Sweet and savory at the same time, datemaki is a umami rich traditional Japanese recipe based on fishcakes and dashi stock that is often part of the traditional New Year’s festivities but can be made throughout the year as well.

What is Datemaki?

This sweet and salty egg roll is a popular dish during Japanese New Years. It’s a petite rolled omelet with fish paste that is usually a bit sweet as well. Like most of the New Year’s food and decoration, the dish has a symbolic meaning that projects into the rest of the year.

In this case, datemaki represents success in academics and learning, in part due to its similarity to a scroll of parchment. For this reason, it is particularly popular in households where there are students or a strong academic tradition. But the truth is that datemaki is so delicious you can enjoy it any time of the year! Let us show you how.

What is Hanpen?

Hanpen is an authentic Japanese food that is a mixture of whitefish and Japanese yam potato. You can easily order Kibun Hanpen online or make this dish with just white fish yourself, depending on your cooking skills. Hanpen has a long history of use in Japanese culture and traditions. Indeed, a Japanese chef Hanpei invented Hanpen way back in the Edo period of the country’s history.

Hanpen is a surimi product, which means it is white fish that is made into a paste and shaped into different forms for different occasions. Surimi is also a main ingredient of kamaboko, another style of popular fish cake throughout Japan. Pollack is one of the most popular white fish for surimi, but there are many other possibilities as well.

Learn the symbolism of osechi ryori here.

What is Dashi?

One of the essential ingredients to a good datemaki is dashi stock, a broth that acts as a key ingredient in many different authentic Japanese food recipes. There are actually many different kinds of dashi stock, but the most common is made from kombu seaweed and bonito flakes. You can find this kind of dashi stock, awase dashi, in most Asian supermarkets and online. Dashi adds a strong umami flavor element to any dish and is an essential ingredient to this datemaki!

Cooking Tips

  • Depending on the strength of your oven, you’ll need to slightly adjust the temperature/ cooking time to get the perfect color. The top of the datemaki should turn evenly brown. Also, it should be able to pass the toothpick test we describe in the recipe instructions and video. This ensures that your datemaki will have the perfect consistency!
  • It might be hard to find hanpen unless you live close to a Japanese/Asian grocery store. You can easily substitute hanpen with other types of white fish like corvina, cod and haddock. These fish should be available at any normal supermarket in the west.
  • Make sure to roll the egg very tightly so that it stays in the rolled position until it is served. Shallow cut lines that you make before rolling makes it much easier for you to roll and for the egg to stay in shape. Even in rush, don’t skip the step!


Course Side Dish
Cuisine Japanese


  • 8 Egg
  • 7 oz Hanpen or White Fish


  • 4 Tbsp Dashi Stock
  • 2 Tbsp Mirin
  • 5 Tbsp Sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a food processor, add the eggs, hanpen cut into bite-sized pieces, and the seasonings. (If using white fish, process the fish before adding the rest of the ingredients.) Mix until smooth, and then strain.
  2. Cover the oven tray (10x10) with a baking sheet, and pour in the mixture. Bake for 25 minutes on the top rack until brown. Insert a toothpick and if nothing gets stuck to it, it’s done.
  3. Peel the baking sheet off, and place the datemaki brown side down on an oni-sudare makisu bamboo mat. Make shallow cut lines vertically, about 1/2 inches apart, and roll tightly. Tighten the roll with rubber bands, and leave to cool.
  4. Slice to serve.