June 13, 2024


World's finest Food

Check out these Polynesian recipes from Omni Hut (closed in 2018)

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a story that originally appeared in The Daily News Journal Nov. 5, 1980.

After retiring from the U.S. Air Force, Maj. James Walls opened the Omni Hut in Smyrna in 1960.

While serving in World War II, the Pearl Harbor survivor garnered Polynesian recipes from his time in the South Pacific and created the Omni Hut menu. Over the decades the restaurant became a regional favorite where locals and travelers from miles away enjoyed a unique dining experience.

Everything was scratch-made. And the Tiki hut-style restaurant itself was part of the experience, with bubbling fountains, handcrafted native artwork and elements from Polynesia that gave am ambiance of the islands.

More: Going international: What food options are missing in Rutherford County restaurants?

Before Walls died in 2012, his daughter Polly Walls-Balakhani took over restaurant operations and kept the traditions of Omni Hut alive. Much to the dismay of generations of fans, the restaurant closed in 2018 due to staffing issues.

Polly Walls-Balakhani and her late father James F. Walls inside the Omni Hut restaurant Thursday, January 19, 2006.

Polly Walls-Balakhani and her late father James F. Walls inside the Omni Hut restaurant Thursday, January 19, 2006.

Since then, many Omni Hut fans have longed for the foods that drew thousands for nearly 60 years.

Recently The Daily News Journal queried readers about what cuisines they’d like to see added to the burgeoning Rutherford County restaurant scene. Numerous people talked about Hawaiian and traditional Chinese fare and several reached out lamenting about the closure of Omni Hut.

From the archives, we’ve resurrected the recipes Walls shared in a newspaper article in 1980. Enjoy.

Souper Soup

The key to all stir fry dishes is the soup stock — you cannot get it rich enough. It is said if you go to a Chinese restaurant and order a meal and the soup is unsatisfactory, so will be the remainder of the meal.

  • 1 gallon of water

  • 1 1/2 pounds pork bones, neck or brisket

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken backs

  • 1/2 head cabbage

  • 1 stalk of celery, no leaves

  • 1 large onion

  • 1/2 pound carrots

  • Salt and seasoning powder

  • Pepper

Put the water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add pork bones and chicken backs and bring to a boil. Add the rest of the items and boil two hours, adding water to keep the contents covered. Remove from the stove and drain soup stock. Season soup to taste with half salt and half seasoning powder, then add pepper to taste. Store in the refrigerator after cooling Do not dilute. After the soup cools in the refrigerator, remove excess grease from the top.

Egg Drop Soup

  • 2 cups Souper Soup

  • 2 green onion tops, sliced thinly

  • Egg, whipped and set aside

  • 1 cup water

Put soup stock and water in a pan and bring to a rolling boil. Pour in the egg slowly and stir slowly. Turn off the heat and serve. This makes four cups. Garnish the top with green onions.

Teriyaki Sauce

A good teriyaki sauce can be used for many different meat dishes: fish, shrimp, pork roast, pork ribs and beef steaks. Use lightly on seafood.

  • 2 cups soy sauce

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • 1/2 cup finely grated fresh ginger

  • 1/4 cup garlic buds, crushed

  • 1/2 cup apple juice

Put everything into a pan. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and store.

(You can buy this commercially at Jr.’s Foodland on East Main Street in Murfreesboro.)

Polynesian Pit Ribs

Visit a butcher and ask for 3 and under pork ribs (essential to assure tenderness). This side of ribs will weigh under 3 pounds. Ask to remove all brisket. You will have about 12 “good” ribs in it. For planning purposes, order about one side of ribs for two people.

  • 2 sides of ribs

  • 1 cup teriyaki sauce

  • Aluminum foil

Two hours before cooking, put ribs on a plat pan and brush with teriyaki every 15 minutes. Take the foil and wrinkle it up, then place in the bottom of the pan so grease can drain away from ribs while cooking. Cook in a 350-degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours until meat pulls away from rib ends about a quarter inch. Brush ribs with sauce every 15 minutes while cooking. The brisket removed from the ribs can be using in making Souper Soup.

When cooking ribs over charcoal, the sugar in the soy sauce will turn and turn ribs black. Cook them slowly over very low heat.

For teriyaki steak, brush your favorite steak cut with the sauce while cooking. Use the teriyaki sauce as a steak sauce at the table.

Chicken Chow Mein

  • 1/2 cup oil

  • 2 pods garlic, crushed in wok

  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated ginger

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup raw chicken breasts, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup thinly sliced bamboo shoots

  • 1 cup thinly sliced Napa

  • 1 cup thinly sliced bok choy

  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 3 cups Super Soup stock

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 2 tablespoons seasoning powder

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup corn starch

  • 2 quarts cooked chow mein noodles

Put oil in the wok or large skillet and heat. Add garlic, ginger and salt, and cook for one minute. Add chicken and stir fry until done. Add bamboo shoots, Napa cabbage, bok choy, mushrooms and water chestnuts and stir fry five minutes. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, Souper Stock, sugar and seasoning powder and stir fry one minute. Mix water and corn starch together, then pour over what’s in the wok. Stir fry until everything thickens. Pour into a bowl and serve hot. Serve vegetable mixture over noodles on a plate.

Duck Sauce

  • 1 cup pineapple juice

  • 1 cup apricot juice

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauice

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup corn starch

Combine juices, sugar and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Mix water and corn starch in a separate bowl. Slowly add to the wok until the mixture thickens. Serve with egg rolls.

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

  • Deep-fat fryer filled with oil, heated to 350 degrees

  • 12 peeled jumbo shrimp (with tails left on), deveined and dried

  • 5 eggs

  • 1/2 cup corn starch

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1/3 cup water, set aside

  • 3/4 cup water, set aside

  • 1 1/2 cups water, set aside

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup white vinegar

  • 1 cup green peppers, cut into 1-inch squares

  • 1 cup red tomatoes cut into small wedges

  • 1 cup pineapple chunks

Mix eggs, corn starch, flour to form a thick batter. Dip shrimp into batter, holding by the tails, then drop into a deep-fat fryer and fry at 350 degrees until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Mix remainder of water (1/3 cup, 3/4 cup) with soy sauce and set aside. Put 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, vinegar and green peppers and heat until sugar dissolves; when it begins to boil, add soy and water mixture until it thickens. peppers, tomatoes and pineapple and stir fry six minutes. Place shrimp in a bowl with tails standing up around the edges of the bowl. Add sweet and sour mixture to the center of the bowl.

Egg rolls at the Omni Hut.

Egg rolls at the Omni Hut.

Egg Rolls

  • Deep-fat fryer filled with oil, heated to 350 degrees

  • 1/2 cup peanut oil

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 1 cup finely chopped roast pork

  • 1 cup cooked shrimp, boiled and finely chopped

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded celery

  • 1 cup finely chopped whole scallions

  • 1 cup finely chopped water chestnuts

  • 1 cup finely chopped bamboo shoots

  • 2 cups Napa cabbage, shredded

  • 2 tablespoons seasoning powder

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 pound egg rolls skins

  • 1 egg, whipped and set aside

Heat wok or large skillet and heat oil. Add salt and pepper. Add pork, shrimp, celery, scallions, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and cabbage and stir fry about eight minutes until tender. Add soy sauce, seasoning powder and sugar and stir fry one minute. Drain mixture thoroughly.

To roll egg rolls, take one roll and lay on the counter. The square should look like a diamond. Place three tablespoons of the cooked mixture on the skin at the nearest point to you and fold the end up over the mixture. Brush the remaining edges with egg wash and fold the two edges pointing to the sides over the mixture and take the side toward you and roll into a rod shape. Deep fry at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Reach reporter Nancy DeGennaro at [email protected]. Keep up with restaurant news by joining Good Eats in the ‘Boro (and beyond) on Facebook and follow Murfreesboro Eats on TikTok.

This article originally appeared on Murfreesboro Daily News Journal: From DNJ archives: Maj. James Walls’ recipes from Smyrna’s Omni Hut