Don't Knock Omucurry Until You've Tried It
The town of Furano has a rather unlikely local dish. It doesn’t use special ingredients found only in the wilds of Central Hokkaido. In fact, it doesn’t use many ingredients that are considered typically Japanese. It uses eggs and a sauce that will always have well-guarded secret ingredients. The local dish of Furano is called omucurry, short for omelette curry (Japanese language often uses portmanteaus especially for English words), and you can find it in dozens of restaurants.
Yuichi Sakuraba on Flickr
During my first few weeks working at the Furano Tourism Association, I had visited the omucurry webpages, I’d read over the omucurry brochures, and I’d helped countless visitors decide where to eat omucurry. My interest in omucurry was piqued, although my taste buds weren’t tempted to be truthful. In fact, if I am brutally honest, I had rearranged the brochures so photos of omucurry weren’t under my nose every day.
But then I found myself in a favourite curry house of mine, perusing the menu one lunchtime. I considered my professional duty, took a deep breath, and boldly ordered omucurry.
jj-walsh on Flickr
It’s not that I have an issue with eggs. For many years my family kept chickens for fresh eggs and when all our hens were on the lay, we ate eggs at most meals. We became adept at creating new dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert. But serving eggs in an omelette with curry sauce is one combination that never, ever dawned on us. As I mused on this, my lunch arrived. It was perhaps a little unusual, but clearly nothing to fear. There was a fluffy yellow omelette, turned over once to make a fold, and a hearty serving of aromatic Hokkaido curry. There were some colourful side items, but I was too rapt with the omelette to take much notice.
When I cut into the omelette, I was pleased to find it was stuffed with seasoned rice. I held the first morsel on my fork, leaned in, and had a nibble. Perhaps I was hungry, but it was a bit of a shock just how quickly my plate was clean. And clean is the word, because hardly a smudge of curry sauce remained, not one grain of rice, and not a shred of egg. Whatever my side dishes had been, they were eaten. I was sitting back satisfied and pleased with my order.
Hokkaido curry is not usually hot in the spicy sense, but it is very smooth and flavourful. The omucurry dishes photographed for local pamphlets and websites have sauces of golden, reddish and very dark brown tones. For omucurry to be served displaying the official Furano Omelette Curry flag, the dish must meet certain criteria. These are that the rice used must be locally grown and prepared in an original manner; the eggs must be produced locally; it must be cooked with either Furano butter, Furano cheese, or Furano wine; it has to feature a local meat or vegetable; it must be served with a local side dish and a bottle of Furano milk; and finally, the restaurant cannot charge more than 1,000 yen for the meal.
I confess I have only eaten omucurry that one time, but when I have visitors from out of town I will take them out to try it. I will choose a different restaurant each time so that I can take a culinary tour of all the omucurries Furano has on offer. When I have tried them all, I will choose my favourite. This may require a second sample, however. I think assessing omucurry in Furano could easily become a lifetime pursuit.