Vegan Omurice recipe

First things first: my first recipe book is finally launched on Amazon US! They can ship to many other countries too. UK launch will be in April 2021, you can preview the book here. Thanks for your support since the local launch last year!

Best eaten with a spoon!

Omurice is a popular dish in Japan, and it’s also pretty well-known in some other Asian countries. Savoury with a slight sweetness, it’s particularly enjoyed by children. There are 2 mains parts to this dish – fried ketchup rice wrapped in a soft omelette, thus the name. The latter part poses the main challenge here, therefore this is not the easiest recipe. Since I didn’t want to use expensive ingredients like Just Egg, I had to figure out my own blend that works well, using affordable ingredients, tastes and feels similar to omelette.

Grated nagaimo was the first thing that came to my mind, due to it’s magical binding qualities. It remains flavourless when mixed with other ingredients.

Firstly, the rice. It’s the easy part of this recipe but there are a few things we should pay attention to. Use Japonica/short grained rice if you want to be able to handle the wrapping and transferring from pan to plate easily. Jasmine rice will break apart, which makes wrapping more difficult. If you only have Thai or Vietnamese rice, add a splash of stock during cooking to make the rice slightly more sticky. You can also make the fried rice in advance and heat it up once your “omelette” is done. My favourite tool to make fried rice with is definitely a wok over fire, but in Japan, non-stick saucepans are more commonly used as not every house has gas. So feel free to choose what suits you best. 

I used Japonica brown rice from NTUC.

Next, the “omelette” is made of 3 basic ingredients – firm tofu (tau kwa), grated nagaimo (wai shan/Chinese mountain yam) and aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas). That’s all! The rest is just turmeric for colouring, black salt (kala namak) and soy sauce for seasoning. You’ll need a blender or food processor for this, just like my book’s tomato tofu scramble. Tofu gives the base creaminess, grated nagaimo contributes the starch and other components necessary for binding and aquafaba gives the lift that’ll make the tofu omelette fluffy and soft. You’ll also need some patience because this tofu-based blend doesn’t behave exactly like egg. It’s much more fragile and can break quite easily thus this consistency is thick so it can hold. Try to handle it gently too.

Black salt (kala namak) gives a nice umami and eggy flavour. Available from Mustafa or Shopee. Mine was bought as salt chunks so I hammered them down to this.

One difference between this tofu omelette base and my tomato tofu scramble’s one is the addition of grated nagaimo. Omurice’s omelette needs to be folded, so it should not break while doing so. Grated nagaimo gives the binding needed while keeping the smooth texture. For tomato tofu scramble, since it’s going to be broken up anyway, we don’t have to add this ingredient. I’ve not tried this with flaxseed powder, I seldom buy it because it’s expensive.

Simply blend the base “omelette” ingredients to this texture and pan fry.
I used onions, shimeji mushrooms and OmniMeat Luncheon (available at Green Common) in my fried rice.
The fried rice is so good that you can have it on its own.
The tofu omelette can be eaten as a veggie omelette too. Just top it with veggies of your choice when cooking.
The tricky part is the wrapping. But don’t worry, just have fun with it!

Vegan Omurice

(serves 2 very hungry people or 3 not-so-hungry people)

Fried Rice

  • 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic/onion (use a tsp toon paste + 1 tsp grated ginger for alliums free option)
  • 2 cups overnight rice
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or to taste
  • White and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp chilli sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped shimeji mushrooms (or other mushrooms or hard veggies you like)
  • 1/3 cup of chopped protein of your choice (I used 1 piece of Omnimeat Luncheon since I bought it for CNY)

Heat oil in a wok or saucepan over medium heat (with a wok, I usually use medium high heat). Sauté garlic or toon paste & ginger till aromatic. Add soy sauce and let it simmer for 5 seconds to reduce. It should smell really good now. Add the chopped mushrooms/hard veggies, flip till ingredients are coated and of an even colour. Add rice, ketchup, chilli sauce, black and white pepper if using. Use a spatula to break the rice up if needed, and flip/mix till each grain is an even reddish colour. Taste and add more pepper/salt/soy sauce/ketchup if preferred.

Tofu omelette

  • 440g firm tofu
  • 1/3 cup aquafaba
  • 1/4 cup grated nagaimo
  • 1 tsp black salt, more on the side to garnish and season to taste
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp oil, for frying, more if needed

Blend all tofu omelette ingredients except oil, to a creamy consistency. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over low-medium heat. Scoop about 3/4 cup of the mixture into the hot pan. Use a spatula to even and flatten it. Sprinkle a pinch of black salt and some ground black pepper over the omelette if you like. Cover and let it cook for 3-4 mins, until edges are browned. Shake the pan a bit to ensure that it’s loosened. The colour should be a darker yellow now. Remove from heat.

Side salad (optional)

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Blanched broccoli
  • Few leaves of any greens like lettuce, arugula, roquette, shredded raw cabbage etc
  • Dressing of your choice

Assembly:

Place about 3/4 cup of rice on one side of the tofu omelette, press down gently with a spatula to ensure it sticks. Using your spatula, flip the other end over the rice. Now it should be mostly, or fully wrapped, depending on how big your pan is and much rice you added. Here, I like to flip the slightly opened side to the spatula and gently transfer to a plate, so the perfectly wrapped side is facing up. Decorate with ketchup to your liking and add the optional side salad. Serve hot.

Works well in lunchboxes too!

Notes:

  • Making the perfect tofu omelette requires a bit of practice, so don’t worry if it breaks/cracks at first. The taste will still be the same and you can sort of tuck the cracked/broken edges under the rice so the end result will still look nice when plated.
  • Use a good non-stick frying pan for this. It’s important that the tofu omelette doesn’t stick, so you won’t end up with charred and scrambled tofu.
  • You can make the fried rice a day in advance. Simply reheat it before adding onto the tofu omelette.
  • You can also blend the tofu mixture a day in advance. It has to be refrigerated.
  • Sprinkling some black salt on the tofu omelette after removing from heat will ensure that the eggy flavour remains. I like to do it while cooking, as my black salt is in small chunks, so it can melt. You can skip this step if you like but I think it makes the tofu omelette taste better.
 

Okonomiyaki + Japanese Mayo (Plant-Based Japanese Recipes)

I’m starting a small series of plant-based Japanese recipes! This series is inspired by my travels in Japan and will feature my take on some of the amazing food I had there. Those who don’t take alliums or alcohol, fret not – I’ve crafted these recipes in a way where these are optional!

It’s very easy to find Japanese ingredients in Singapore from regular supermarkets like NTUC (often has a Japanese section) or speciality stores like Donki, Isetan and Meidi-ya. However, it’s not always easy to figure out what’s plant-based, as sometimes the translations aren’t accurate. I will advice to be a little more careful when buying packaged Japanese products here if you wish to avoid animal products.

Although Japan is not commonly known to be vegan-friendly, things are changing and there’s a surprising amount of accidentally plant-based foods. You can read more about my recommendations from Japan starting from here, or see my reviews of dishes and packaged foods here. The recipes in this series will mostly be of food I ate there as I have a good idea of what’s the benchmark! I don’t claim them to be authentic since I didn’t grow up eating Japanese food, but this is what worked for me. Try it out!

What is Okonomiyaki?

Okonomiyaki is a customisable savoury pancake popular all across Japan, but especially famous in 2 places – Osaka and Hiroshima. Okonomi means “as you like” and yaki means fried or stir-fried. There are 2 main styles of okonomiyaki, Osaka style (mixed) and Hiroshima style (layered). At okonomiyaki restaurants, although you can choose what you like to be mixed into the batter, the batter itself already contains eggs and very likely, fish stock. This is a plant-based take on Osaka’s version. If you’re in Osaka, I recommend Vegetable Bar Aju’s (my fav vegan restaurant there) okonomiyaki.

How the pancake looks like before dressing it up.

Ingredients introduction

There are certain ingredients that may be foreign to some. Some are important in getting the texture right.

Ingredients used for these 2 recipes.

1. Nagaimo (Chinese yam, don’t omit)

Chinese people will know this too!

A starchy root, usually available in wet markets or the refrigerated section of supermarkets. This is one amazing ingredient that I learnt about during a vegan takoyaki cooking class in Kyoto. Chinese use it in stir-fries and soups, but often in Japanese cuisine, it’s simply grated and eaten raw as a topping. It’s naturally sticky and smooth without flavour – a fantastic egg replacement in certain applications. Traditional okonomiyaki already contains nagaimo to lift the batter.

2. Aonori (topping, optional)

A type of seaweed dried and made into flakes. The one in the photo is actually aosa (a cheaper type of seaweed) not aonori, but taste is almost the same.

3. Japanese mayonnaise (topping, optional)

Tastier than Western mayo with stronger umami. Vegan mayo is quite easily available in the big cities I visited in Japan, but I haven’t seen it here yet. So I made my own, recipe below. Although optional, I highly recommend as the creamy savouriness really adds depth.

4. Dashi powder (use either this or soup stock)

If you don’t wish to make soup stock from scratch, you can buy konbu dashi powder. This is also used in my mayo recipe below. I got this one in Donki.

5. Beni Shouga (red ginger pickles, optional)

This goes into the batter. It’s gingery and slightly sweet. It’s optional but often used in okonomiyaki, so I included it. I think the main idea is to introduce something crunchy, tangy and umami for textural variation. So you can add any types of pickles you like, or add something else with umami if you don’t like pickles.

6. Okonomi sauce (topping)

Similar to BBQ sauce but thicker and slightly more tangy and sweet. You can replace with regular BBQ sauce. I got this from the Japanese section in NTUC.

7. Baking powder + vinegar+unsweetened soymilk (egg replacement, don’t omit)

Having air bubbles in the batter is necessary for a light texture.

This is to produce air bubbles in the batter so it’s light and tender, not dense or doughy. Okonomiyaki usually already have baking powder, I just added vinegar to help produce the air bubbles. You can use any types of vinegar with a light flavour, like rice, brown rice, apple cider or distilled vinegar. Soymilk helps to add protein and moisture, which also helps to achieve a light and moist texture. This particular brand of soy milk in the photo is great for cooking, from Donki. Don’t use sweetened flavoured soymilk, unless you really like chocolate flavoured okonomiyaki? 🙂

8. Dashi (don’t omit)

Dashi is the backbone of Japanese cuisine. It’s a soup stock used in most savoury foods, usually made from fish (katsuo). The ocean has blessed us with another source of briny umami from plants – kelp, a.k.a konbu. Learn how to make konbu dashi easily here. Since washing the dried konbu isn’t recommended, I prefer to use Japanese konbu (available in some NTUC and Japanese shops) as Chinese ones sometimes have sand. In this picture, the dashi hasn’t been boiled yet hence the light colour. You may use vegetable or mushroom stock to replace.

Recipe: Japanese mayonnaise (egg & dairy-free)

Makes about 500ml (The recipe is doubled because my food processor is too big, if you want to make less, half the recipe.)

  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas)
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp black salt
  • 3 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups grape seed oil
  • 2 tsp konbu dashi powder 
  • 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of turmeric (optional, for colour)
  1. Process aquafaba and mustard in a food processor.
  2. While the food processor is running, drizzle a third of the oil slowly into mixture. Do not pour all at once.
  3. Add salt, sugar and dashi powder.
  4. Drizzle a third of the oil again while the food processor is running.
  5. Add rice vinegar, lemon juice and drizzle the remaining oil. Process the mixture for extra 10 seconds after everything is mixed.
  6. Taste and adjust by adding more sugar, dashi or black salt to your taste. Try not to add more of the liquid ingredients to avoid diluting it. If it’s too thin, drizzle more oil while machine is running to thicken. Store in clean bottles, can be kept in fridge for a week.

Recipe: Okonomiyaki (egg-free)

Makes 3 medium-sized pancakes. Recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook – look at the step-by-step photos here before attempting.

Okonomiyaki is hard to photograph ;__;

Batter

  • 1 cup flour, sifted (also works with whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 tsp black salt (or sea salt, to enhance flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce (because we are omitting animal products, it’ll be best to add more flavour to the batter)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar (or any light flavoured vinegar)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 3 inch nagaimo, grated
  • 3/4 cup plant-based dashi (Or 1 tsp dashi powder dissolved in 3/4 cup water)

These ingredients can be replaced with anything you like:

  • 1/2 of a medium sized cabbage, chopped finely
  • 1 tomato, chopped finely
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickles (or anything with umami that you like, eg: other pickles, kimchi, preserved black beans, achar, Chinese preserved mustard, etc)
  • Green onions, chopped finely (those who can’t take alliums, try chopped chilli, ginger or toon sauce, etc.)
  • Slices of marinated tofu or tempeh, or any sliced protein, mushroom or veggie that you prefer.

Toppings (as much or as little as you like)

  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Okonomi sauce
  • Chopped spring onions (optional)
  • Vegan dried squid (can buy from vegetarian grocery shops, optional, to replace bonito flakes)
  • Aonori or aosa (or similar seaweed flakes)
  • Other topping ideas: Chilli sauce, fried onions, soy floss, black pepper, chilli flakes, sesame seeds, furikake
  1. Mix flour, salt and sugar in a big bowl.
  2. Add grated nagaimo and dashi stock. Mix.
  3. Add vinegar, soy milk and pickles. Mix till just combined.
  4. Add chopped vegetables and mushrooms a third at a time. Mix before adding the next batch. Batter should be sticky and thick with visible air bubbles.
  5. Heat oil in a non-stick pan.
  6. Pour a third of the batter into the pan. Use spatulas to press the batter into a round shape. Reduce to low medium heat, cook for couple of minutes till browned.
  7. Press slices of tempeh/tofu on top of the batter.
  8. Using 2 spatulas, flip the pancake to cook the side with sliced tofu/tempeh.
  9. Cook till browned, remove from heat and transfer to plate. Spread okonomi sauce on top.
  10. Top with mayo, aonori, spring onions and other toppings you like.
  11. Repeat until you use up all batter. Serve hot!

Because you can add anything you like, your’s may look different – don’t worry! The texture should come out tender, light, slightly gooey, soft, not runny or dense and doughy.

Notes:

1. Do not over mix the batter to avoid pressing out air bubbles. Stop when everything is just combined.

2. A good okonomiyaki has one more ingredient – tempura bits. It’s helps to make the batter fluffier. However, my parents wish to avoid deep fried foods so I didn’t buy it. Those are available in the okonomiyaki section in Donki. Note that not all types are plant-based.

3. If you’re cooking this for the first time, start by making smaller pancakes so it’s easier to flip. Don’t hesitate when you flip and do it with one quick action.

I can’t take full credit for developing this recipe. There’s plenty of Japanese recipes online but I prefer to learn from ones that are written by Japanese people. I learnt a lot from Just One Cookbook and my favourite, A Japanese Vegan’s Kitchen. Highly recommend their pages for precious, time-saving tips! Next up, ramen. Stay tuned 🙂