featuring Japanese-style egg salad sandwiches are popping up on both the east and west coasts.
And no wonder. The tamago sando (????) ? literally ?egg sandwich? ? is a triumph of Japanese cuisine, an exquisite pairing of fluffy Japanese-style sandwich bread (?shoku-pan?) and the pure, unadulterated taste of eggs in all their glory. It is ubiquitous in Japan, mainly found in the ?convenience stores? (conbini or ????) which dot the country. Even the legendary Anthony Bourdaine tweeted about the ?The Unnatural, Inexplicable Deliciousness of the Lawson?s egg salad sandwich?.
Tamago sando from a Japanese convenience store
There is no shortage of tamago sando recipes floating around ? dozens, if not hundreds. We even have a recipe which is supposed to be the one used by Konbi. However, in my opinion every single one of these recipes is flawed, often seriously, in one way or another. After extensive research and experimentation, I am pleased to present the only Japanese egg salad recipe you will ever need.
Our recipe is untainted by extraneous ingredients which distract from the pure taste of eggs. We include no green onions, chives, tarragon, pickles, relish, jalapenos, avocados, chopped bell peppers, bacon bits, cucumbers, celery, shallots, pepperoncini or anything else in the egg mixture. We do not try to ?jazz up? the sandwich with the whole medium-boiled egg in the middle that Konbi (see below) and others have inserted for some unknown reason, which distracts from both the appearance and the mouth-feel of the sandwich. And no lettuce (or ham), please.
The foundation of any tamago sando is Japanese shoku-pan (???), that light, fluffy, stretchy, pillowy, soft, slightly sweet, wispy, melt-in-your-mouth, mild-flavored, snow-white, perfectly square, thin-crusted bread much beloved of the Japanese for eating as toast and of course making sandwiches. Some call it ?milk bread?. You can find it at any Japanese grocery store. Failing that, perhaps a French boulangerie near you has pain de mie, which has a similar texture, shape, and sweetness. So-called ?Pullman bread? ? named for its use in early railroad dining cars ? is also quite similar.
If you are so inclined, you can make any of these breads yourself. Many die-hard tamago sando fans might choose to do so. Konbi is said to have commissioned its own bread. However, we will not be discussing bread-making further in this recipe. We will assume you have purchased shoku-pan at the Japanese store, or perhaps an Asian bakery. Get the square kind ? kakushoku (??)? not sliced too thick. If all else fails, just go with Wonder Bread.
This recipe is for one single sandwich, so pull out two slices and arrange them on a cutting board. Some recipes call for trimming the crusts at this point; we will instead do that at the very end.
Karashi (Japanese mustard)
It?s very important that the bread be coated with a mixture of butter and karashi, that dark yellow, perky, nose-tingling Japanese mustard-based condiment. Many chefs who should know better omit this indispensable step! Konbi’s recipe, bizarrely, calls for squirting (not spreading) Dijon on one side, and mayonnaise on the other, and no butter at all. Butter on the bread not only enhances the taste of the sandwich, of course, but also crucially forms a barrier between the bread and the egg salad mixture we will soon be placing on the bread, preventing the bread from turning soggy. Furthermore, the oils in the butter interact with and complement the oils in the bread ? shoku-pan has up to ten times as much oil as typical Western bread. We recommend softening an appropriate amount of butter ? perhaps two tablespoons ? in a microwave, then blending in a suitable amount of karashi (go easy ?it packs a punch). Then spread the blended karashi-bata on one side of both slices.
We strongly recommend Japanese karashi because it leaves out all the spices and other adulterants found in Western mustards, being made exclusively from crushed mustard seeds. In a pinch, use Chinese hot mustard which, like karashi, also comes in powder form which you can mix yourself with water. I have no idea why anyone would use Dijon, with its cloying wine-influenced flavor; in an emergency, I?d rather use French?s.
For one sandwich, we are going to use three eggs, or, more precisely two whites and three yolks. Of course, it is by far most common to use the same number of eggs and whites. However, the 3:2 ratio we propose yields the creamiest, yellowest, eggiest egg mixture. In other words, we will boil three eggs, use all the yolks, lay one white aside, and use the remaining two whites for our sandwich.
Boiling the eggs
There as many methods for boiling eggs as there are cooks. This is not a tutorial on how to boil eggs. Please feel to choose your own approach. You may wish to start with slightly older eggs.
The important thing is to end up with eggs at exactly the right level of hard-boiledness ? we?re looking for just slightly under a traditional hard-boiled level. Some call this ?medium-boiled?. If, like me, you take the approach of placing eggs (directly from the refrigerator, please) in boiling water, then my recommendation is to leave them there for 9 1/2 minutes at a medium boil. I have seen suggestions ranging from 8 1/2 to twelve, but 10 minutes seems to be the sweet spot, and also results in the most pleasing color along the orange-to-yellow spectrum. After removing the eggs from the boiling water, you will of course place them in a bath of ice water, which both stops the cooking process and inhibits that greenish substance from forming around the yolks. Leave the eggs in the bath a few minutes (some recommend up to fifteen minutes) to cool down and become easier to peel.
Processing the yolks
Cut the eggs in half and pop out the yolks. Run the yolks through a fine sieve to create a silky-smooth yolk powder. This is a technique borrowed from deviled egg recipes. If you have no sieve, or this doesn?t work for some reason, go ahead and pulverize the yolks with a fork.
When the yolks have been powderized or smashed, and only then, whisk in mayonnaise. There is only one kind of mayonnaise to use in Japanese egg salad sandwiches: Japanese mayonnaise, preferably the Kewpie brand (although there are others). Japanese mayonnaise is distinguished by the fact that it is made only from yolks, uses rice vinegar, and is slightly sweeter; it is refined, pale, balanced, and creamy. In an emergency, you can use American mayonnaise with the addition of some rice vinegar and sugar. If you are using Japanese mayonnaise like Kewpie, then under no circumstances should you add additional rice wine vinegar or soy sauce or sugar, as some recipes irresponsibly suggest, or God forbid catsup, or paprika, cayenne, onion powder, sriracha, celery powder, or garlic powder. Whatever you do, do not add mustard, either Japanese or Western, to this mix as Konbi does. Mustard goes in exactly one place: the butter spread on the bread as described earlier.
Whisk the mayonnaise into the egg yolks until the mixture is ultra-smooth. A good starting point is one tablespoon of mayonnaise per egg, so three tablespoons in our case. More wouldn?t hurt.
Some misguided souls may attempt to use a food processor in this step. Don?t follow their example.
Now throw in a pinch of your favorite salt ? don?t overdo it. No one wants an overly salty egg salad sandwich. The goal is that you should not be able to taste the salt in the finished product. If so inclined, you could try Japanese salts like moshio (??) seaweed salt, the earliest known Japanese sea salt, first produced nearly 2,500 years ago; brands include Awajishima and Amabito. It has a round, rich, umami flavor. Konbi supposedly uses Maldon.
Add pepper. There are those who insist on white pepper, but specks of black pepper will hardly distract from the sandwich?s appearance. On the other hand, fresh white pepper will add the hotness without the complexity which might distract from the egg taste. If black pepper, opinions vary on whether freshly ground is better or not. Japanese pepper such as S&B is a blend of white and black and is a safe bet if you can get your hands on it.
We have heard of tamago sando aficionados who make their own mayonnaise. We applaud them, but it?s hardly necessary. Just go with Kewpie, or if need be a similar alternative like Ajinomoto Pure Select. In the case of Kewpie, avoid the American-made version, which has less of the savory umami note.
Please note that the entire process above relates only to the yolks. We are emphatically not mashing or chopping the yolks together with the whites, as the great majority of recipes suggest, or as your Mom may have done. It is critically important that only the yolks be first combined with the mayonnaise. This ensures that the yolks are correctly emulsified into the mayonnaise. Even Japanese schoolchildren know that the yolks should be combined with the mayonnaise before the whites are mixed in. One shudders at the thought of entire eggs brutally smashed together with mayonnaise.
Processing the whites
Of the three whites, set aside one, as mentioned above, We are going for a 3:2 yolk-to-egg ratio.
We want to process the whites into pieces exactly the right size and shape to take the coating of the yolk mixture. Some try to accomplish this with an egg slicer, for example running the eggs through the egg slicer in two different directions. Others recommend simply mashing the egg whites with a fork. The obvious approach, of course, is to simply chop them with a knife on a cutting board. The only proper way to process the whites, however, is with a potato ricer. This yields perfectly shaped pieces of whites just yearning to be coated with the yolk mixture.
Combining the egg mixture
Add the whites to the yolk mixture and blend gently with a spatula, taking care not to crush the whites.
Spatula for blending riced egg whites and yolk mixture
Do not add anything else to this mixture (or to the yolk mixture). Do not add milk. Do not add cream. Do not add creme fraiche. Do not add mustard, Dijon or otherwise. Do not add anything regardless of what some famous tamago sando restaurant is supposedly adding. Do not add anything regardless of what some reputable recipe site claims is required to make the mixture ?creamier?. Believe me, the eggs will do just fine all by themselves..
The result should be an exquisite, bright yellow, aromatic egg salad just waiting to be spooned onto the bread.
Spoon the egg salad mixture onto one slice of the bread. Spread it out using, ideally, an offset spatula. Do not heap more mixture than you want on the bread. There is no need to be concerned at this point about spreading perfectly evenly or all the way to the side.
Place the other slice on top. Press down gently.
Compressing the sandwich
We will now compress the sandwich, a crucial and oft-overlooked step. Place the sandwich on a plate, and put another plate on top. Alternatively, wrap the sandwich semi-tightly in plastic wrap. Place the sandwich in the refrigerator for at least ten minutes, or up to several hours. This marries the egg salad mixture to the bread, spreads it out more evenly, and increases its density and therefore its impact on the palate.
Remove the sandwich from the fridge, and unwrap it if necessary. We will now cut off the crusts, or as the Japanese endearingly call them the mimi (?), or ?ears?, of the bread. Removing the crusts is mandatory. Crusts would interfere with both the visual and gustatory impact of our sandwich.
Cut the sandwich as you please ? into two rectangular halves, into three or four parts, diagonally into two large triangles la Japanese convenience store, or even into four little triangles. Plate them as your instincts dictate. Feel free to drop a sprig of parsely or mitsuba on top of the sandwich as a garnish.
You?re done now. Relax and enjoy your sandwich.
- Two slices of shoku-pan milk bread
- Three eggs
- Two tablespoons salted butter
- Three tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise
- One teaspoon karashi Japanese mustard
- Salt and pepper
- Blend karashi into softened butter and spread on two pieces of shoku-pan.
- Boil eggs for approximately ten minutes, plunge into an ice bath, and peel them. Separate the yolks and whites. Set aside one white.
- Push the yolks through a fine sieve, or mash them. Whisk in mayonnaise until the mixture is smooth. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Use a potato ricer to rice the two remaining whites. Fold the riced whites gently into the yolk mixture, ensuring they are coated with the yolk mixture.
- Mound the egg mixture on one slice of bread, spread with a spatula, and cover with the other slice. Press down, wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator for at least ten minutes.
- Remove sandwich from refrigerator and slice off crusts. Cut into pieces and serve.