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Ask Japanese kids what their favourite foods are and you’re as likely to get the answer “hamburg” or “curry rice” as you are “sushi.” Japanese food is popular around the world, but less well known to foreigners is the proliferation and popularity of yōshoku dishes – Japanese western food. Yōshoku makes up a sizeable part of the menus of family restaurants in Japan, as well as being popular home-cooked food. Staples include the aforementioned hamburger steaks (no buns) served with demi-glace; curry and rice, eaten with a spoon; naporitan spaghetti in a ketchup-based sauce; and of course omurice, chicken-and-ketchup rice topped with a thin yellow omelette.

There’s always room for a little more innovation, though. Like this restaurant in Saitama that’s turned the old favourite, omurice, into a beautiful swirl of eggy perfection.

You’d be forgiven for thinking yōshoku was a recent development – the Japanese equivalent of the late-20th century American sushi boom, perhaps. But Japanese western dishes have their roots in the late 19th century.

Believing that diet would be the key to increasing military strength, the emperor Meiji lifted a historical ban on meat-eating; as Japanese began to travel abroad, they brought back new ingredients and knowledge of dishes from the west, which were then adapted for the Japanese market. This gave the world yōshoku (洋食 lit. “western-style” and “food”) – dishes that, while they have their origins in foreign food, might not be recognised as “western food” by westerners.

The humble “omu-raisu” (a portmanteau of omelet and rice), for the uninitiated, usually looks like a simple, neat parcel of crepe-like omelet wrapped around fried rice.

▼ So far, so omelet.

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But at Benitei, a 60-year-old yōshoku-ya (western food restaurant) in Saitama city, they offer up as their specialty dish the Dressed Omurice, an elegantly sculpted swirl of brilliant yellow omelet designed to fall gracefully over the rice base like the flowing dress of a dancer.

▼ Ready for some katakana practice? In Japanese it’s called a ‘doresu-do omuraisu’.

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Let’s take a look at how it’s made!

▼ With a few deft twists of the pan and some skilful chopsticks movement, the thin omelet is twirled up into this distinctive shape…

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▼ … and laid over a mound of rice.

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▼ A quick wipe of the plate and a dribble of sauce …

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▼ And it’s ready!

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The chef makes the unique twisting motion that produces this dish look easy – but it requires such close attention while making it that orders are limited to 10 a day. Watch the omurice master in action here:

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Restaurant information:

Benitei, Sakuragi-cho 1-3-3, Ōmiya-ku, Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture
Opening hours: lunch 11:30-2:30; evenings: 17:30-20:30
No evening service on Wed, Thurs.

Sources: grape, YouTubeAsahi Shimbun
Featured image: YouTube