Our reporter couldn’t get enough of this kitchen machinery that requires no more physical exertion than simply throwing in the ingredients.

Chinese-style fried rice, known as chahan in Japanese, is one of those deceptively difficult dishes to make. While anyone can make a passably good version, only a few can whip up a truly masterful batch (just ask the ultimate judge, Uncle Roger).

Speaking of masterful fried rice, our Japanese-language correspondent and singular furikake expert Seiji Nakazawa recently attended the restaurant industry’s “Eating Out Business Week 2021: Nationwide Food Products Expo” on October 7 and 8. He likened the event to a food version of Comiket (it was even held at the same Tokyo Big Sight convention center). While there, one particular product caught his attention more than the rest–a cool fried rice-cooking tool to rule them all.

▼ A scene from “Eating Out Business Week 2021”

The tool in question is actually more appropriately called a robot. Its official name is Robo Chef (ロボシェフ) RCG560S and it’s made by MIK, a kitchen equipment manufacturer that specializes in rice-based dishes.

It was Seiji’s first time hearing that a robot was capable of making fried rice, but according to MIK’s representatives the Robo Chef series was introduced a whole decade ago. The RCG560S model itself has been around for five years. Seiji chalked his ignorance up to not being intimately familiar with the restaurant industry.

Even so, up close the contraption looked like something purely futuristic to him. Apparently it could make all kinds of stir-fried dishes, but fried rice was one of its hallmarks. Staff even claimed that it was probably the best in all of Japan at expertly flipping the egg and rice in the wok. With that kind of sales confidence, Seiji just had to see the Robo Chef in action.

Hovering above the large wok was a large, spiral-shaped rod that looked something like a corkscrew. When staff turned on the power, the wok began spinning in place. They next turned on the stove and splashed some oil into the wok, followed shortly by egg and cooked rice. After the giant corkscrew contraption was lowered to the edge of the dish, the rod also began rotating in a wave-like pattern.

Seiji watched in awe as the Robo Chef stirred the mixture in a manner exactly as if a real human being had been shaking the wok. The egg and rice were indeed turning into chahan before his very eyes.

Towards the end, all that was left to do was to sprinkle in some seasoning to make a completed dish. The egg and rice were finely mixed at this point.

Here’s Seiji’s video of the entire process, which didn’t take long at all:

Seiji still marveled that it was possible to make fried rice without a live person needing to lift a heavy wok. He wasn’t sure what ancient Chinese chefs would say about a piece of modern machinery producing a popular national dish, but it did make him wonder whether the possibility of a restaurant with exclusively robot chefs, including the robot soba chef and the fried chicken-cooking robot, wasn’t that far off.

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