Saturday, August 23, 2008

Japanese Curry: a tasty kick to the head

I only promised this post recently, but some of these pictures are a year old. I'd like you to know that this much planning and forethought goes in to every post on this blog. I frequently consult psychics so that I can start reviewing restaurants long before they even open.

Anyway, to the task at hand: Japanese Curry Sauce Mix. Probably not something you've spent a lot of time with. I suspect that this is true even if you're Japanese, but I could be wrong. If you haven't had it, Japanese curry is thick, sweetish, dark brown, and very unlike any other curries you've tried.

My interested started when Uwajimaya put huge stack of it right in the middle of everything with a sign saying 'nearly free' or some such. How could any self respecting curry fancier resist?

three (0f four) contenders

So I picked some up. It was from S&B. I made it with tofu and peas. It was ok tasty, pretty bland, actually. But it... I was going to say 'hurt', but that's not right. It made my head feel reeeaaaaly weird, like the back of my brain was getting squished by a brick. It was a curry version of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. An... interesting experience, but not one I wanted to try again in a hurry.


Later I tried some Golden Curry. I realized later it's also from S&B. Right about the time I started to notice that brick pushing down on my brain stem again.

I liked the experience of eating the curry though. It was the after effects that I wanted to avoid. Maybe switching brands would work? It did, after a fashion.

The next version I tried was Vermont Curry from House Foods. It had a better flavor (can you believe that this whole thing started as a taste test?), and, joy of joys, no brain bricking at all!

looked better in person (bad photo by me)

The next day, as I sat perfectly still and yet poured sweat like a faucet ("I guess it's humid" I thought. Little did I know that I was foreshadowing), I decided that House was the shiznit and S&B was the shizite. So then it was time to try some of House's Java curry.

Java Curry block

They refer to it as 'Sauce mix' but it's not much of a mix. It's more a solid block of what Santos tells me is transfats, and I have no inclination to disbelieve her. Let's just take another look:

looks like milk chocolate, but it's very not

That's not a mix, or even a paste. It's a solid mass. It does dissolve almost instantly in boiling water. And then proceeds to transform into a thick stew.

Java Curry in the Pot
a bit visceral, but you need to see it

Which is actually pretty tasty. And again, no brain bricking, which is nice. But the next day was another one of those hot, humid days that left me pouring with sweat. Strangely, the weather wasn't affecting anyone else in this way. I had leftover curry for dinner that night, and another sweaty day to follow. The day after was fine, though.

looking good

It finally dawned on me: No brain bricks, but House brand curries impede a body's ability to regulate temperature. Turns the thermostat right up. The effect lasts for about 18 hours, apparently.

So, there you have it. Japanese curry sauce mixes are both tasty and more or less immediately uncomfortable. Use at your own risk (I have a few packets if you want to try them. Tell me how it goes.)


santos. said...

eeeeewwwwwwwwww. i wonder what that brick in your head is. or sweat spigot. according to someone on chowhound, the ingredients in vermont curry are:

palm oil, wheat flour, sugar, salt, cornstarch, curry powder, onion powder, tomato powder, autolyzed yeast extract, fruit paste (banana, sugar, honey, tomato) honey, skim milk, dry whole milk, cheese (cheddar, gouda), peanut butter, soy sauce powder, chutney, cocoa, apple paste, garlic powder, red pepper, MSG

that's kinda a lot of stuff. maybe it's a combination allergy of peanut butter and gouda? autolyzed yeast extract and chutney?

actually, what i think they fail to mention is that it's probably 90% or more palm oil and flour. arrgh. this will be an interesting experiment, to come up with a homemade non-lethal curry roux.

leff said...

There are some recipes around the internet. I'm just going to have to get my but in gear and make some of them. None of them sound quite as involved as your ingredient list, and if I use real stock instead of bullion cubes or whatever I should be able to control the salt.

Anonymous said...

Hey there!
May I ask what the cooking directions on your Java Curry box said about the amount of added water?
Ive used a japanese one with roughly translated directions and it told me to use 1300ml = 1 ,3Liter

The curry turned out horribly watery and fluid.I guess it was due to a wrong tranlated part of the directions

thanks for your help!

leff said...

@Philthylizard, that's roughly what mine said. It's for the whole box, not just one of the cubes, which you might have thought if you're used to western bouillon cubes and stuff.

I think most of the water goes into the potatoes and stuff as well.