Omurice (Fried Rice Omelette)

Japanese Omurice - Fried Rice Omlette by A Little Yumminess

Japanese Omurice: an omelette wrapped around fried rice…. so homey, so simple, so genius (and a great way to use up some leftovers)! We came upon our first fried rice omlette in Hawaii on the Big Island at Teshima’s in Kealakekua. It’s one of their house specialties, although in their case they do it island-style by stir frying their rice with spam or Portuguese linguica. In my subsequent reading up on this dish, I learned that it’s a one of those items you’ll often find on kids’ menus in Japan. So I suppose it’s like the Japanese equivalent of macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets, but in my opinion it’s leaps and bounds better. Don’t get me started on kids’ menus — erghhh!

For me fried rice is one of those “cooking 101” kind of dishes that every kid should learn how to make. It’s not really a recipe so much as a technique: fry an egg, fry some left over rice until it’s a little bit crispy, chop and sizzle up some leftovers, splash a few Asian sauces then toss it all together into one glorious bowl of yumminess. Lately we’ve been experimenting with some variations on fried rice: Jean George’s elegantly minimal leek, ginger and garlic version, and also with using various kinds of rices, but the leftover, “kitchen sink” version remains our favorite. I am convinced that you will always be surrounded by friends if you know how to make a tasty fried rice. And now that Luca is just old enough to start working at the stove with supervision one of our summer vacation projects is “fried rice” class. Perhaps we’ll even bring in Gung Gung for a little master class (learning from mom is good, but learning from grandpa is better!).

Omurice takes humble fried rice to a slightly new place, putting the egg on the outside and wrapping it all up into a pretty omelette package. My two main takeaways from attempting this dish at home is that you need a good pan, one that you know will absolutely not stick and will allow your finished omelette to slide easily onto your serving plate. If you succeed, you will feel like Jacques Pepin! Secondly, while I normally like the grains of my fried rice to be dry and separated (using leftover rice is the cardinal rule of fried-rice making) in the case of omurice, slightly moister rice works better. A moister rice will cling together so that your entire omelette doesn’t tumble out when you cut into it.

Omlette Fried Rice - A Little Yumminess

Omurice – Japanese Fried Rice Omelette

(makes 1 large omelette: enough for one hungry adult or 2 kids. Scale up the ingredients to feed more people, but to keep the proportions right make omelettes in 2 egg + 1 cup fried rice batches)

  • 1 cup leftover rice
  • Fried rice add-ins of your choice: chopped leftovers, grated carrot, frozen peas, etc.
  • Your favorite Asian sauces such as soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce
  • Sliced Scallion and cilantro leaves
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Make the fried rice (this can be done in advance of making the omurice, just reheat the fried rice before filling your omelette):

  1. Lightly oil a saute pan, add the rice and stir fry until some of the grains start to get crispy (about 5-8 minutes). ** In the picture above, I sauteed some leeks first before adding my rice. **
  2. While the rice is crisping, prep your fried rice ingredients (chop leftovers into bite sized pieces, defrost a handful of frozen peas, grate a carrot, etc.).
  3. When the rice is crisped, stir in your add-ins until they are framed through and well incorporated into the rice.
  4. Season to taste with soy sauce, sesame oil, and a dash of oyster sauce and garnish with chopped scallion and cilantro.

Make and fill the omelette:

  1. Heat about 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Beat 2 eggs in a bowl then pour the eggs into the hot pan, tilting the pan so that the egg coats the bottom of the pan.
  3. Cook the eggs, swirling pan, until omelette sets but top is still moist (1-2 minutes). Check to make sure your omelette is not sticking by lifting up the sides and loosening it as needed. Shake the omlette in the pan to make sure it moves and will slide out after you fill it.
  4. Arrange the fried rice down center. Using a rubber spatula, slide omelette onto a plate, then roll the omelette around the filling.

If you want to be authentic, serve with ketchup, if you’re Simran pour on the Sriracha.

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You may also like: Dad’s International Fried Rice, Soy Dijon Chicken and Buttered Corn Fried Rice

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Okinawan Sweet Potatoes & Japanese Yaki-Imo Daydreams

Yaki Imo Truck, Tokyo (by Amehare, Flickr Commons)

Yaki Imo Truck, Tokyo (by Amehare, Flickr Commons)

Okinawan Sweet Potato | A Little Yumminess

This purple Okinawan sweet potato was just too pretty not to share. I mean just look at that color….too gorgeous! We come across these from time to time at the farmers market or at our favorite ethnic produce stores. Intrigued about this ingredient and what to do with it, I did a little reading up about the Yaki-Imo trucks in Japan that roam the streets in the fall and winter months selling Japanese yams roasted over charcoal. The thought of bundled up kids swarming around for warm sweet potatoes for their afterschool “oyatsu”  is a good thought indeed and with the gray, damp chill in the air the last few days it really does seem like the perfect kind of snack for warming up and filling up. There are even school yaki-imo festivals where kids and parents gather to build a big fire out of firewood and fallen leaves and bake tons of sweet potatoes and play games. My kind of party!

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Soy-Glazed Pumpkin with Sesame

Soy-Glazed Pumpkin with Sesame - Japan  | A Little Yumminess

Here’s the second recipe from our Japanese curry bento: salty-sweet-sticky glazed pumpkin with toasted sesame seeds. This is a super comforting side dish and a total snap to make, requiring only 3 ingredients in addition to the pumpkin itself. It’s quick braised in the glaze on the stove top which I think is a total genius move since I’m used to thinking that anytime I cook fresh pumpkin, I’m going to need to turn on the oven….. and wait.

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World Bento Tour: Japanese Curry and Soy-Glazed Pumpkin

After our sheer glee at our inaugural Scandinavian bento, with it’s meatballs and dreamy, creamy dill potatoes (Simran’s still talking about them!), we decided our next stop on our world bento tour should be Japan and a more traditional take. To me this is comfort food at its finest: a home-style chicken curry; sweet-salty-sticky soy-glazed pumpkin; a few crisp vegetables; sweet, juicy citrus; and a meltingly soft piece of pineapple mochi for dessert. It’s a like a big fat hug in bento form.

We’ll be sharing the recipes for the curry and the pumpkin very soon, so stay tuned, but in the meantime, we’d love your suggestions about where to go next. Argentina? Thailand? Italy? The possibilities are endless.

Pineapple Mochi

Tokyo Fish Market, Berkeley

A trip to Tokyo Fish Market on San Pablo Avenue in Northwest Berkeley will make you want to  run straight home and attempt feats of Japanese culinary greatness.

Like our other fave on our side of the Bay, Nijiya Market in San Francisco’s Japan town, Tokyo Fish Market stocks everything you could ever possibly need to cook up even the most elaborate Japanese recipe — noodles, sake, snacks, sweets, frozen and prepared foods, seasonings and condiments… you name it. But what puts Tokyo fish market way over the top is the absolutely gorgeous fresh fish and produce, the friendly and knowledgeable service and the wonderful selection of take away, ready to eat items. If you have any kind of problem with impulse buying at the grocery store, this place might just be your undoing.

In addition to filling our cart with teriyaki roasted seaweed, ponzu, quick dashi and konbu, we caved to the pleas of our kids  for snacks in super cute packages, ogled the fresh sardines and sushi grade fish and walked out happily munching some tempura-filled onigiri (rice balls) which were so expertly packaged that they included a 3-step instruction guide for unwrapping. The gift store next door is worth a visit, too. You’ll find a nice selection of books to browse, hand painted kokeshi dolls, tea sets, trinkets, gifts and imported goods.

Onigiri that comes with instructions.

You might also like these Japanese recipes and food adventures:

Japanese Comfort Food: Harumi’s Three Topping Rice

Have you seen the book “Everyday Harumi“? I’m kind of obsessed with it right now. In a nutshell: simple, comforting Japanese recipes that are great for a beginner like me who’s still figuring out one miso from the next. Her book has a nice primer on Japanese pantry basics (how to make dashi and ponzu for instance) and the recipes are pretty simple once you’ve stocked your pantry. With Harumi’s guiding hand, we’ve started exploring new aisles at the Asian supermarket and I’ve found willing eaters to experiment on because my husband and the boys love any meal that has the possibility of soy sauce and/or rice.

My whole family gives two enthusiastic thumbs up for her Three Topping Rice recipe. It’s a bowl full of comfort food yum and a great place to start a Japanese home cooking adventure. The recipe has the bonus of being fab dinner-lunch “one two punch”. Our leftover rice and toppings turned into a fun school lunch (and Stacie lunch) of rice balls which was a welcome departure from the usual fixins. The baby enjoyed his Three Topping Rice (minus the eggs) mashed up with a little chicken broth.

Do check out the book when you have the chance. I’m eager to cook my way through it this summer so f you’ve given any of her recipes a try, let us know which ones are your favorites.

Harumi’s Three Topping Rice

(adapted from Everyday Harumi)

Ingredients:

  • Pantry items: Dashi (or your favorite stock), Mirin, Sake, Soy Sauce, Sugar, Sushi Rice, Sesame Seeds (for your leftover rice balls)
  • Fresh ingredients: Minced Chicken Thigh (1/2 pound will do), Eggs (one per person is a good place to start), Green Beans (as many as you like)
  1. Bring the following ingredients to a simmer 1 1/2 cups of dashi stock (you could use chicken or vegetable stock. I used a miso-dashi paste mixed with water), 2 TBL soy sauce, 1 TBL sake, and 1 TBL mirin. I forgot to buy sake and mirin, so I used 2 TBL of rice wine vinegar. Add 1/2 pound of minced chicken thigh and let it poach for several minutes. Strain off the chicken, keeping the poaching liquid to cook the rice. You can do this step ahead.
  2. Blanch green beans until tender crisp and then plunge them into cold water to stop their cooking. When cool, drain them well, slice on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces and set aside. You can do this step ahead. The cooked beans store well in the refrigerator in a plastic container lined with a damp paper towel.
  3. Top off the poaching liquid with dashi (stock or water) until you have 1 2/3 cup. Add this to a rice cooker and add 11 oz of washed and drained sushi rice. If you don’t have a rice cooker boil the rice for 10 minutes in a covered pot, then take it off the heat and let it sit covered for 10 minutes to finish cooking.
  4. To a saucepan add 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 TBL mirin (again I used rice wine vinegar), 2 TBL of sugar and 1 TBL sake (I omitted it). Simmer the poached chicken in the sauce, stirring often until the liquid is gone, approximately 5-10 minutes.
  5. In a separate pan scramble several eggs. Harumi suggests adding a pinch of salt and sugar and a dash of sake. I used salt and sesame oil.
  6. Arrange the rice on the platter and top with each of the three ingredients. It makes a prettier presentation to keep the toppings separate rather than mixing them. This also works better for kids like my son who don’t like mixed up food.
To make rice balls from your leftovers, pick out the green beans and chop them up finely and add them back in with everything else. Mix well. Find a tiny bowl or a small cookie cutter to use as a mold. Place a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the top of the mold. Spoon the rice into the mold and  give it a good press, compacting it. Use the plastic wrap to ease the rice out of the mold. Flip it over so the better looking side is face up and sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top.

A Taste of Japan in our Backyard

The Japantown malls are one of our favorite places these days.   So much to do with the kids and they usually aren’t crowded during most days.  A life-saver for those foggy days when you can’t figure out where to take the kids and cannot bear to spend anymore time at a kids’ museum.  For me, Japantown is a throw-back to my childhood in Singapore when I was a “mall-rat”.  The food, the shops, the intriguing Asian/Japanese toys, stickers, pencil cases, bento boxes, cute erasers….the list of kitchsy items goes on.  You can tell I never got past this stuff. 🙂

Some of our favorite stores are the Sanrio/Hello Kitty store right by the indoor koi pond (which in itself is a great attraction).  We were there for a summer playdate recently and the girls LOVED the “Hello Kitty” store and the wall of stickers in one the stationery stores. Connect seamlessly from one mall to the next and you can spend hours there.  You can also a spend a good amount of time at the Japantown Peace Plaza courtyard chasing pigeons.  Ria and her little buddy Jay spent an inordinate amount of time chasing pigeons.  There seems to be theme emerging here with kids and bird chasing.

Our favorite store is Ichiban Kan (“Different Things”) – they sell anything you could possible ever need at ridiculous price.  We always leave this store in a happy mood as does everyone who has ever gone with us.  We have picked up some super cute lunch bags, bento boxes, reusable lunch containers and Japanese snacks here.  Japanese snacks are a wonderful little treat to pack in a school lunch box and we are running low on our supplies, so we have to head back soon.  The worst part of these store is that the little ones will whine and ask to be bought things and you will cave because everything is so inexpensive.  If you are trying to declutter your home, do not go to this store.

The other star attraction at these Japantown malls is the food.  Of course, you won’t find Ria and me where there isn’t the promise of a food ‘venture as well.  Japanese food is extremely kid friendly – chicken katsu, noodles, teriyaki chicken with rice, in addition to all the bakeries and crepes at Sophie’s Crepe house.  We have started making more Japanese food at home as a result of our frequent adventures to Japantown (stock up at Nijiya Market).  Plus, there is all that display plastic food which always gets the kids’ attention.  There are restaurants a-plenty and the toughest part is choosing one to eat it.  Pick one of the larger ones if you are there with your kids vs. the little hole in the wall ones.

The last time we were there, we ate at Benihana which serves Japanese teppanyaki.  The food is made right in front of you on a large hot plate by “showmen-chefs”.  The kids, all three of them were mesmerized and didn’t budge or whine while watching their lunch being made.  It isn’t the tastiest Japanese food I have had but for entertainment value and decent food at a very reasonable prices at lunch, it is worth a visit.   Putter around and, like us, have a tough time deciding where to eat.

We also had some very yummy fish-shaped Taiyaki for dessert.  This is another one of those things I grew up eating and was more excited than the kids to (re)discover.  Taiyaki is a Japanese fish shaped, pancake-like hand held treat filled with red bean, chocolate and a variety of other fillings.   Take some home and re-heat for a quick and fun treat with a glass of cold milk.

We have been here several times and still feel like we have tons to do and tons we want to do again.  Time flies while you are here.  Kids are in wonderland and the parents have fun too.  Going to Japantown is like a visit to Japan without the airfare.  A mini-vacation in our own city and a chance to expose the kiddos to a whole new world of fun and food!