Cultural Influence – Japan, The land of the rising Sun

The Japanese film Tampopo can give us an array of interesting recipe ideas. explains Omuraisu, a form of fried rice and omelette

In the wonderful Japanese film “Tampopo”, there is a scene where a homeless man breaks into a restaurant in order to make a midnight snack for a little boy he befriends. With very few ingredients, he whips up an “Omuraisu”, a dish consisting of ketchup fried rice with pieces of chicken and vegetables, wrapped in a mini omelette, topped with more ketchup to taste.

This dish was said to be first created in the western style restaurants of Japan. One of the stories is that a restaurant owner felt sorry for a regular customer, who always ordered white rice and omelette due to his weak stomach, and wanted to give him something different that he would be able to eat. This dish became a massive hit throughout the country, and there are now even restaurants which specialise in their own take on omelette rice.

Even though it’s a favourite amongst Japanese children’s menus in restaurants across Japan, it is easy and cheap to make. The sweet and savoury flavour of the ketchup rice works really well with the soft omelette.

In my version, I make the omelette, then put it on top of the rice which is shaped in a dome (this version is called an open omelette rice). Not only is this a lot easier, it looks authentic and tastes great. As it is quick to whip up and can be made with storecupboard ingredients, it is great to make for that unexpected guest, or as a late night snack. The vegetables and meat here are what they normally use in Japan, but any ingredient that works well with fried rice will be a perfectly good substitute. I sometimes like to use crabsticks instead of chicken. Enjoy!

Makes 2 servings
2 cups of cooked and chilled rice
150g chicken breast, cut into little pieces
1 onion, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium pepper, chopped
3 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
4 eggs
Salt and pepper

Mix the ketchup, soy sauce, and sugar in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat a pan on medium heat. Add some oil, and fry the onions and carrots until the onions become translucent. Add the chicken pieces with a pinch of salt and pepper, and fry until the chicken is cooked.

Add the peppers, and fry for 2-3 minutes. Then add the rice and mix well. Add the ketchup mixture, and fry for another 2 minutes, making sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Serve on individual plates in the shape of a dome.

Make the omelette. Heat another pan on high heat, and add some oil. When the pan is hot enough, pour the egg mixture in and quickly mix as though you are making scrambled eggs.

When the eggs are half done, stop mixing and lower the heat. Let the bottom of the half-scrambled, half-omelette cook properly, while the surface is still wet. When the surface looks no longer runny anymore, take it off the heat, and place it on top of the rice. Add a bit more ketchup on the omelet, and garnish with some parsley and cherry tomatoes.

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