omuraisu: abused by ketchup for 113 years.

i love japanese food.  and when i say i love japanese food, i don’t mean just traditional japanese washoku.  i love western cuisine-inspired yōshoku, too.  japan has all kinds of awesome variations on classic american and european dishes, such as the curry filled donut (カレーパン), breaded pork cutlets (豚カツ), and spicy cod roe spaghetti (辛子明太子パスタ).  some japanese chefs are protectors of art forms passed down for generations, while others are innovators using a relatively new palette of flavors and ingredients to make tasty new dishes never before heard of.

omuraisu is not, in my opinion, one of those dishes.  it’s an omelette with rice inside.  it was first pioneered in japan in 1900 in a restaurant in ginza called renga-tei.  granted, it is popular among kids and super easy to make, but it still has an odious lackluster feel to it every time i see it in a restaurant.  yeah, it might be swimming in a pool of demi-glace sauce or garnished with parsley or something, but it doesn’t change that fact that, at its core, omuraisu is just missing something.

when i did some thinking the other night, i realized why i don’t like omuraisu very much.  as luck (or unluck) would have it, the fried rice portion of the rice omelette is seasoned with straight-up ketchup.  and i don’t like ketchup.  i dislike ketchup enough that i have regularly called it out as the worst thing to ever happened to sauce in the history of cuisine.

but i’m not a stubborn man.  i’ve resigned myself to hating ketchup, but don’t want to not like omuraisu.  so i pulled up my bootstraps, strapped on my cooking pants, and decided that i was going to make a brand spanking new omuraisu recipe that didn’t use a lick of ketchup, was chock-full of flavor, and implemented a plethora of ingredients that would turn the head of even the most stubborn omuraisu hater.

and here’s what came out of my noggin.

poor man’s omuraisu

you’ll need:

  • a quarter of an onion
  • four cloves of garlic
  • ground pork
  • half a can of diced stewed tomatoes
  • black pepper
  • thyme
  • oregano
  • chicken stock
  • leftover rice
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • an eggplant
  • smoked cheese
  • green onions
  • shiso
  1. mince the onion, garlic, and two leaves of shiso.  make sure to keep the pale side of the shiso up to maximize its flavor.  add a tiny bit of oil to a frying pan, and once it gets nice and hot, add the ground pork.  make sure to break it up nice and small.  once it starts to brown and is well on its way to being cooked through, add the onions, garlic, and shiso.
  2. when the pork is done, add the contents of the frying pan to a pot.  add the tomatoes, a little bit of chicken stock for liquid, black pepper, thyme, and a good amount of oregano.  don’t forget the sugar, it’ll help to balance out the saltiness and make your sauce a little thicker.  stir in the spices, cover, and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes or so over super low heat.  give it a stir on occasion to make sure nothing is burning to the bottom.
  3. wash the eggplant, and cut it into smaller than bite-sized pieces.  while you are at it, you may as well slice four or five leaves of shiso into super fine strips and finely chop a few stalks of green onion.  set each aside separately.
  4. when the sauce is ready, you have to make a choice.  if you want chunks of tomato and ground pork in your sauce, you are welcome to leave it as is.  i chose to blend my sauce to create an almost chili-like color and texture.  i’ll leave it up to you.
  5. grate your cheese.  it doesn’t have to be smoked cheese, but it tends to add a lot to the flavor of this dish.  any aged cheese will also do, especially a nice parmesan or asiago.
  6. add some oil to a frying pan, and throw in the eggplant once the pan gets hot enough.  sauté the eggplant until it starts to wilt just a little bit.  then add the rice.  make sure to keep the pan well-oiled or the rice will stick and burn, especially if you are using japanese short-grain white rice.  as it heats up, make sure to break up the large cohesive blocks of rice.  if you don’t, your filling is going to be super difficult to handle.
  7. once the rice is hot, add a ladle or two of your meat sauce.  stir it in and break the more stubborn chunks of rice apart with a wooden spoon or the back of the ladle.  continue to fold the doria over on itself for a while until it becomes super thick and cohesive.  pour the contents into a bowl and set them aside.
  8. it’s omelette time.  scramble three or four eggs in a bowl.  this part can be a little tough, so you might need to practice.  everybody has a different method of making the egg portion of omuraisu, but my particular strategy involves keeping the pan on relatively low heat and slowly rolling the raw egg around the perimeter of the pan so as to make a really large, thin sheet.
  9. when the egg is almost done (a little bit of runny is good), add the rice filling to the center of the egg sheet.  top it off with some grated cheese.  here’s the tricky bit.  run a spatula between the perimeter of the egg and the frying pan.  once you are sure the egg is not clinging to the pan, fold the edges over the top of the rice.  the sticky nature of the melted cheese and the rice should help hold it in place.
  10. kill the heat, and take the plate you want to use and place it over the frying pan upside-down.  then, invert the frying pan onto the plate.  with any luck, you will get an omelette with no visible seam.
  11. pour a few ladles of your leftover sauce around the perimeter of the omelet or over the top, and then garnish with your sliced shiso and chopped green onions.
  12. a side of greens or a few pieces of italian toast to mop up the leftover sauce wouldn’t be out of the question, but you don’t need them by any means.  go to town.  eat the whole thing by yourself and be 100% guilt (and ketchup) free.

8 thoughts on “omuraisu: abused by ketchup for 113 years.

  1. Looks nice! I am also not a fan of omuraisu. It always seems a bit bland to me but with your addition of herbs and some vegetables in the sauce, it looks much more interesting!

    • give it a go and let me know what you think!

      in all honesty, i wanted to use a different sauces for the filling and the garnish, but i didn’t have the time to make it work. if i do it again, i’ll probably make some sort of bechemel or maybe a basil sauce to go on top.

  2. I have never heard of omurasisu. I’m so intrigued now. I’m especially curious about having the rice in the middle of an omelet. Your meat sauce looks so delicious. So you blended your sauce to give it a more “saucy” texture. Great idea. Looks fabulous and I can not even imagine this with ketchup! I think I’ll try this one. I know it will be a hit at our table. I try not to modify recipes (from blogs) too much…do you think this will be as good using ground chicken? Well, I’ll make it and let you know. :)

    • ground chicken would be excellent, but tends to be a little on the dry side, so leaving the meat in bigger chunks instead of blending might be in your best interest.

      another option would be to make a tomato napolitana sauce, saute some diced chicken thighs with the eggplant, and then throw in the rice. that might add a little more texture, preserve the fat content, and keep the meat content of the dish restricted to just the rice (just in case you need to pander to vegetarians).

      i can’t wait to see your results! be sure to let me know how it all goes over.

  3. The title of this post is great. Like you, I love omuraisu but don’t like ketchup. (Seriously, I went out for beer and french fries with my fiancee, Paula, yesterday and half of my fries just got cold as I whined about how they were taking so long to bring me some kind of aioli/mayo dip, while meanwhile Paula had basically finished enjoying hers with ketchup.)

    However, unlike you I guess I have this weird ketchup loophole/exception just for omuraisu! I know it sounds (slash is) gross but I don’t really mind that mostly-ketchup flavored rice inside the omelette, as long as there are some other things going on in there, too… like chicken, spices, soy sauce whatever, and as long as there is NO ketchup on top! I like real tomatoes and some kind of greens, like shiso or watercress, just like you’ve done.

    I keep ketchup in the house but pretty much only ever use it to make pad thai… I should definitely make omuraisu sometime soon, too!

    • nice! a fellow ketchup skeptic. i’m totally with you on the french fry front. pretty much any sauce is better.

      i’ve been playing with the idea of using a more delicious sauce that is entirely unrelated to tomato to top my omuraisu with. maybe pesto? bechamel? some sort of tasty aoli (just like you mentioned above)?

      let me know what you think.

      • Hm, I’m not sure about bechamel or aioli on top of omuraisu because they both seem too heavy and creamy somehow, especially in comparison to fresher tomato sauces (or even ketchup). I mean, of course they might still be okay… but pesto?!?!? YES. (Or something like chimichurri?!)

        I actually looove putting generous gobs of pesto inside my weekday morning spinach goat cheese omelettes. Pesto + eggs = surprisingly good, I think. I’ve even been meaning to post a recipe for that weekday breakfast on my blog, and I took the photos for it LAST summer, but then I missed my chance to post it in a seasonally-appropriate time frame and decided to wait until this summer…

        (And yep, I’ve once again missed the time frame; plus, the photos no longer seem good enough to me anymore since I guess my standards for myself have gone up… so… next summer maybe!)

      • oh, pesto and eggs are a go to for me as well. my buddy and i make a frittata that we smear with small grain cottage cheese (or marscapone) and pesto right out of the oven. it is to die for.

        i never thought about chimichurri, that could be awesome. like a tamale or smothered burrito, only with omelete for the exterior. sounding better and better by the moment.

        i’m gonna head to the kitchen lab and see what i can concoct this week.

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