Jidan (지단, egg garnish), is a technique from Korean royal cuisine. By separating the egg whites and yolks, you get both a bright white and a bright yellow color for your dish, which is especially important when balancing obangsaek (오방색, five primary colors: black, red, white, blue/green, yellow) on the traditional Korean table. Dishes like japchae (잡채) should have obangsaek.
Nowadays, you can buy a special square pan for making jidan, but if you don’t have one, any small, coated frying pan will do.
Don’t forget, jidan is a delicate creature—you shouldn’t have any browned spots or overcooked parts, nor any bubbles or wrinkles. There’s a saying in Korean: If you make nice jidan, you’ll have a pretty daughter. It might not be the most modern sentiment, but it’s at least an indication of how important it is to make perfect jidan. So pay attention while cooking and be extra careful!
A little cooking oil
1. Separate the yolks and whites and strain each through a fine sieve. Try not to foam the eggs and skim off any that appears.
2. Gently heat a small, non-stick pan and wipe a thin layer of oil on the surface with a paper towel. Too much oil will create bubbles so always make sure to wipe up any excess oil.
3. Start with the yolk and spread it over the bottom of the pan as thinly as you can—it should be about the thickness of a French crêpe. Cook over gentle heat.
4. Once the edges start changing color, it’s time to flip. Use one chopstick, slide it under the egg sheet, lift it up off the pan, and lower it onto the pan, opposite side down. Roll the chopstick to gently ease the egg off your chopstick and onto the pan. Once this side is cooked, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
5. Now it’s time for the whites! The whites are very delicate and require extra attention: Watch the heat carefully. Whenever you see steam rising up from the whites, remove the pan from the heat until you don’t see any more steam coming up, then return to the heat. This is very important: otherwise your egg white will take on a yellowish hue, and we don’t want this. Repeat this process until your whites set, and take a peek underneath to see if it’s ready to flip. Use the same one-chopstick method from step 4 to flip your whites.
Once both the yolks and whites have cooled, you can cut them into all kinds of shapes for garnishing, though the simplest and most common is straight strips that can be stacked on top of or mixed in with dishes. Now that you know how to make jidan, try out this recipe for japchae!