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.