Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice omelette)

omuraisu1.jpg

In Japan, department store restaurants and kid-friendly "family restaurants" always have a children's set menu, called okosama ranchi. In my day this was unvaryingly the same wherever you went. It was usually a tiny hamburger, fried croquettes or similar child-friendly entrée, a small, moulded round of some kind of fried rice or pirafu (which was really still fried rice, but using butter and ketchup instead of oil and soy sauce) with a little paper Japanese flag on top, and maybe a tiny mound of some sort of vegetable, like boiled carrots. Or it was an omuraisu (omu rice). Omu rice, or rice omelette, is an example of yohshoku, Japanese food that originated in the west but has been changed around to suit the Japanese palette. It's an omelette stuffed with that same pirafu or chikin raisu (chicken rice), and topped with a dollop of red ketchup.

Going to the department store restaurant was a big treat for me. In all of my memories of eating at a department store restaurant, my oba-chan - grandmother - is there. In retrospect, as a young mother with two small children and a husband sent away by his company to England, my mother probably didn't have the budget or the time to treat us to restaurant lunches. So my grandmother made sure we had those treats whenever she visited.

I don't have many memories of my grandparents, because I only knew them for a few years of my childhood. I spent my growing up years moving around in Japan, England and the U.S., moving wherever my father's company sent him. My grandmother, my mother's mother, was never a very healthy woman. She had had 6 children, which was not an unusual number at the time, but by the time she had her first grandchild (me), she had already suffered her first minor stroke. She suffered from several strokes after that, and died in her early 60s, while I was in my teens.

I never knew my grandmother to wear anything other than a kimono. My other grandmother, my father's mother, wore dresses most of the time, but not my mother's mother. She was quite a traditional woman in that sense. She was quite strict, and had a rather severe face that rarely smiled (again thinking back, this was probably because her strokes had partially paralyzed her face), and I was a little afraid of her. But she was very proud of her grandchildren.

maki_753_w_obachan.jpg Here I am aged 3, at my shichigosan ceremony with my grandmother.

I never remember my grandmother cooking for us, except for her prized umeboshi - my aunt had taken over the household duties at the honke (the main house of the clan) by then. So when I think of oba-chan and food, I think of those oh-so-salty homemade umeboshi, and of okosama ranchi and omu raisu. The comforting combination of softly cooked omelette with sweet ketchup-flavored rice containing tiny bits of chicken, takes me back to my four year old self, gazing wide-eyed at the plastic food displays at the restaurant. I would glance up to oba-chan's face to see if I could order that beautiful yellow omuraisu - and maybe, just maybe, a chocolate parfait afterwards? Her answer was always yes.

Omraisu or omu rice (Japanese rice omelette)

omuraisu2.jpg

  • 1 cup cooked white or brown rice
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken breast or boiled ham, cut into small pieces
  • butter
  • ketchup in a squeeze bottle
  • 2 large eggs (organic preferred)
  • salt and pepper

Equipment needed: one large sauté pan, 1 20cm/8-inch nonstick or cast iron frying pan

Sauté the chopped onion until transparent in butter. Add the chicken or ham and sauté until done. Add the rice and toss until heated through. Add about 2 Tbs. of ketchup and toss rapidly - you just want to color and flavor the rice, not make it soggy. Season with a little salt and pepper. Mound the rice on a plate in a sort of omelette shape.

Start heating a knob of butter in the frying pan until the butter stops bubbling. In the meantime, crack the eggs into a bowl, add a little salt and pepper and whisk with a fork. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and make an omelette that is still slightly runny in the middle.

As soon as it's done, carefully turn the omelette onto the mounded rice. Optionally cut it carefully down the middle, so that the egg runs a bit over the rice.

Squirt with a little ketchup on top. Serve immediately, perhaps with a small green salad on the side.

Notes:

  • A lot of people put the rice in the omelette while it's still in the pan and fold it over, but that tends to result in a too-thin and overcooked omelette. I prefer the mounding on top method.
  • For the best example on film of how to make an omuraisu, watch the movie masterpiece about food by Juzo Itami, Tampopo.
  • Robyn (the girl who ate everything) recently had omuraisu in New York and posted about it.

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Omuraisu (omu rice, Japanese rice omelette)

Thanks for linking to my site! :)

I had no idea that the stuff I ate when I was little is called "pirafu" (nor that it is naked omuraisu)! It was the kid's choice at Yaohan/Mitsuwa...little mound of ketchupy rice with a tiny flag. Eating in the food court wasn't the same once I switched to the "regular" food. :(

Robyn | 2 August, 2006 - 20:44

Omuraisu (omu rice, Japanese rice omelette)

What an interesting article. And I love that old photo :)

kolibri | 2 August, 2006 - 21:06

Omuraisu (omu rice, Japanese rice omelette)

Such a lovely post - thank you for sharing that with us.

Laura Rebecca | 3 August, 2006 - 02:41

Omuraisu (omu rice, Japanese rice omelette)

I just received a package from Japan including Shiseido Parlor's Chicken Rice no Moto. I'll use it to try the "mounding" method you describe!

motoko | 6 August, 2006 - 21:36

Omuraisu (omu rice, Japanese rice omelette)

Thanks so much for writing this post and sharing the memories associated with this food. It amazes me how much food acts as such a strong link to memories and feelings.

PS - we had pirafu too in the States, but we called it red-rice. My nieces and nephews call it tower-rice because their dad (my brother) molds it in a timbal

Cheeko | 8 August, 2006 - 03:12

Omuraisu (omu rice, Japanese rice omelette)

Tampopo is one of my favourite movies!

I suspect my husband would adore omu-raisu (he only knows it through Tampopo). Thanks so much for sharing the recipe, and the lovely story. :)

Shaula Evans | 16 August, 2006 - 17:15

Re: Omuraisu (omu rice, Japanese rice omelette)

I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan in 1975. I will never forget that dish of omu rice. Even now at age 60 I can still remember that taste. Five stars goes out to this delicious meal.

Reggie | 21 March, 2013 - 22:59

Omurice!

gosh i’m like so into omurice now - except that I’ve yet to find one good place that sells it in my area. You should watch this Japanese food drama if you haven’t already. It’s called ‘Lunch no Joou’ a.k.a. Lunch Queen. my oh my, i watched all 12 episodes and had a really really strong craving for hamburger steak, omurice and hayashi rice! seriously!

Cheryl | 3 July, 2007 - 05:35

Omu Rice

I lived in Japan for most of the 1960’s. I have a Japanese wife and both my children were born at Tachikawa. Omu rice was a staple in our diet then and was loved by the whole family. My son, who now lives in San Francisco, makes omu rice for breakfast at least once a month. Thanks for the post and for the lovely pictures.

Charlie Sommers | 22 April, 2008 - 20:27

I almost went to Tachikawa

I almost went to Tachikawa high school, but ended up going to another school. Small world :) I’m guessing you were in the military?

maki | 22 April, 2008 - 21:27

Omelet rice

Both of my children (8 & 9 yrs.old) have been attending a language immersion school were they are studying Japanese. My daughters class had a end of school party on Friday and the teacher had prepared the rice ahead of time and the children shaped the rice, covered it with the omelet and “decorated” it with ketchup. My daughter LOVED it!! Must say I liked it to. Thank you for the recipe. I will make it so my husband and son can enjoy it with us.

Sandra | 8 June, 2008 - 05:12

Rice omelet

I’ve been browsing this site and JustBento.com for a few weeks now and just wanted to compliment you on these sites…plus thank you for posting this recipe.
When I was stationed in S. Korea, there was this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant down a back alley in town that served these (or at least a Korean version that they called shrimp (or chicken or beef) omelets). Ooohhh…they were so good! I’ve been longing to find a recipe since then and I’m definitely going to have to try yours because it looks like it comes pretty close to what they made. Thanks again!

Oh…and thanks for posting that picture. I looked up the festival and it sounds like a very fun thing to celebrate. We might have to try to do something like it for our 3-year-old this year. :)

Ravendas | 22 August, 2008 - 05:09

I love hearing and writing

I love hearing and writing about personal stories related to food that we grew up with, so your memories of omuraisu and your grandma really resonates with me. Thanks for sharing the photo and personal stories. I think your grandma clearly loved you (and her other grandkids) inspite of her stern exterior. My grandparents and even parents are very traditional Asian people in the sense that they are physically reserved and wouldn’t hug or kiss us or say ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m really proud of you’ but they show us those sentiments through gestures and actions.

Nilmandra | 14 September, 2008 - 07:46

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

I've been trying out your recipes here and on Just Bento for a couple of months now, and each time I've been thrilled with the results. Tonight I had a go at omuraisu, which turned out delicious as well, so I figured I should stop by and say a big thank you for sharing all these lovely recipes! (I'm trying to be more adventurous with food each time I go to Japan, but the downside to that is I always return home wondering how to make something I've tasted!)

Mec | 9 January, 2009 - 22:36

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

it's always nice to hear the recipes worked! thanks :)

maki | 10 January, 2009 - 03:07

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Thanks for doing this! My daughter wants to make a cookbook for her winter vacation project, and wanted to do omuraisu. This makes a great starting point! Only, I hate ketchup, so I am going to commit food heresy and use spaghetti sauce instead. At least for mine!

Thanks again!

Micki | 12 January, 2009 - 04:38

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Micki wrote:

Thanks for doing this! My daughter wants to make a cookbook for her winter vacation project, and wanted to do omuraisu. This makes a great starting point! Only, I hate ketchup, so I am going to commit food heresy and use spaghetti sauce instead. At least for mine!

Thanks again!

my sister doesn't like ketchup either, but she LOVED it when i made omurice with this recipe :) if you fry the rice a little longer, it blends the ketchup in really well and you can't really taste it anymore! just makes flavorful rice. i wonder what it would taste like to use spaghetti sauce though... mmm...gettin hungry! ;)

issha | 17 February, 2009 - 10:37

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Finally got around to making this classic! It's something I never had before and had never got around to ordering
I was delighted to find the recipe here and then went to youtube to refresh my memory of the Tampopo scene (my own copy of this movie is on VHS, it's never been released on DVD in the UK)

I don't eat chicken or ham so my husband suggested substituting a little tuna the first time around. It was OK, didn't quite work though, not as Japanese omu rice.
On the second attempt, I cut up some Quorn pieces and tried it with those. I'm assured I nailed it!
Only other change I made is that I used canned 'tomate frito' instead of ketchup for the pirafu. It tastes more natural than ketchup but still has an intense sweet flavour, it's a staple product in Spanish kitchens and comes in cans or jars. (Solis and Orlando are, perhaps, the main brands, I have a slight preference for Orlando. It can be bought quite cheaply at R Garcia & Sons, 248-250 Portobello Road, London. Once opened, I decant a can into a jar and it keeps for a week in the fridge).
I did still add ketchup to the top of the omelette.

Thanks very much, Maki, for the recipe and for sharing your memories of this dish. I'm really happy I'll be able to make this (and pirafu) for my own child.

Loretta | 18 March, 2009 - 13:52

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

I love this story, and I love that scene in Tampopo. Thanks for such a wonderful site. My husband got injured a while back and I've been making bentos so he doesn't have to clamber down the 2 flights of stairs at his office to go out to lunch. Just Bento and Just Hungry have been a great source of inspiration.

Monica | 25 June, 2009 - 17:14

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Hi, I've been browsing this blog and the Just Bento one for a while. I tried your omurice recipe (well, the vegetarian version at least) and it's really good. Thanks.

melly | 6 July, 2009 - 05:10

OMG! I loved it~

I've attempted to make Omuraisu a few times already, but it always failed. Then i cam upon this site, and I attempted it again. It was delicious! I usually try avoiding ketchup, but this recipe is an exception! I used mushrooms instead of chicken, and it turned out amazing. My brother loved it as well. ^^ Thanks for sharing this recipe! Will definitely make it again in the future!

Shiori | 13 September, 2009 - 00:23

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

What a heartwarming story! I'm sure your oba-chan was smiling at you in her own way, whenever she gave you a restaurant treat. Thanks for sharing :o) I've just moved out on my own and your recipes (and bento ideas on Just Bento) have been really helpful.

There's a similar dish to omuraisu served in Malaysia, usually at foodstalls run by either Malays or Indian Muslims. It's called "nasi goreng Pattaya" (Pattaya fried rice) and connoiseurs get edgy if the omelette consistency is wrong, or if the flavours of the rice and egg don't match. The rice is usually a little spicy, and they squirt packaged chili sauce over the omelette instead of ketchup. The people in Pattaya, Thailand don't seem to have heard of this dish but even if it's a hoax, I'm happy to eat it!

Ren | 6 October, 2009 - 07:10

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Hey, I just made your omurice recipe for my kids! I saw it made in Tampopo years ago and always wondered what the exact technique was.. anyway, in the end I adjusted it a bit by adding some greated cheese to the rice mix, and using only a small squeeze of ketchup, and I made a 3 egg omelette, dropped the rice mix on top, folded over the omelette and turned it onto the plates. Also, I cooked the rice filling in sesame oil rather than butter. I served the omelettes with a squirt of ketchup as pictured, and I am glad to relate my kids wolfed them down! These girls are fussy eaters, so I was very pleased. Nice recipe, thanks for posting. Of course, I think the ketchup can take a lot of credit for being palatable to my kids, but it was really a delicious recipe, so nice one!

Ivan | 20 November, 2009 - 22:06

Omuraisu dai Pinchi!

Thanks for the Omuraisu recipe Maki! My husband and I were stationed in northern Japan for about two years and frequently ate a play in the local Aeon that sold Omuraisu. It was either that or Pepper Lunch. My husband was head over heels in love with the idea of Eggs with Rice since he is Filipino he was used to that type of breakfast. So when I stumbled on the recipe and made it for him one morning he has been asking for it almost every single morning if we've got time. Needless to say it's been hard trying to top it. Once again thanks the recipe and it brings us back to Japan!

Dina

Dina | 31 December, 2009 - 03:51

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

i could be wrong,
but i am sure that this recipe started with the american occupation of japan.

pretty much the same way that pasta carbonara started in italy.

G.I.s stuck in another country wanting a taste of home,
trying to make friends- offering up what they had in their rations to add to the local fare..... ketchup for example....

back when i lived on okinawa back in the mid/late 80's-
found a hole in the wall place near the big american bar district (gate 2 leading to koza) that sold "corn dogs"
but they were not corn dogs.......not by any sort of american version.

now- i see in hawaii they have anadogs........
and based on the recipes i've found on line-
same thing as what that lil hole in the wall sold- (but that hole in the wall sold foot longs)

anon. | 4 July, 2010 - 01:24

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

You are wrong - there are records of restaurants serving things like omurice way before WWII.

maki | 4 July, 2010 - 09:36

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Thanks for sharing the recipe!

It was mentioned numerous times in a Japanese Drama "Lunch Queen" and they used demiglace sauce over the omurice. :)

hungry | 7 July, 2010 - 12:11

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

I made this recipe for the first time a few months ago and I love it. Its now my comfort food! I like to make mine with lots of peas. :)

ikkin-bot | 16 November, 2010 - 02:45

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Oooo >O< Its was Delicious! I made one myself from your instructions. It was successfully made 8)
Even though it was just fried rice with an omelette, Thankyou very much ^_^

Mirror_Sound | 14 July, 2011 - 18:09

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

I've been wanting to make this dish for a while after I randomly remembered reading about it once. Looked good to me so I searched in on the net and came upon your heartfelt memory. I want to say thank you for sharing your recipe and a little bit of history attached with omuraisu. Me and my sister thoroughly enjoyed it.

Alejandra | 12 August, 2011 - 22:16

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

This recipe has been languishing in my Favourites for ages. Today my 3 and 5 year-old grand-daughters came for tea so I made omuraisu for them. I showed them Maki's three-year old photo and explained that little Japanese girls love this recipe. Now it seems that little New Zealand girls love this recipe too! Great! Quick. Easy. Healthy. And delicious -well the little I got to taste was.

Trisha | 9 September, 2011 - 12:12

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Love it! Thanks so much for sharing Trisha, and say hi to your granddaughters from me ^_^

maki | 9 September, 2011 - 15:58

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Okay, so it sometimes, takes me a few tries to get the technique of a recipe right, but even then, my food is generally alright, but this recipe, the result was absolutely inedible! Do you have any suggestions as to what I might be doing wrong? (I think I might be adding too much ketchup, or maybe over cooking the omelette. I tend to be a bit suspicious of undercooked things and sometimes go a bit too long because of it.)

PS It might take me a while to test your suggestions out. I'm in a dorm and have only sporadic access to pans, and ingredients.

Lucinda | 13 October, 2011 - 07:00

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

Well it depends...is the egg rubbery? Is the rice too ketchup-y? If it's the ketchup, just add a bit at a time, taste and add more if needed. If it's the omelette, you really need good fresh eggs to make any kind of good omelette - if the eggs are good, you do not have to worry about undercooking. Omelettes *have to be* undercooked to be good. If you are very paranoid about the safety of your eggs, try pasteurized eggs. They are more expensive but the results should be worth it.

maki | 13 October, 2011 - 10:50

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

If I was going to describe the biggest problem, it would be that the rice and ketchup right don't mix. Or that the consistency is off. I'll keep in mind the egg tip. But I think that the true problem is the rice...

Thanks!

Lucinda | 29 January, 2012 - 23:11

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

If I was going to describe the biggest problem, it would be that the rice and ketchup right don't mix. Or that the consistency is off. I'll keep in mind the egg tip. But I think that the true problem is the rice...

Thanks!

Lucinda | 31 January, 2012 - 09:44
Edgil | 17 December, 2011 - 19:54

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

here's the Tampopo Omurice scene on Youtube ... always loved that bit .. only recently made my own

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-GFimGcYJw

Anonymous | 5 June, 2012 - 21:09

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

somehow I always find this post with your memories of your grandmother very touching. thank you for sharing.

Kate | 19 June, 2012 - 01:20

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

I've been reading over Just Hungry and Just Bento for a couple weeks now and I just wanted to say that I really enjoy them both. I had been scouring the web for authentic Japanese recipes for a long while before finding your's. It's really exciting to find Japanese recipes that aren't teriyaki-something or sushi rolls.

I remember eating this when I was little, but I never once thought that it might have been from Japan! My grandmother would make it every time my sister and I would visit. My grandfather was stationed in Okinawa for a few years so I suppose this just came back with them.

Also, do you know of any good Japanese cookbooks that are in English or French? I've found one that has some very traditional recipes from Hideo Dekura but it's organized so poorly it's painfully hard to find anything in it.

Brianna | 22 April, 2013 - 13:46

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

I would recommend Kurihara Harumi's works. They are beautifully illustrated, very easy to understand and tend not to focus on the Western understanding of what Japanese cuisine should be reduced to (i.e. the sushi/yakitori/miso shiru Holy Trinity).

Here are links I've just Googled for you:

In French: http://www.amazon.fr/Harumi-Kurihara/e/B004MK9I0W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?...

In English: http://www.amazon.com/Harumi-Kurihara/e/B002PMF2Z4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1...

I myself own a copy of "Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking" and "Everyday Harumi". Always a pleasure to browse through her detailed yet wonderfully clear recipes.

Another useful link: http://www.japancentre.com/categories/cook-books

Hope this helps.

Sinharat | 9 May, 2013 - 21:17

Re: Omuraisu (aka omurice or omu rice, Japanese rice ...

詳しいオムライスの詳しい説明とレシピ誠にありがとうございました。。。

正直に言うと泣きたいです。金髪なアメリカ人ですが5才まで日本食と日本語しか分かりませんでした。素敵なかわじさん(お手伝いさん)の手で育ちました。まきこさんの子供時代経験の叙述は私の子供時代ととてもにっております。

今後とも何卒よろしくお願いします。

The Ninja Baker | 26 March, 2014 - 22:39

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