Omu's Mikiko Terasaki describes eating omurice as one of her fondest food memories while growing up in Fukuoka, Japan. The dish, which merges the Japanese words for omelette (omu) and rice (raisu), is often served at home. Of all the things her mother would cook, omurice was Terasaki's favourite.
There have been many variations of this comfort food since its invention at the start of the 20th century, but her mother’s version was a pillowy, not-yet-cooked-through egg on top of fried rice, with either tomato sauce or a dark demi-glace spooned on top.
“I had omurice every month at home as a kid,” she says. “The good thing about omurice is you can put whatever you want in the rice."
For her mother, it was also a way to get Terasaki to eat vegetables by hiding them in the fried grains.
“The dish would evolve as I got older: she would change the recipe, like adding chicken and bacon,” Terasaki says.
A prime example of Japan’s yōshoku (Western-influenced) cuisine, omurice became a dish for special occasions for Terasaki, who left Japan at age 20. She arrived in Australia around seven years ago.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Terasaki lost her job as a receptionist. This became a catalyst for her to start her own food business, but she was stuck on what she'd sell.
“I have no idea what to cook besides Japanese food. I make omurice for anniversaries and special occasions,” she says. “I asked my husband, ‘do you think omurice can be popular enough here to make a business?’" He said he didn’t think so.
But she remained determined to make omurice the centrepiece of her food dream and pushed ahead. For practice, she'd make omelettes every morning during the COVID-19 lockdown last year. She honed her own omurice by picking up tips from online recipes, and of course from her mother. This also meant her husband was forced to eat “failed” omelettes for breakfast and lunch.
“When I was making omurice, my mum gave me some tips about what to do,” she says. “I couldn’t make omurice perfectly. My mum makes very good omurice, but not me."
“I asked my husband, ‘do you think omurice can be popular enough here to make a business?’" He said he didn’t think so.
Terasaki also had to produce her own demi-glace, as the pre-made sauce her mother uses is not available in Australia.
Terasaki launched her food stall Omu last December across markets in Sydney’s Chinatown, Bondi, The Rocks and Paddington to a lukewarm response. It was only through TikTok that her omurice went viral.
“It was so quiet when I first opened in December ... Suddenly it went viral on TikTok in mid-April. One influencer texted me and asked if I was interested in collaborating. I accepted as I had nothing to lose. It got so many views, likes and comments after it was uploaded,” she says. “Sales tripled after the video came out – it’s more than what I can make in a day.”
At Omu’s stall at the Chinatown markets on a Friday night, the line outside Terasaki’s stall sometimes stretches down Dixon Street for 100 metres, with diners waiting up to three hours for a taste of omurice. Terasaki makes each omelette herself, which can be up to 200 every night, with each serve taking two to three minutes to cook.
For Terasaki, what makes a perfect omurice lies in the omelette itself: both its texture and its presentation on top of the fried rice. Slice open the omelette and it delicately fans over the rice in one smooth motion.
“It needs to have the softness and the smoothness on the surface. It was very hard to get the technique right,” she says. “It took me more than 500 failed omelettes – that's three to four eggs for each omelette!”
“My mum is so surprised about how successful it’s been. She tells me not to overwork myself and to rest,” she says. “It’s my own shop, but I’ve had so much help from my family.”
She honed her own omurice by picking up tips from online recipes, and of course from her mother. This also meant her husband was forced to eat “failed” omelettes for breakfast and lunch.
Queues at her market stalls across Sydney showing no signs of abating, so Terasaki is looking to expand her business. This includes an upcoming pop-up at Japanese restaurant Harajuku Gyoza in Darling Harbour, starting in July.
But it’s her love for her hometown of Fukuoka that she wants to showcase in her next food ventures.
“Fukuoka is sometimes described as a ‘black hole’ – once you go, you can’t get out. It’s too good for food. Not so many people choose Fukuoka to visit when they travel to Japan, but I really recommend it,” she says. “I think Fukuoka people are really proud of our hometown: we think our town is the best in the world. I really miss food from Fukuoka, like the tonkotsu ramen, it’s so good.”
Omurice (Japanese omelette rice)
This popular Japanese dish originates from the Meiji era (1868-1912). You can substitute the chicken in the recipe with any protein of your choice (such as bacon or sausage). You can also adapt this recipe using leftover vegetables from your kitchen.
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ onion
- 60 g mushroom
- ⅓ carrot
- 100 g chicken thigh
- Canola oil
- 20 g corn kernels
- 35 g butter
- 1 cup medium-grain rice, cooked and cooled (hot rice will create a soggy texture)
- 100 ml tomato sauce, plus extra to taste and drizzle over omurice when serving
- 15 ml Worcestershire sauce, plus extra to taste
- 6 eggs
- 150 ml cream
- Finely chop the garlic and set it aside.
- Chop the onion, mushroom and carrot into small pieces and set aside.
- Dice the chicken thigh into 1 cm chunks and set aside.
- To make the fried rice, heat the frying pan over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of canola oil. Add the chicken to the frying pan and cook for 1 minute. Add garlic, onion and carrot and stir until the onion turns brown.
- Add corn, mushroom and 15 g butter and cook until the butter has melted and vegetables are softened. Season the chicken and vegetables with salt and pepper.
- Add the cooked rice into the pan. Use a wooden spoon to separate the rice while evenly mixing the rice.
- Add tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce to the pan. Continue to cook the fried rice for another 3-5 minutes or until the rice starts to brown slightly.
- Taste the rice, and season with salt, pepper or extra sauces if required.
- Mould the rice into 2 portions using a small bowl and set aside on separate plates.
- To make the omelette, combine egg, cream and a pinch of salt into a separate mixing bowl and stir vigorously until evenly mixed.
- Bring a small non-stick pan to high heat and melt 10g of butter. Add half of the egg mixture and scramble the eggs until the eggs are almost set on the surface but still looks moist.
- Slide the spatula under the omelette and transfer on top of one serve of moulded rice.
- For the second serve of omurice, repeat steps 12 and 13.
- Serve the omurice with tomato sauce drizzled on top and parsley as a garnish.
A classic lunchbox sanga with sweeter Japanese-style mayonnaise and thick slices of ham.
A healthy and colourful bowl of fresh salmon, wasabi, Japanese mayo, avo and hot rice.
A classic French pastry much loved by the Japanese, financiers can be found in bakeries all over Tokyo in flavours of butter and matcha (green tea).
Yakisoba pan is a quirky Japanese creation consisting of fried noodles stuffed in bread, specifically a hot dog roll or milk bun.
Dorayaki is a traditional Japanese confection: sweet red-bean paste sandwiched between two grilled pancakes.
Soboro is a Japanese meat and rice dish popular in donburi cuisine. The name refers to the small pieces of protein, usually ground meat and egg, that are cooked into small crumbled pieces.