Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Curry Rice: Japan's cheapest and choosiest family meal

What's the most eaten meal in Japan?

It's NOT sushi. It's not even ramen. Nope, it's this thing called curry rice.

Curry rice appears on practically every budget menu in Japan. You can buy it to go for around $3-4, when most simple noodle dishes or soups range from 600 yen or $US6.50. Curry rice is the staple of millions of ordinary Japanese families, and even more geeky bachelors, I bet.

It's even been immortalized by this miniature curry rice meal I found at Kid Robot in NYC.

So what is it?

It's basically made from a pre-packaged curry rice cube that comes in a packet - they call it a roux, and the competition to make the perfect roux is stiff.

Now of course, you can get this exact same kind of thing from India, China, Malaysia and so on.

But if you read Japan's S&B Foods site, they'll convince you that Japanese curry is the best, because the guy who made a fortune out of it sought to refine it, whereas other countries use it to "disguise the smell of rotting food". Well, that's how S&B would have you believe it.

I brought a couple of packets of the stuff back from my first ever visit to Japan this year.

I have to say it's the fastest meal in the east - just saute some root veges and a bit of meat (optional), cook in some water for 20 mins then melt the cubes into the pot until they dissolve and thicken to a decidedly brown, thickish gravy.

Of course, any pre-mix that requires next to zilch effort like this must be full of mysterious ingredients that would make you shudder if you could read the Japanese on the packet.

However, S&B assure us that the roux contains, among other mystery ingredients, "6 kinds of vegetables" which would certainly explain the slightly sweet, well balanced flavor of the resultant curry. In fact, the orange colored dressing you see on most Japanese salads is often a puree of vegetables and fruits, seasoned to taste. In comparison, I've found most other curry pastes too harsh, too hot, too heavy on one or more spices. Nothing like a vege smoothie to make a great curry or sauce base!

I'd recommend tracking down these cubes in a Japanese supermarket. There is another line S&B make called Golden Curry, which distinguishes itself by being packaged in English, but I've tried these in the past and they just don't taste as good.

Now all I need is a hungry family of 4 and a hubby that doesn't cook to really feel like a Japanese supermom. SUGOI!

More Japan on a Friday here on my Galfromdownunder Upover blog and even more Japan than you can stand at my Bike Friday in Japan 2009 report

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bought those curry cubes now and then over the years only at Asian grocery stores - now I can buy them at a supermarket. Which is good because now I do not need to make a special trip to buy them.