a yōshoku brunch

have you seen tampopo, the japanese “ramen-western” movie from the ’80s? if you haven’t, take a minute to watch this scene where a homeless gourmand breaks into a hotel kitchen to make a midnight snack, omurice, for a little boy:

this film might be difficult to appreciate by those who are personally offended by the consumption of animal products, but is an important bit of culinary art history and was my first introduction to yōshoku, the tradition of japanese appropriation of western cuisine. yōshoku as a culinary tradition began around the turn of the 20th century when the meiji emperor lifted the ban on western culture and promoted a “western” diet that was based on red meat and wheat flour. japanese chefs used traditional japanese techniques when attempting to recreate “western” dishes such as british curry, beefsteak, pork cutlets and, as seen above, omelettes. yōshoku became a distinct culinary discipline and remains one even while the developing global culture gives japanese chefs the ability to “authentically” recreate chicken cordon bleu if they wanted to.

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to arbitrarily add another layer of cultural appropriation, i decided to present omurice as a part of a “western” brunch, complete with greens and potato hash. i used amaranth greens, which have are delightfully aromatic and not at all bitter, therefore quite unlike collards or kale and more akin to spinach and daijo, japanese purple yams seasoned with furikake, a nori-based rice seasoning. omurice is traditionally served with ketchup or tonkatsu sauce, something like a tomato-heavy steak sauce, but i used ketchup as featured in the film. while delicious, the yams were a little dry so i whipped up a quick kewpie mayo to drizzle on them. as it was, it was a rather labor-intensive meal, but if you were to have leftover rice in the fridge it would come together more quickly, or even more quickly if you were to make an omelette with steamed rice rather than fried.

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because i had okara left from making soymilk i used kip’s okara omelette recipe, but you could use any omelette recipe you like, such as angela’s chickpea-based recipe.

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omurice
makes enough fried rice for four large omelettes, i made two and had rice for leftovers the next day

3 1/2 c prepared rice
1 large carrot, diced
1 spring onion, diced, including the green part, or 1 bunch scallions, chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbl oil
1 1/2 tbl dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground white pepper

prepared omelette batter (i doubled the recipe for two omelettes)
oil for greasing the pan
ketchup for serving

– prepare all vegetables and rice and have them ready before heating the pan for stir-frying
– heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. when smoking hot, add the oil and the vegetables and stir-fry until carrots are softened and have begun caramelizing
– add the rice, soy sauce and white pepper and toss to combine
– when rice is heated through, remove from heat and reserve
– prepare omelette batter and heat a frying pan over medium-high heat
– grease with oil (coconut is my preference) and pour batter into the pan
– cover the pan and cook 5 minutes or until the bottom of the omelette is golden brown (peek very carefully) and the omelette easily slides around the pan
– pile about 1 1/4 cup fried rice down the middle of the omelette and very carefully fold the edges of the omelette up and over the rice
– turn the omelette out of the pan, upside-down, on a warmed plate and serve with ketchup

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amaranth greens

1/2 lb amaranth greens (or spinach)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 tbl oil
salt and pepper

– heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat and sauté the garlic and shallot until fragrant and the shallot is translucent
– add the washed greens and a little water and cover to steam for about 5 minutes
– toss with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot

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daijo hash

3 or 4 medium daijo or other sweet potato, cubed
2 tbl oil
1 tbl nori komi furikake rice seasoning

– heat the oil in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat, add the cubed yam and cook without stirring for about 5 minutes
– stir briefly to turn the yams and cook 5 minutes on the other side. continue to cook, stirring in 5 minute increments, until the yams are done, about 15 minutes in total
– add the furikake and toss to combine. taste and correct with sea salt if necessary. serve immediately.

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