When a western omelette meets a typical Japanese fried rice, this gives the omurice! Find out why this tasty dish is so popular on Japanese family tables.
What is omurice?
Omurice is a Japanese dish made with a thin, airy omelette wrapped in a chicken stir-fried rice mixture seasoned with ketchup sauce. The Japanese like to decorate the top of the omelet with small ketchup designs.
This dish, composed of ingredients found everywhere, is very easy to reproduce on our Western tables. In Japan, it is common to make an omurice with leftover chikin raisu (chicken fried rice) from the day before.
If the addition of ketchup in the sautéed rice seems surprising, this condiment gives this slightly sweet taste that is the hallmark of the dish. For convenience, most Japanese use commercially-purchased ketchup in bottles. However, you can make your own homemade ketchup to create a richer and more personalized flavor.
For those who do not like ketchup, a variant of omurice uses hayashi rice sauce, a traditional stew of beef and vegetables.
What is the origin of omurice?
Omurice (オムライス), also called omuraisu, appeared in the early 1900s, along with many other iconic yōshoku dishes. The concept of fusion cuisine, born in the Meiji era, consists of adapting dishes from Western to Japanese origins.
If the exact origins of this recipe remain uncertain, it is thought that it was probably created in Tokyo, in one of the western-style restaurants of the time. Renga-tei, a restaurant famous for popularizing tonkatsu (Japanese fried pork), also claims to be at the origin of this dish.
The name omurice is what the Japanese call a wasei-eigo, that is, a type of term borrowing words from the English language. Omurice is thus a contraction of the Japanese word omuretsu, meaning “omelette” and rice.
In Japan, it is one of the most popular dishes among children and is often found on the menu of family restaurants. Lovers of anime, these Japanese series and animated films, will also recognize the dish that makes frequent appearances.
Over the last century, omurice has crossed the borders of Japan to invite itself to the plates of other Asian countries. After the Japanese colonization, it became particularly widespread in Korea.
The B-kyu gurume, the casual Japanese cuisine
Omurice is both part of the family of yōshoku, these recipes of Western inspiration, but also of B-kyu gurume, literally “second-class gastronomy”. This type of cuisine refers to family dishes, simple to make and inexpensive.
Born in the mid-80s, B-kyu gurume became popular in the 90s, when the economy of the country was in crisis. Before this period, it was customary for Japanese to dine in upscale and gourmet restaurants to confirm their social class. The appearance of this second-rate cuisine then upset the Japanese culture and the idea that it was absolutely necessary to pay a high bill to eat well.
What are the variants of omurice?
In Japan, there are almost as many versions of the omurice as homes: each achieved a little in its own way and according to people’s tastes. To vary from the chicken, you can complement the rice with beef, pork, shrimp or simply vegetables to make it vegetarian.
As the wrapping of the omelette can be tricky, many people just make scrambled eggs and put them on a bed of stir-fried rice.
A more elaborate version of the omurice is called “explosive omelette” or tampopo omurice, in reference to a scene from the famous Japanese film. Here, the eggs are cooked like a very creamy omelette, rolled up. The rice is on the side of the plate, shaped in an oval and compact form. The half-cooked omelette is then placed on top and split lengthwise to come to spread on the rice.
On the island of Okinawa, the inhabitants have their own variant of omurice called omutako. Instead of the classic fried rice, they use taco rice to stuff the omelette, a typical regional dish that mixes rice and beef with a seasoning of Mexican spices.
Finally, omusoba is based on the same principle as omurice, but with yakisoba, Japanese noodles sautéed in a pan.
- 1 chicken breast cut into small cubes
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1⅔ cup long grain rice cooked
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons fresh peas or frozen peas
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the oil.
- Add the chicken and fry for 2 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the onion and cook until the onion becomes translucent.
- Add the cooked rice and cook on medium/high heat, stirring for 2 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the ketchup and mix.
- Fry on medium/high heat for 2 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Then add the peas and cook for 2 minutes.
- Spread half of the ketchup rice in two tightly packed rice bowls and unmold them each in the center of a plate.
- Beat the eggs and add a pinch of salt. Mix well.
- Add half of the oil into a pan and heat.
- Add half of the egg mixture into the hot pan and spread it into a thin round omelette just like a crepe.
- Add the rice into the thin omelette and give it an oval shape.
- Renew the process for the second omurice.
- Drizzle ketchup on top.
- Serve immediately.