Japanese kids’ favourite dish, Omurice (Japanese Rice Omelette) is another Western-influenced Japanese dish. It is basically an omelette with ketchup-flavoured chicken fried rice inside it.
The word ‘omurice’ or ‘omuraisu’ (オムライス) is a typical Japanese-made English dish. It’s made by combining omelette and rice. The Japanese way of pronouncing omelette is ‘omuretsu’ (オムレツ) so they took the first two syllables from it and connected to ‘rice’ or ‘raisu’ (ライス) as per Japanese pronunciation.
There are a few restaurants that claimed to be the first to introduce omurice but one of the well-known of those restaurants is Renga-tei (煉瓦亭) in Ginza, Tokyo.
The origin of this omurice goes back to 1900. Renga-tei made a dish for the kitchen workers by cooking the egg mixed with meat and rice so that busy workers can eat it with just a spoon. So, the original omurice is not like today’s omurice but rather like fried rice with lots of eggs. The shape of this dish resembles the modern omurice though.
Another restaurant that is known to be the inventor of omurice is called Hokkyokusei (北極星) in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. There was a customer who always asked for a bowl of rice with an omelette. He could not eat other dishes due to stomach problems. The owner of the restaurant felt sorry for him eating the same dish every day so he served a new dish by wrapping rice with a thinly cooked egg. This is much closer to the current version of omurice.
When I was in Japan with my kids as part of the annual RecipeTin Family Trip in February, we went to a restaurant in Shibuya that is famous for omurice. It was so yummy that I wanted to eat it again. So, when I stayed at my sister’s place later on, I asked my sister’s husband to make me omurice since he often makes it for their twin grandsons.
It was actually Nagi’s idea to get him to cook omurice so that I could take photos of how he made it. He was pretty good at it and on this occasion he used bacon instead of chicken. I was a bit hungry but not starving so I was going to eat only half of it, but I could not stop eating it and cleared the plate. Here is the series of photos of my brother-in-law making omurice (sorry, they re not great photos).
The standard omurice consists of red fried rice that is flavoured with tomato ketchup and a thin sheet of cooked egg. It is topped with a blob of tomato ketchup. But these days, there are many variations.
The fried rice could be flavoured without ketchup or the rice could have a curry flavour. The topping can also be more artistic by drawing a zig-zag pattern with ketchup (see the last photo of my step-by-step photos at the end of the recipe), or sometimes demi-glace sauce is poured on the omurice like my brother-in-law’s omurice in the photo above.
Red Fried Rice
This is a very simple fried rice consisting of onion and chicken pieces. The flavouring of the original omurice is just tomato ketchup, salt and pepper.
The meat does not have to be chicken. You can use ham, bacon or perhaps pork. It should be cut into small pieces, say 1-1.5cm (½”) cubes. In the case of ham and bacon, you could cut them into short strips. You could also add other vegetables such as peas to give more colours to the rice.
Some people add flavouring to the red rice after frying all the ingredients including the rice. This is what my brother-in-law did. But some people mix tomato ketchup before adding the rice, then add the rice to the mix. I find that the latter method is easier to evenly coat the ketchup onto each rice grain.
Omelette for Omurice
It’s not really an omelette. As you can see in the step-by-step photo at the end of the recipe, it is a thin semi-cooked egg. When making omelette, it is important to turn the heat off while the surface of the egg is still wet. Then the egg clings to the rice and the texture of the egg is softer, like an omelette.
There are two ways of wrapping the red fried rice in the egg. One method is to place the rice on the cooked egg in the fry pan, then miraculously roll onto the plate. I attempted this method and showed it in the step-by-step photo. To do this, you must have a non-stick fry pan.
The key points for successful transfer of the omurice onto the plate are (refer to the step-by-step photos):
- Fold one side of the egg over the rice in the fry pan
- Slide the egg and rice towards the edge of the fry pan
- Place the serving plate next to the side of the fry pan, making a V-shape.
Once transferred, you will need to shape it into the pointy oval shape using kitchen paper and your hands.
If this is too hard, you can place the rice on the plate, shaping like a half gridiron ball, then place the egg over it. cover the omurice with kitchen paper and use your hands to shape and tuck in the excess egg under the rice. If needed, use a soft spatula to help tucking in.
It’s a bit fiddley but even if the egg is not neatly covering the rice, it is still yummy!
- 1 cup cooked rice
- ½ tbsp butter
- ¼ onion (note 1), finely chopped
- 50g (1.8oz) chicken diced into 1-1.5cm (½") cubes (note 2)
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup (note 3)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 small eggs (note 4)
- 1 tbsp milk
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp oil
- 1 tsp butter
- More tomato ketchup
If rice is cold, microwave for 1 minute to warm up.
Melt butter in a fry pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent (about 2 minutes).
Add chicken and cook for another couple of minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients except rice. Mix well ensuring that ingredients are evenly mixed with tomato ketchup.
Add rice and mix well ensuring every rice grain is coated in orange colour.
Turn the heat off.
Add eggs, milk, salt and pepper to a bowl and mix well. Try to cut the egg white into small bits by lifting the egg white with a fork or chopsticks occasionally. This will make the surface of an omelette consistently yellow without large white patches.
Add oil and butter to a non-stick 22-24cm (9") fry pan (note 5) and heat over high heat.
When the butter melts, add the egg mixture and mix well by scraping the cooked egg on the outer edge to the centre with a spatula.
While the surface of the egg is still slightly wet but the bottom is cooked, remove the fry pan from the heat. Position the fry pan with the handle diagonally on your right (for right hander).
Place the fried rice on the egg, slightly off-centre, allowing 2-3cm (¾-1¼") of egg around the rice on the left side of the handle and about 2/3 of surface of the egg on the other side.
Fold the right side of the egg over the rice covering part of the rice. Then shake and tilt the fry pan to slide the egg with the rice towards the left-hand side of the handle until the edge of the egg reaches to the edge of the fry pan. If it does not slide easily, use the spatula to help.
Place a serving plate next to the fry pan, making a V-shape and gently overturn the fry pan to roll the omurice over to the plate.
Place kitchen paper over the omurice and using both hands, shape it into an oval shape with a pointy end (like a gridiron ball cut in half lengthwise). If necessary, use a soft spatula to tuck in the edge of the omelette underneath the rice and shape it.
Dribble tomato ketchup on the top of omurice and serve with side salad of your choice.
1. My onion was about 50g (1.8oz).
2. Instead of chicken, you can use bacon or ham, cubed or sliced.
3. In Australia, tomato ketchup is called tomato sauce. I compared the flavour between Heinz Ketchup (American brand) and Three Three’s Tomato Sauce (Australian brand). There are differences and Heinz Ketchup is sweeter and a bit saltier than the Aussie one. The nutrition table also confirms these differences.
If you want, you can reduce the sweetness by replacing part of the tomato ketchup with Worcestershire sauce (the rice becomes a bit dark).
4. My egg was sold as 60g (2.1oz) each and when I cracked 3 eggs they weighed about 150g (5.3oz). You can use 2 very large eggs instead. Slight variations to the amount of egg should not be a problem.
5. I tried a few fry pans in different diameters and the 22-24cm (9") fry pan was the best size for standard one serving.
If your fry pan is much smaller, reduce the amount of rice, otherwise the egg cannot cover the rice easily.
If you have only a large fry pan, try to make a small size omelette instead of filling the entire surface of the fry pan. You can of course increase the amount of ingredients and make a large one instead.
6. Step-by-step photos: