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Gourmet

Omu-rice

Food in the category of “Western cuisine” refers interestingly to dishes that are Western-derived but that have been developed in uniquely Japanese ways. In the mid-1800s, shortly after Japan ended its period of historical isolation, dishes served at Western-style restaurants included deep-fried shrimp, deep-fried pork cutlets, curry and rice, and deep-fried croquettes.

One item on Western-style menus was omu-rice (rice omelettes)—a dish that became well-known in Japan for its golden yellow egg wrap and bright red ketchup or tomato sauce.

According to one story, omu-rice was a dish born in Osaka in 1925.

A restaurant customer ordered the same thing daily: an omelette with rice. The cook decided to enliven the dish accenting the rice with ketchup and wrapping it in a thinly fried omelette. The delighted customer asked what the dish was, to which the chef apparently replied: “It’s an omelette with rice… omu-rice!”

The episode in question took place at Hokkyokusei, a pioneering Western-style restaurant that opened in 1922. Today, the establishment maintains the calm atmosphere of an upper-scale Japanese restaurant, even as it stands in the midst of Osaka’s boisterous Minami shopping district. It includes floor seating on tatami (straw mats) overlooking a Japanese garden, and offers a chance to experience the oft-romanticized Taisho-era atmosphere blending East and West that flourished when the omu-rice dish was first created.

In addition to the main restaurant, there are numerous additional Hokkyokusei branches throughout Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures in locations including department stores and other commercial establishments—and customers may enjoy the coveted original omu-rice dish at any one of them.

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