Nutritionists regard the humble egg as almost the perfect food. Traditionally venerated as a staple, it was vilified in the late 20th century for the high cholesterol content of the yolk. But it was later vindicated and is now venerated again. Highly versatile, eggs are used in all sorts of foods in almost all cuisines and can be found in humble roadside stalls and in the most expensive restaurants.
In this country, eggs are a basic item at cafés while most kopitiam serve them half-boiled with toast and coffee. The Japanese, though, know how to celebrate the egg — in their own creative way.
Omurice is a Japanese adaptation of omelette — with rice filling. It is an example of yoshoku cuisine or Western-influenced Japanese food, which can be traced back to 18th century Japan.
Omulab by Slurp! is an omurice speciality restaurant, the only one I know of in the Klang Valley. Its bright and cheerful white-and-yellow theme is modern, unfussy and trendy. “Come On, Baby, Crack Me Up” declares a sign on one of the walls. The menu is simple: omu-everything, rice, udon, various meats, sides and drinks.
Be prepared to wait as it takes time to prepare the suspiciously regular, oval-shaped yellow layer covering my Omu Kare rice (RM18.90). The plastic-looking thing is soft and looks manufactured but it is an omelette, painstakingly made. Anything less than perfection is not served. Beneath it is fried rice with chicken that is accompanied by shredded cabbage and Japanese curry.
Slice the omelette open and the thin yellow skin peels back to reveal soft, almost runny, egg that tastes like, well, egg. The fried rice with chicken is not bad, especially with Japanese curry.
Omu Salada (RM14.90), similarly, has that strange oval cylinder smothering a mix of fresh vegetables — a good combination of protein and vegetables and not quite as rich as the egg-rice combination.
The coffee is pretty good, and there is an omu coffee as well, but I don’t think I can take that much egg in one sitting.
Tamagoyaki or Japanese omelette is commonly encountered in nigirizushi — pressed rice with a ribbon of egg on top. But you can never have too much of a good thing, and egg-o-philes will be thrilled to find a stall dedicated to tamagoyaki in the basement of The Starling mall in Petaling Jaya. Called Shin Tamagoyaki, the fast-food stall has a few tables and chairs so you can eat in or take away.
Here, making an omelette has been elevated to an art. The cooking takes place in an open kitchen behind a glass panel, attracting adults and children alike to witness how beaten egg is poured into a special frying appliance called a makiyakinabe. The fried egg is rolled in thin layers into a rectangular shape, pressed in a bamboo mat and set aside for the cooking process to complete. It is then cut into regular shapes and voila! Tamagoyaki.
Tamagoyaki can be taken plain, in a stick form (RM5.90) or in a whole block (RM14.90) that is served with various toppings, from cabbage to scallop, for a hearty snack. Or you can have it as a main meal in a rice set with a portion of shredded cabbage and a drink for RM16.90.
On its own, tamagoyaki is sweet from the added sugar and has an even, eggy taste. The layering gives it a loose texture, so that it is quite distinct from regular omelette. It can be a savoury snack or an after-meal sweet.
I had a Mentai Mayo (mentai is preserved cod or pollock roe) tamagoyaki. The most popular topping at the stall, the fish roe is spread over tamagoyaki and singed with a kitchen gas torch before being served. The melted roe is salted and tastes concentrated, which makes for a savoury combination with the underlying sweet tamagoyaki.
Traditional and perfectly suited to a busy modern lifestyle, and more nourishing and nutritious than a cheesy puff or fried chips, tamagoyaki is worth a second look and a nibble.
Omulab By Slurp!, 7 Jalan 17/45, PJ. 03 7492 7506. Daily, 10.30am-3.30pm; 6-9pm.
Shin Tamagoyaki, The Starling, Damansara Utama, PJ. Daily, 10am-10pm.
This article first appeared on July 9, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.