Sweet and savory tomato-based fried rice wrapped in a soft thin omelette, this western-influenced Japanese dish Omurice or Omelette Rice is popular among Japanese people of all ages. Inspired by the Japanese drama – Midnight Diner.
Fried rice flavored with the beloved American condiment ketchup and encased in a golden omelette pillow, Omurice (オムライス) or Omelette Rice may not be your typical choice when you visit your local Japanese restaurants. It’s easy to mistake the dish as a fairly recent fusion invention of modern Japanese cuisine.
However, this humble dish has been a popular yoshoku (western-style Japanese food) for over a century. That’s right! It is a Japanese rendition of ‘mash-up’ comfort food at its best. It’s got grain, vegetables, proteins, and a big bright sunny disposition, enough to make a fried rice fiend wake up hungry.
This delicious Omurice was featured on the popular Japanese TV drama called “Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂)” or “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” which is available on Netflix.
Omurice and Yoshoku
Omurice (オムライス) is a loanword from both Omelette (Omuretsu, オムレツ) and Rice (raisu, ライス). In this recipe, fried rice is seasoned with the sweet and sour flavor of ketchup and tomato puree, and tucked inside a thin blanket of a golden fluffy omelette. It’s sweet and savory, the whole ensemble of Omurice is just so comforting to many Japanese people that it is considered one of the most popular yoshoku (western-style Japanese food).
Yoshoku started to appear around the Meiji Era (1868–1912) after Japan ended its isolationist foreign policy and opened the ports to the West. Tonkatsu, Korokke, Hambagu, Curry Rice, Doria (rice gratin), Cabbage Roll, Spaghetti Napolitan, and Omurice are just some of the familiar dishes in the category. They have katakana names to emphasize their foreignness, using the word “raisu” (ライス, rice) instead of “gohan” (ご飯, rice) for example. Another easy way to tell these dishes apart? They are often served with fork, knife, and spoons, instead of chopsticks.
At the time, foreign ingredients were difficult to find in Japan so people made yoshoku using local ingredients. Even though the dishes may look like Western dishes, the taste is still distinctly Japanese. I think that has unintentionally made yoshoku dishes uniquely Japanese.
You may have noticed the abundant use of ketchup in Western-style Japanese dishes. Brought in by the American army who came to Japan after World War II, ketchup was used in dishes to replace tomato sauce which was not easily accessible then. Since it is convenient and tasty, ketchup continues to become the mainstay in the Japanese kitchen pantry.
Who Invented Omurice?
There are 2 strong theories on Omurice’s origin.
Theory 1: When the owner at a yoshoku restaurant Hokkyokusei (北極星) in Osaka learned about a regular customer who wasn’t feeling well, he quickly cooked up simple fried rice with mushrooms and onion seasoned with ketchup, and carefully wrapped with omelette to serve the customer so he would regain his stamina. The customer loved it so much that he asked for the menu name. The sharp-witted owner came up with the name “Omurice”. This Omurice is much closer to what Omurice is now.
Theory 2: Simple fried rice with egg, onion, and minced meat was served as a meal for workers at Renga-tei (煉瓦亭) in Tokyo. Other customers were drawn by the vibrant egg fried rice that they started requesting it, and that’s how Omurice became an official restaurant menu.
Whichever story you prefer, I think it all started with Omurice’s ability to hit the right spot, especially when you crave comfort food.
Omurice (Omelette Rice) – 2 Ways
In general, there are two ways to make Omurice. The original one called Ganso Omurice (元祖オムライス) is to wrap the fried rice with a thin omelette, like the one I shared today. Some people prefer light yellow omelette (no burn spot), but I personally prefer my Omurice to have a slightly golden color (which adds flavor) and the omelette is still creamy and soft on the inside.
The second style of Omurice is called Fuwatoro Omurice (ふわとろオムライス). First, you make ketchup fried rice and transfer it to the plate. Then you make the omelette, and while it’s fluffy (fuwa) and runny (toro), place it on top of the ketchup fried rice. Before serving, you slice the center of omelette and runny egg yolk to cover the fried rice. You might have seen this style of Omurice in the movie Tanpopo. Hence, it’s also called Tanpopo Omurice (タンポポオムライス).
Which one is your favorite style?
Variations of Omurice (Omelette Rice)
Here is the list of Omurice variations that I have seen or thought of. As you can see, the possibility is endless. Feel free to take the liberty to use whatever ingredients you have in the fridge and make your own version. Creativity is welcome when comes to making Omurice!
Fried Rice Ingredients
- Green peas
Fried Rice Flavor
- Tomato sauce
- Salt & Pepper
Sauce over Omurice
- Tomato Ketchup
- Tomato Sauce (sometimes with extra tomatoes, mushrooms, seafood or more ingredients)
- White Sauce / Bechamel Sauce (sometimes with seafood)
- Japanese Curry Sauce
- Hayashi Sauce
- Demi-glace sauce
- Ankake (starchy thick sauce)
Filling or Additions on top of Omurice
- Fried Fish
The cooking method for Omurice is really quite simple. It’s a perfect quick one-dish meal for busy moms, college students, and singles as you can whip it up in a short time. Trust me, nothing beats good fried rice with a fluffy egg. I hope you enjoy making Omurice at home!
Omurice (Omelette Rice)
- ¼ onion (2.1 oz, 60 g)
- 4 mushrooms (1.8 oz, 50 g)
- 4 slices ham (2.8 oz, 80 g; or 2 thick slices)
- 1 Tbsp neutral oil
- 3 Tbsp green peas (defrosted and drained, if frozen)
- ⅛ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups cooked Japanese short-grain rice (cook 1 rice cooker cup (180 ml), which yields roughly 2 servings (2 US cups); see how to cook short-grain with a rice cooker, a pot over the stove, an Instant Pot, or a donabe)
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (divided)
For the Tomato Sauce
- 3 Tbsp ketchup
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp water
For the Egg Mixture
- 4 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell) (divided)
- 2 Tbsp milk (divided)
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Make the Tomato Sauce
- To make the tomato sauce, combine 3 Tbsp ketchup, 3 Tbsp tomato paste, and 2 Tbsp water in a small saucepan and mix all together. Set aside.
To Make the Ketchup Fried Rice
- Clean 4 mushrooms with damp towel and slice them.
- Slice ¼ onion and dice into small pieces.
- Cut 4 slices ham into small pieces.
- In a 10-inch frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp neutral oil and sauté the onion.
- Add 3 Tbsp green peas, the mushroom slices, and the ham slices.
- Season with ⅛ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt and ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper.
- Add 2 cups cooked Japanese short-grain rice and break the big chunks of rice into smaller pieces.
- When combined well, add 3–4 Tbsp of the tomato sauce and mix well. Make sure to save some sauce for topping. Divide the fried rice in 2 portions.
To Make the Omurice (Makes 2 Omurice)
- Start with the first omurice. Crack 2 eggs in a small bowl and add 1 Tbsp milk and a pinch of salt. Whisk it all together.
- Heat another frying pan over medium high heat and add 1 Tbsp butter. Swirl around and when it’s melted, add the beaten egg.
- Quickly swirl around with chopsticks. When the mixture is set but still runny, add one portion of ketchup rice in the middle. If you feel the pan is getting too hot, remove the pan from the heat and put on top of the damp towel.
- Wrap the ketchup rice on both sides with the egg omelette. It doesn’t have to be perfectly wrapped, but make sure to create the “edge” around the fried rice with the omelette.
- Place the serving plate under the pan and flip the pan to transfer the omelette rice.
- Place a piece of paper towel on top and gently shape the omelette into a football shape. Repeat this process to make the other omurice.
- To serve, pour the tomato sauce over the Omurice. You can reheat the sauce or use room temperature sauce. Garnish the omurice with parsley. Enjoy!
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for a month.