'Tampopo' Omurice

March 30, 2022
5 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 1
Author Notes

Instead of the typical flat folded style you’d expect from a diner omelet, omurice eggs are scrambled, then blanketed over a fried rice filling. This is opposed to the showy billowing type I first saw in Juzo Itami’s 1987 cult classic, Tampopo. The film fanaticized ramen culture, but also has one of the most memorable food scenes I’ve ever seen. A young boy and homeless man (who is coincidentally a chef) break into a restaurant to make omurice. First, the man cooks a mound of ketchup rice (it’s exactly what it sounds like: pan-fried rice cooked with a protein, often chicken, usually some vegetables, and lots and lots of ketchup) in a sauté pan and inverts it onto a plate, in a long oval shape. Then, he quickly scrambles a few well-beaten eggs in a pan with saibashi (Japanese cooking chopsticks), pulling long curds like mozzarella, and delicately folding them around themselves like burrata, enclosing half of the eggs, which are still nearly raw, in a thin crepe-like cocoon. Gently, he places the pillowy omelet atop the rice and promptly cuts it lengthwise with a sharp knife from tip to tip, exposing a custardy soft-cooked center that oozes out over the plate.

For so long, omurice was something that existed, for me, only in online videos. There’s a YouTube clip of Motokichi Yukimura, the chef in the red hat from Kichi Kichi Omurice in Kyoto, that’s been watched over half a million times. Yukimura only flips the fried rice in a pan using his left hand. The mold he uses to shape the rice on the plate is most certainly custom-made. He also abides by straining his beaten eggs before scrambling them for a silkier texture. The way he knocks the handle of the pan with his inner right wrist, shimmying and sealing the omelet on the sloped edge of the pan, is pure magic. —Michael Harlan Turkell

What You'll Need
  • Ketchup Rice
  • 1 cup cooked short-grain white rice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 chicken thigh or breast (about 3 to 4 ounces), cut into small bite-sized pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Omelet
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Ketchup, for serving (optional)
  1. Make the Ketchup Rice: Steam the rice, preferably a day ahead (it makes for a firmer, heartier fried rice). If you’re tight on time and need to cook it the day of, use a little less water so the rice is on the drier, firmer side. Let cool.
  2. In a small nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Season the chicken with salt and cook, stirring to coat with the oil, until almost all the way cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Try not to brown the chicken at all so your meat stays tender. Add the carrots and onions and cook for 1 minute more.
  3. Add the rice, stirring to combine. Make a well in the middle of the pan, clearing away the rice mixture so there’s a hole and you can see the bottom of the pan. Add the ketchup to the center and cook, undisturbed, for 20 to 30 seconds, until it stops bubbling. Mix the reduced ketchup into the rice. Remove the pan from the heat; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Fresh ketchup rice tastes best, but it will keep for a few days, and reheats well too. If you’re going to eat right away, I suggest plating the rice while it’s still warm and then making the omelet. Pile the rice on a plate. Using a rubber spatula, form an omelet-shaped ovular mound about 1 inch high. Tip: Cover the rice with saran wrap and mold it using your hands (it’s easier and cleaner).
  5. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel (you’ll use it for the omelet too).
  6. Make the Omelet: Crack the eggs into a small bowl. Add the milk and salt and whisk until well combined.
  7. In the same skillet over medium-high heat, cook the butter until it melts and starts to bubble, swirling the pan to coat all the way to the edges. Working quickly, add the egg mixture and stir with wooden saibashi (Japanese cooking chopsticks) to form long curds, pulling the more cooked egg from the edges into the center while still scrambling the eggs in the center of the pan as well. If you don’t have saibashi, a small wooden spatula works in a pinch.
  8. When the eggs are just about halfway cooked, or after 60 to 90 seconds, there will be a nest of nearly cooked eggs on the bottom, with a combination of large curds and undercooked eggs on top. While the egg on the bottom of the pan starts to set, remove from the heat and let the pan sit for about 1 minute. This will firm up the bottom and edges, enabling you to loosen and fold the egg omelet. (I’ll warn you, this may take a few attempts—I went through a full dozen eggs in an effort to get this right.)
  9. Next, you’re going to attempt to fold the omelet onto itself, sealing an edge while keeping a portion of the half-cooked eggs inside. Working toward the farthest edge of the pan, tilt the pan at a 30-degree angle away from you. From the side closest to the handle, slowly fold up the edges of the omelet toward the center, by quarters, if not thirds, eventually working your way all the way to the outer edge. You can also slide the omelet onto itself about three-quarters of the way, then knock the handle of the pan lightly with the heel of your wrist on your non-dominant hand. This will cause the omelet to jump a little while sliding onto itself. I suggest watching a few videos on this technique before giving it a go. Finally, you’ll have a rolled omelet curled up at the farthest edge of your pan. You’ll need a little more heat to really seal that edge, so put only that far edge of the pan over medium-high heat for a few seconds.
  10. Plate immediately. To do so, you’re going to invert the omelet on top of the rice mound. Sounds harder than it is, but what you’ll do is reverse your hand position on the pan, taking an under-hand grip on handle with your thumb now farthest away from the pan, so you can more easily slide the omelet onto the plate. Gently slide, almost flipping the omelet on top of the rice, guiding it with the saibashi, so it doesn’t fall off the rice mound, making sure it’s stable before you take the pan away. Once you have it balanced on top of the rice, bring it to the table. Using a sharp knife, and only the tip, slice the omelet from end to end lengthwise, unfurling the omelet as if it were a flower blooming.
  11. Garnish with more ketchup, if you'd like.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Claudia
  • zeldie
  • PaulR
Host of Season 3 of Food52's Burnt Toast podcast! Photographer, writer, author of "ACID TRIP: Travels in the World of Vinegar"

3 Reviews

Claudia March 3, 2019
What an amazing recipe. This will be on regular rotation here.
zeldie February 23, 2019
this is beyond delicious...I am an experienced cook and now eat just the omelet every day after I work out....using chopsticks or flat wooden thin skewers to pull the egg towards you while moving pan makes the fluffiest most delicious omelet and the ketchup is pricelss...who knew....
PaulR February 23, 2019
It would be great to share a video link when the technique might confusing (in this case that runny omelet). I'd rather not waste a dozen eggs figuring it out?!