Saturday, October 2, 2010

Egg Yolk Sauce (Teppanyaki Style)

Here's some shrimp snuggled under the sauce.
If you've ever been to a teppanyaki-style restaurant (those Japanese steak houses where food is cooked right in front of you), you might have had what they refer to as "egg yolk sauce" or "golden egg yolk sauce."

I first had this strange sauce at a restaurant called Kampai in Mt. Prospect, Illinios, and I believe it also was served at the Benihana restaurants at one time. It may have migrated to or from other restaurants, but those are the two I'm familiar with.

At Kampai, the sauce was served on a shrimp appetizer and on a lobster entree, and every time I ordered it, I asked about the ingredients or I asked about technique. At first, I was convinced that it was a cheese sauce, but I was told over and over that there was no cheese - no dairy at all.

The most common answer I got to my many queries was that it was just egg yolks and oil. Okay, basically a mayonnaise. But it was orange and somewhat solid before it went onto the food. That's not your basic mayo.

Since they weren't willing to divulge the while recipe, I'd ask small, specific questions. Sometimes I'd ask about the eggs, and sometimes it would be about the oil. Are they chicken eggs? Are they treated some special way? What kind of oil is it? What makes it orange?

The answers were always vague. Regular chicken eggs, regular oil.

When I went searching online for the recipe, I saw a lot of people looking for it, and there were no good answers. There were a few people who'd experimented with the recipe and more than a few strange suggestions. I tried most of them, with varying degrees of success and a lot of eggs sacrificed. Scrambled eggs on top of shrimp isn't all that good. Over time, although I was getting closer to my goal, it was never right. For one thing, the orange color eluded me.

I recently decided to give it another try, and as I was assembling the ingredients, inspiration struck. The heavens opened up, a great light shone down, puzzle pieces shifted, and suddenly the whole recipe made perfect sense. I had cracked the code, found the grail, and solved the mystery of the Sphinx. This was it. This was the Egg Yolk Sauce I'd been looking for.

Over the years, I had tried a lot of different additions to the mixture, looking for the elusive flavor and color. I tried a few drops of toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon, and a number of other things. Some of the flavors weren't bad, but they weren't right. And nothing gave me the bright color. 

When the light bulb finally lit and I had my "aha" moment, it became obvious. I had originally thought the sauce had cheese in it, and my secret ingredient is common in cheese. It's not a huge flavor, but it was that elusive "something" that was missing in all the previous trials. When I tested it and it worked, I was dancing like a fool.

This is definitely a recipe for special occasions, since it really is little more (but a secret little more) than egg yolks and oil. I suppose it's not worse than mayonnaise, though. Much.

In previous attempts over many years, I tried a number of oils, different combinations of oils, and even some more exotic oils. In the end, the oil that best matches my memory of Kampai best is plain old corn oil. Others work, but since there's so much oil in play, the flavor does matter. Olive oil would be just plain wrong. Some others would be too bland. But feel free to experiment.

Technique also matters. Sort of. I read one comment about making the sauce that insisted that the key was a wooden spoon. There might have been a special bowl as well. Come on folks, it's not voodoo. I used a whisk.

I've also tried this in a blender, but since I was making such a small amount it wasn't very efficient. If I was making a gallon of the stuff, maybe a machine might be better. But one or two yolks at a time, a whisk does a fine job.

If you've ever made mayonnaise before, this will seem very familiar. If not, just follow the instructions. It's pretty simple, really.

Egg Yolk Sauce

Mmmm... cheese! I mean Egg Yolk Sauce.
2 egg yolks
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon salt (depending on your taste)
10 drops annatto cheese coloring*
1/2 cup corn oil (or more, as needed)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, salt and cheese coloring until the yolks start to lighten. Of course it will now be very orange because of the annatto. But it should become lighter because you're incorporating air as you whisk.

Begin drizzling in the oil slowly, whisking all the while. You can also add in small amounts and whisk to combine in between additions. But you want to make sure the oil is only going in as fast as you can incorporate it.

Note: if you've made your own annatto oil, start with that and keep an eye on the color. You want to end with something that is a pleasant cheesy orange, and not neon orange. If it looks like it's taking on too much color, switch to a plain oil for the rest. It will change color a bit as it cooks, but you don't want it glowing.

Soon, the mixture will begin to thicken to a mayonnaise consistency. Keep adding oil and keep whisking. The goal is a thick, smooth shiny mass that's just a little short of the consistency of Velveeta.

This mixture can be refrigerated until you're ready to use it, and it will get just a bit thicker in the cold.

*Annatto is used to color many different foods including cheese. But it's not just coloring. Annatto also adds flavor. It's subtle, but it makes a difference. If you can't find the cheese coloring, you can make your own annatto oil.

41 comments:

Morgan D. said...

This looks super interesting. I'm totally going to make this since im just obsessed with condiments. I had a question, though. In the "notes" section you say "it will change color a bit as it cooks" but i didnt see a cooking step anywhere. Is this prepared like mayo and just whipped together, or should i apply heat at some point?
Thanks for the awesome recipe!

Donna Currie said...

Hi Morgan -

The sauce is typically cooked on top of the seafood. Check out the recipe for the shrimp with egg yolk sauce for details.

Melbourne Cooking School said...

I agree this is pretty interesting!
You'll find that the Japanese versions of mayo is very different to Western style mayo.
This being the Japanese mayo is sweeter.
Excuse me if I'm being obvious!

Did you manage to replicate the flavour?
I'll bet that the 'secret' ingredient could be the sweet mayonnaise they use.

Donna Currie said...

Hi Melbourne -

Yes, the flavor was very close to the flavor I remember. It wasn't sweet at all. When I first tasted it, I thought it might be some kind of very mild cheese.

Melbourne Cooking School said...

I see, the sweet mayonnaise is a typical Japanese flavour they use in restaurants.
I'm going to give this one a try on my wok :)
Thank you all for the tips.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering, Is the annatto cheese coloring absolutely necessary... for flavor, or is it just for aesthetic purposes in this recipe?

Donna Currie said...

The annatto is mostly for color. It imparts a little flavor, but not enough that it's going to be a deal-breaker if you don't use it.

Anonymous said...

well alright! I actually think I'm going to try it right now thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone made this and how did it turn out??? I tried making it and did not turn out at all. I followed the recipe just as it said. Does the eggs need to be room temp....? I really love this sauce and I have tried so MANY versions of it and nothing seems to work, I would be happy if someone could give me some help here.. Thank You.

Donna Currie said...

I've made this several times. The key is that the egg yolks have to be lightened up first, before you add the oil. You're essentially making a mayonnaise, but without the lemon juice that's typically in mayonnaise.

Brad said...

How long does it take to "lighten up" the yolk? I used a blender for over 3 minutes and my sauce still would not harden.

Brad

Donna Currie said...

It might depend on your blender and how much egg yolk you've got in there. Some of the blenders have blades are set a little high, so a single yolk is too far down and doesn't get air whipped into it. You can also do this by hand. Use a whisk to beat the yolk until it's thicker and lemon-colored, then add the oil a little at a time.

Anonymous said...

blenders wont work. I usen my kitchen aid with the wisk attachment. If not try it my hand.

Anonymous said...

I used yellow/orange cake coloring to add the perfect yellow color!

This recipe is excellent, my fiance will be pleased!!!!

Anonymous said...

can i use vegetable oil

Donna Currie said...

Use any light-flavored oil you like. Olive oil would be way too strong, but a standard vegetable oil would work just fine.

Anonymous said...

I have made this using a little of the Sazon powder with coriander and annato by Goya and find this works well too. Like with the annato oil add little at at time, it adds a hint of flavor too. As I recall at Kampai, they add a little cooking wine and cover it to steam the custard. I have done this at home, that seems to add to the flavor too.

Donna Currie said...

Yes, you're right. That bottle of mirin was used quite a bit at Kampai.

jimmy deane said...

Hi Donna I have just returned to Stellenbosch after finishing my Oz trip with a memorable meal at Kobe Jones Rocks in Sydney: our first course was served with what they called Number 1 sauce: is it the same thing do you think? seemed much lighter in colour but was really delicious. It was a fish dish which they flambeyed ( or whatever)

Donna Currie said...

Jimmy, I have no idea if this is made outside US teppanyaki-style restaurants, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are variations elsewhere. Leave the annato out and it will be quite a bit lighter.

Anonymous said...

So I realize this is egg yolk, right? and you do mention something about cooking it...but I find nothing in the instructions about cooking it? Please clarify? How can I heat this without it becoming scrambled eggs?

Donna Currie said...

The next post shows how to cook it. Here's the link: http://www.cookistry.com/2010/10/shrimp-with-egg-yolk-sauce.html

Anonymous said...

We first had this at Kampai as well about 20 years ago. (Side note: We ate there recently despite bad reviews regarding new owners and it was as good as ever!) I've tried to replicate this sauce several times over the years (with food coloring, not the annatto), and never got the right consistency. I was always using a blender, mixer, or food processor - even with several egg yolks it didn't thicken up. I never thought to try it by hand, but it sounds promising. Now I just need to find the annatto...

Stefany said...

I have all of the ingredients, including the annatto. I had issues with things thickening up also. I hand whisked. I have a kitchenaid with a whip attachment. has anyone had that work for them?

Anonymous said...

I've had this egg sauce at Jon of Japan, downtown Chicago and just tonight at Fuji Steakhouse in Orland Park, Il. I think I remember having it some years back at Benihana's too. I have been asking ALL OF THEM the same questions on how its prepared. Not one person at ANY of these restaurants will divulge the secret - just that it's eggs & oil. I have been looking for this recipe or twenty years and find it kinda weird that NO ONE will tell! I see that annatto can be purchased on Ebay but I havent seen it in any store. Where did you buy it? I also read that the spice turmeric can substitute for annatto. Before its cooked, it has the consistency of cooked custard. I have also tasted a hint of garlic powder sometimes (a dash perhaps?). Since I have leftovers in the fridge (breakfast!!), I'm going to try your recipe tonight and use my Fuji leftovers for a comparison. Will post again if I get it right :)

Anonymous said...

It's Ron of Japan...sorry for my typo..

Anonymous said...

Turmeric, although it DOES get the right color, it also gives an odd flavor. I noticed that Hellman's Mayonnaise is made with soybean oil. I think it would make sense that the egg sauce we are looking for MAY be made with that? As promised, I DID make this and it seems to fall short of the real deal (my leftovers...). I found the link to this site on Pinterest. I VOW to keep looking for the actual recipe and PROMISE to post it there if I find it. I can't believe that all these Japanese restaurant workers have kept it a secret all these years! and I have searched EVERYWHERE!! If any of you find it, PLEASE post on Pinterest. Type in 'egg sauce' and you will find this recipe and me. Suz

Donna Currie said...

I didn't think turmeric would work as far as flavor. Annato is the coloring agent used in making cheese. You can find annato seeds at Mexican markets and some spice shops, and steep in in warm oil to extract color and flavor. The annato coloring I used was purchased online from a cheesemaking supplier.

Donna Currie said...

Also, I imagine that different places add their own twist on it, so some may add different spices. I never noticed anything like garlic, but it's possible that it's used at one of the places you mentioned.

Michelle Renae (Romines) Wright said...

I was thinking same thing Jimmy D. re: lighter color. I have had the ' egg sauce' over sea scallops at a local Japanese steakhouse, many times. It looks and tastes a lot like plain mayo, which I have never been a fan of, but maybe it is just homemade fresh whipped mayo. I have made sea scallops at home, steamed them with a little wine and butter, then give it a swirl of soy sauce and top with plain mayo. Let it cook like that with lid on for just a few minutes, and the taste is identical to what I've had...maybe the reason for all the secrecy; it's just plain mayo?

Donna Currie said...

It's interesting that the sauce at the restaurant you went to was so light in color. Where we went, it was a rather vibrant yellow-orange color. When it comes down to it, egg yolk and oil IS mayonnaise, but the stuff at the restaurant we went to was super-thick, and almost jelly-like, so it wasn't a typical mayo. I'm guessing that most of the similar restaurants have their own recipe.

Vicky Ebbort said...

i dont know...i used my kitchen aid and it wouldnt thicken up for you or me...i whiped it forever...used pure veg oil?????

Vicky Ebbort said...

It was the eggs....Go figure.Tried diffrent eggs and they whipped up great

Donna Currie said...

Wow,that's crazy. I never would have thought of suggesting that. I'm glad the different eggs worked for you!

crawleyecho said...

I am definitely trying this! I've been going to Kampai since I was a kid and it's still mine and now my husband's favorite place!

Brenda DeVries said...

My arms feel like jello from all that whisking... but I've done it! :D Donna, you're my hero!! I've been looking for this recipe for over five years since I've moved to Southern California. Annatto is the answer!! I couldn't find the seeds to make the oil, but used a little bit of the powder, and I think it's just about perfect. Thank you SOOO much!! <3

Donna Currie said...

I love a success story! Thanks for letting me know.

K Anderson said...

I am a Kampai fan as well - since I was 8 years old! I love their spicy garlic version of this sauce - any ideas on how that is made??

Steven Long said...

I love the kampai! Have been going there since I was very young. I am assuming you live near mt.prospect....I am trying to make the recipe this week but can not find the Annato oil anywhere....can you tell me where you got it from?

Jim Lewis said...

I tried making the sauce similar to hollandaise but instead of butter I used vegetable oil. The only ingredient I added other than egg yolks and oil was salt. It was very similar to what I have had at teppan yaki restaurants. I think the actual recipe is very basic. Not sure what oil is used. Warming it in a double boiler like hollandaise make it thick and stayed together when heated.

Jim Lewis said...
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