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Omurice, or omu-raisu, is a Japanese fusion dish that typically consists of fried rice wrapped or topped by an omelet. It is often served with ketchup that is sometimes used to spell out a message or the diner’s name. The name is a combination of the word omelet and rice, and omurice is an example of yohshoku, or a meal with Western origins changed to suit the Japanese palette. The dish is a feature of maid cafes, and there are many references to the meal in Japanese popular culture.
There are many variations of this simple-to-prepare dish. The filling is usually some type of fried rice that can include vegetables, meat, or seafood. Some restaurants, especially in Tokyo, only serve omurice and offer a seemingly endless variety of fillings and toppings, such as curry or hayashi beef sauce. The dish is also commonly served in school cafeterias, department store restaurants, and family-friendly eateries as part of a children’s set menu, or okosama ranchi.
The filling can be made using leftover cooked rice and is typically flavored with chicken breast or boiled ham and onions or other vegetables. The vegetables and meat are sauteed in a large frying pan or wok until done, and the cooked rice is added and tossed until heated through. A little bit of ketchup or broth is added to color and flavor the filling without making it soggy. The filling is then seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.
Once the filling has been prepared, the eggs are cracked and whisked in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. This mixture is then poured into a frying pan and allowed to cook until the edges are done but the middle is still slightly runny. At this point, the filling can be added directly onto the cooking omelet, which is then folded over the rice to make a large football shape. Alternatively, the omelet can be carefully turned out of the pan and onto a mound of plated rice filling. Omurice is often served with ketchup on top and a side of vegetables like broccoli or potatoes.
This meal is arguably one of the most popular at maid cafes, where the waitresses are dressed in French maid costumes. These cafes are concentrated primarily in the Akihabara area of Tokyo. Diners who order omurice can usually specify what they want their waitresses to write or draw in ketchup on the plate and food.
Dishes similar to omurice but with different fillings have emerged in recent years. Omusoba uses yakisoba noodles as filling instead of rice. If the filling is taco rice, the dish is called omutako, which is found primarily in Okinawa.
Many Japanese popular culture references are made to omurice, especially in anime and manga. For example, in the second episode of the 2011 anime Hanasaku Iroha, the protagonist serves her mother omurice and expresses in ketchup her disappointment that her mother missed Parents’ Day at school. Additionally, director Juzo Itami includes a scene in which omurice is prepared in his 1985 film Tampopo.