A Day of Eating

I’d like to invite you along on a day of gluttonous behavior.

Last weekend Dan and I explored Kichijoji, hip place for living 15 minutes west of Shinjuku on the Chūō line.  Our plan was to take a walk, find some lunch, and perhaps do a little window shopping.  We really didn’t get too far before the first snack attack.

Round 1 landed us in a vegetarian restaurant, which can be hard to find in Japan.  A nod to its hipness factor, Kichijoji has a few, and the result was lunch at Deva Deva Cafe.  Dan went for one of the six veggie burgers on the menu and I, predictable as always, chose curry rice.

Next we found Bakery Café Linde and picked up some fresh pretzels.  Showing a little bit of self restraint (the last of the day), we put these in our pockets for later.

Our walk through Kichijoji ended at Cafe Zenon, a manga cafe where, rumor had it, some amazing lattes could be found.

And a mid-afternoon coffee in Tokyo just wouldn’t be complete without an accompanying dessert set.

That’s one beautiful pudding you’re looking at (Dan’s feelings about pudding are summarized here).  I had the Autumn Special — waffle, chips, and cream made with sweet potato together with fresh pears and fig, all dusted with fresh chestnut.  Mmmm.

On our way back to the train station:

That is one scenic 7-11.  On the train home Dan said to me, “We have to transfer at Shinjuku station?  How convenient!”  The exclamation point in that sentence doesn’t do justice to the creepy weird look on his face.  I knew this meant only one thing — ramen.

Is this round 3 or 4?  I’ve lost track.  One of the most famous ramen shops in the city, Men-ya Musashi is located just outside of Shinjuku station.  It has awesome samurai decor and is packed.  Since it was Sunday evening, the line stretched the length of the restaurant but hadn’t yet gone out the door, a lucky break for us.  Here is my bowl of ramen before:

And the sad scene after:

I just couldn’t finish, and left a lone soldier behind.  Sorry, you beautiful piece of pork, there just wasn’t room for you in there with all your friends.

Kare Raisu to the Curry Rescue

Kare raisu カレーライス is Japanese style curry rice, and my new favorite make-at-home meal.

Though somewhat unknown outside of Japan, curry rice is a common dish in these parts.  Introduced by the British during the Meiji era (1869–1913), Japanese style curry rice is like Indian curry, though a few steps (colonizations?) removed.  It has a rich curry flavor, though is not spicy and usually includes a hint of sweetness.  Curry rice can be made with any sort of meat and vegetable combo, though beef or pork with a hearty stock of potatoes and carrots is most common.

I love kare raisu, and eat it more than I’d like to admit.  It’s a sort of comfort food, like mac and cheese in the United States:  it’s warm, filling, and something you can count on to taste good (enough).  It has become my go-to when I encounter a menu I can’t fully read, never mind the fact that I usually end up with a giant plate of fried pork in brown sauce, and look around to discover it is the man’s meal of choice.  All the other women (and Dan) have beautiful plates of fish, while me and the boys go for the put-some-meat-on-those-bones meat… but I digress.

Curry rice is actually quite simple to make, so I decided it was time to try it out for myself — cook up some meat and vegetables and add my choice of curry roux, which come in blocks and can be picked up at the local grocery store.  Easy, right?

Uh, right.  That’s an entire aisle at the supermarket dedicated to curry roux (a comparison of some of them here).  After a little more research, I discovered that most of those packages contain a lot of stuff I’m not so interested in ingesting, such as sodium and MSG.  It was time to learn how to make my own curry roux, from scratch.

Because the Internet is amazing, I found this video which made the entire process a breeze.  (Thanks, Matsumoto-san!)

First step, gather the ingredients. Don’t you love it when vegetables play together so nicely?

Those of you with a keen eye will notice that yes, I bought discounted meat.  What can I say?  It had カレー (curry) written right on the package, and I was pretty sure it was pork, so the deal was done.  I picked up S&B brand curry powder and tonkatsu とんかつ sauce (a brown sauce sort of like Worcestershire, you may remember it from here) because I have no brand loyalty and I like their logo (I guess now I have brand loyalty), and eventually the flour was identified by the flowers on the package — not to be confused with the flowers on the sunflower oil, please!

Next, I’d like you to observe how this simple little dish completely maxed out my kitchen space.  One burner for meat, one burner for roux, one hand for mixing, one hand for photo-ing…

After achieving a golden roux, I added the curry powder, tonkatsu sauce and cayenne (I like a little spicy) to the mix and set it aside.  I have to say, at this point I was questioning the deliciousness of my made-from-scratch meal:

In the one other pot I own, I simultaneously sauteed onions, browned the meat, added carrots and water, and brought it all to a boil.  After a while, in went the potatoes, an apple, and more curry powder.  The apartment finally started to smell like the kare raisu I know and love:

After about 30 minutes, in went the roux and some frozen peas, and voila! My homemade curry:

My curry rice was thicker than some, but I didn’t mind.  And though it didn’t photograph well, I thought the comforting effect was spot-on.

Again, a big thanks to Matsumoto-san at No Recipes for his handiwork.  Check out the link if you are interested in making your own curry rice.  いただきます!