Home Cooked

An Omu rice obsession

I still remember the moment I became obsessed with the dish. I was having dinner at home with my sister when she tapped me on the arm and shoved her phone in my face, ‘check this out, check this out’ she said. I watched as a Japanese man with a rock star hairdo cooked an omelette and sliced it open atop a mound of fried rice. It flapped open magically to reveal the creamiest, most tender looking egg I had ever seen; then a piping hot sauce(which I have to assume is Demi glaze since Japanese love Demi glaze for some reason) is poured over. It blew my mind. It blew my mind because I didn’t know omu rice cooked with this much finesse even existed. Omurice in my mind was an often overcooked, insipid omelette served on sauce and rice. This, this was something else.

All along I was taught to believe that the French omelette was the pinnacle of egg perfection, Julia child taught me that, Jacques Pepin taught me that, Thomas Keller taught me that. And yet here in  a tiny restaurant in Kyoto was a chef cooking an omelette that I had never seen before until now. I proclaimed there and then that I would try to perfect that omelette, I knew the idea sounded incredulous, but what took me by surprise was that my sister dismissed me right away. ‘Don’t even bother, do you even know how many years you have to train to get this right’. And on hindsight, she was correct, it must have taken years to perfect, and logically I should have given up at the time, but there was something about the pessimism that made me want to perfect it even more, perhaps that was the catalyst that drove my obsession.
And obsessed I was. Every day I came home from work, I would go straight to my stove and run through 8-10 eggs until either my mom and sister would come into the kitchen and not so subtly hint that perhaps it was time to stop. It’s not like I was cooking blindly either. I scoured YouTube for every clip I could find. ‘Kichi kichi’ ‘omu rice Japanese’ ‘omurice flip’, every video taken of an omu rice made that was uploaded onto the internet, I’ve probably already watched it. I took note of everything- how much egg was being used, how hot the pan was, the material of the pan, the type of pan, the utensils used, the time taken to cook the egg. It sounds crazy to spend this much thought on something as seemingly simple as an omelette, but it’s more than just that. It is a live and ferocious beast, a beast that is uncaged the moment you drop your eggs into the hot pan(high heat is used, no 20 minute bain marie omelettes here). You act too slowly and the eggs get too cooked within seconds. You act too quickly and your eggs are too liquid to be flipped. I would run through all the steps in my head but the moment I saw the eggs start to scramble, I would blank out. What was second nature to that chef was infant nature for me, and I ate all my failures, it seemed wrong to throw them away. Perhaps this was my punishment for failure- every day I would eat egg sandwiches for lunch. I had to take breaks on some days because the rest of my family had rightfully exercised their right to refusal on those failed omelettes. By the fourth day the thought of eating eggs made me gag.
I wasn’t stagnating though, and I think knowing that there was progress was what kept me going, every time I failed I would go back to the drawing board and re-assess what I did wrong. I would re-watch videos on YouTube, try to figure out what I could have done differently. I eventually realized some things didn’t work for me, I had to use a skillet instead of a saute pan because the angled egg of the skillet somehow enabled me to flip the omelette a little bit better. I couldn’t use chopsticks to save my life, I switched to a system of first using chopsticks to scramble the eggs in the beginning, then using a spatula for the flip, eventually I just used the spatula by itself. I couldn’t find a way to make the knocking system he uses to agitate and flip his eggs either, this is probably the most difficult part of it all, the actual flip.
Another style of omurice
 So why is this damn omelette so difficult to make? First of all, you have to get your eggs  creamy, this is a given since a properly cooked French omelette has a creamy center. The main difference is that a French omelette is almost like a thin egg crepe wrapping creamy scrambled eggs, it isn’t sealed, and the unsealed portion is usually hidden because it touches the plate(presentation side), if you pick it up, it unravels itself. This omurice requires the egg to be cooked into a pouch, which means that you can pick it up and nothing would leak out. Sounds simple in theory, but a nightmare to execute.
Pepin shows you how to make an omelette
I must have been a week in before I got it right. I cooked it into a  pouch, prodded it and I could tell it was soft in the center. This must be it, this is the moment, I couldn’t contain my excitement when I carefully placed it on the fried rice. I sliced the top open and…. Nothing happened. It just sat there. That omelette cut me deeper than my knife cut into it, I felt like giving up at that point. I had done everything right and yet it didn’t flap apart like it was meant to. What went wrong this time. I eventually realized cooking it into a pouch wasn’t enough, you had to cook it into a pouch with enough mass so that the weight of its own creamy insides would tear its own skin open(mmmmm). The simple fix would be to add more eggs into the pan, but that in itself made the whole omelette a whole lot harder to flip, more trails were done, more eggs were consumed. And then, I finally got it.
I cut into that omelette and parted it like Moses parted the sea. It was glorious. Perhaps it would’ve been less glorious if I had gotten it right on my first or second attempt. But that was not the case, I was at least 60 eggs in at that stage, and it all cumulated to this moment, it was all worth it.
These days I still use the same technique to cook omelettes, simply because it’s a lot of fun to flip, but I don’t rest them on rice and slice them open, I just put it on the plate and finish it with a drizzle a bit of soy sauce and some sesame oil, they look no different from French scrambled eggs, but if you ever care to take a look on the underside, I can assure you that they are sealed.
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Hong Kong

Australian Dairy Company, Hong Kong

This will be my last post before I fly off to Tokyo, I’m taking a little break in between packing. Well, its not so much ‘packing’ as it is doing 3-point jump shots with my clothes across the room  into a luggage. My itinerary for Japan is pretty ridiculous, I only have about 6 days worth of eating before Japan transitions into Golden week, where majority of the restaurants will be closed, therefore I have a pretty tight schedule for those 6 days, lookout for posts on that soon!

I visited ADC twice in January during my short trip to Hong Kong, quite a feat considering we were only there for about 2 full days. ADC is a very unassuming restaurant where you’re more likely to get disservice than service from the waiters- they hurry you into the restaurant and don’t give you much time to read through the menu before hovering over you, ready to take your order. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t rude, but this is a true blue hustle and bustle kind of place- the constant clinking of plates being put on the table, the steam and noise going on in the kitchen, the loud chatter from the dining room, it’s not a place you would want to sit down and catch up with friends, but its a place that’s undeniably Hong Kongese (real word?).

   

Macaroni/Spaghetti with ham

We would not have ordered this if it had not come as part of a set. Although having Macaroni soup is (strangely) quite a common breakfast to be had in Hong Kong, this version wasn’t particularly good. Pasta was very overcooked and too generous with the portions, ham was mediocre and as you can see from the photos, stingy with portions(not that we were screaming for more). The spaghetti isn’t served with invisible ham if you were wondering, the ham in that particular set was moved onto the scrambled eggs, so you will get your ham by hook or by crook. The soup tasted synthetic, like it had come out straight out of a can, boiled with some ham, then served. Bad

Scrambled egg with toasted bread

The real star of the show, and the main reason why people line up to eat at ADC, is their scrambled eggs. If you want the technical details, it is cooked with large curds(low-medium temp, stirring once a while?), very different from the traditional french method where the aim is to get as fine a curd as possible. It is incredibly moist when you eat it, although I think part of the reason why it stays so moist is because there is ridiculous amount of butter in it. The seasoning is spot on, and the aroma and taste of the butter hits you with every bite, and it goes incredibly well with the soft, fluffy, lightly toasted bread.

The bottom line is that they are delicious, whether you eat them together with the bread, or you eat them alone. This something I would eat everyday if I learnt that there was an astroid heading towards earth and everyone would die in a month, but given the amount of butter put into it, I might not even last a full month before my arteries give way. Very good

Hot milk tea

This was strong strong tea, a little too strong almost, like someone poured milk into your mouth and you were sucking on a teabag. But for the same reason, drinking this at 7am with a lack of sleep made this work on so many levels. The kind of drink that would fuel nocturnal serial killers who hold a regular day job, maybe like a Hong Kong version of Dexter. Okay

Ginger milk pudding + Milk pudding

We had both of these cold, the ginger had a much stronger taste but a more brittle consistency, it did taste a little ‘cleaner’ on the tongue with not much aftertaste. The milk pudding had a more ‘melt in your mouth’ feel to it, but a very strong egg-y aftertaste. Both didn’t really do anything for me. Okay

I would go back to ADC solely for their scrambled eggs, but the problem with their menu is that the set menu (pasta + eggs + tea) is priced in such a way that it is only slightly more expensive than just ordering the eggs alone, therein lies the conundrum. I don’t like leaving food on the plate if I can help it, but this is one instance where I really have to say that the pasta just isn’t worth your stomach space. Besides, Mak’s noodles is just down the road from ADC, and their wanton noodles are, without a doubt, much better than the macaroni/spaghetti at ADC.

Go to ADC with realistic expectations of service- noone was rude to us, but we were made to share out table with other diners and constantly had to move our chairs for staff that were running to and fro, such is the nature of service at a busy establishment like ADC that aims to turn tables as quickly as possible. But I digress, just remember to order the scrambled eggs, in fact, order 2 portions and forget about the guilt.

Singapore

Spruce, Singapore

Spruce Signature burger

This is one of the few instances where the concept of ‘less is more’ actually works on a burger. The burger isn’t served with cheese oozing out over the sides, without juices dripping down the sides of the patty; instead, the burger is served with neatly shredded lettuce at the top(tiny detail but makes a world of difference), sliced tomatoes, which by the way, are probably my least favourite component of any burger(and yes I prefer pickles over tomatoes on burgers), and cheese neatly tucked  in and imprinted onto a beautifully cooked beef patty. The patty was surprisingly juicy, and very soft, I would go as far as to say that the patty was actually better cooked than the one I had at Relish, albeit somewhat salty.. The bun was very nicely toasted, which was necessary because the patty did leak quite a bit of delicious meaty juice out, and nothing spoils a burger like a soggy bun. Fries were pretty good too, well season and crisp. Good

Spruce Mac and Cheese

This was actually a side dish, and apparently one of their famous dishes. With or without the hype, it was disappointing. The cheese was way too mild for the amount of cream that they used. It was very heavy and filling, while being  light on flavour- a terrible combination. Bad

Crab cake benny- Crabcake, poached egg, smoked bacon and hollandaise

I wasn’t crazy about this. The egg was a little overcooked for me (again, spoiled by sous vide), the hollandaise was on the heavier side. But the crabcake was pretty damn good, very meaty, fresh and robust flavour, sweetness of the crab was a good pairing with the saltiness of the dish on the whole, but the sauce and bacon were a tad too overpowering for me. I personally think the crabcakes could stand as a dish on its own, but overall the dish was less than the sum of its parts. Okay

Steamed Ginger Date pudding with chocolate toffee sauce

There was something… out of the ordinary with this dish when I was eating it, and I didnt realise what it was untill I was halfway through the dish- Its ridiculously sweet. And the sweetness hits you like an F1 racecar- you don’t see it coming, but when it hits you, it hits you hard. The chocolate-toffee sauce is basically toffee dressed up as chocolate, so you think you’re having a chocolate sauce when in fact you’re having liquid toffee. The steamed ginger date pudding, which would imply a light dessert, and in all probability, may have been a light dessert; but seeing as to how the only way to eat it was to dredge it in a pool of chocolate(read:toffee) sauce, its purpose was more or less defeated, which is a shame, because the pudding was actually pretty good eaten with the vanilla ice cream. I should add that the warm sauce was actually nicely contrasted with the ice cream, but again, the sauce overpowered everything. Okay

Overall, I didn’t expect much from Spruce, and I honestly didn’t get much. It is a nice place to have brunch, the food is pretty decent and well priced, but not somewhere that I’m dying to go back to. Be warned that the place is pretty under-staffed, I was sat in a corner, it was nice to get some privacy, but at times it felt like they had forgotten about us and the tables in the vicinity.