This month’s recipe is inspired by a competition being run by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) (read more about the competition here). The prize is a copy of Nanban: Japanese Soul Food by 2011 Masterchef winner Tim Anderson, and all you have to do to win is make a tasty looking version of Tim Anderson’s yaki-curry.
Tim Anderson says about yaki-curry:
This dish, from the port city of Mojiko, is one of the first foods I mention when people ask what southern Japanese food is all about – it’s spicy, it’s rich, it’s unrefined and it doesn’t seem particularly Japanese at first glance. It sounds a bit like something a British student would make after an evening on cheap lager: steamed rice topped with curry and grated cheese. So wrong, yet so right.
I have no idea how this became a speciality of Mojiko – chances are one restaurant invented it, then others simply copied them. But, I do know that Mojiko is the port where the banana first entered Japan – so I incorporate it into my curry sauce. Banana adds a pleasant fruity sweetness in the background, but you can leave it out if you prefer. In fact, this dish works fine with basic Japanese curry sauce, and you can use just about any vegetables you like. You can add meat too, but as it is, this makes a great vegetarian main.
Nanban looks like a fantastic book, and I’d love to get my hands on a copy. ‘Nanban’ is apparently what the Japanese originally called Europeans when they first arrived in the south of Japan having travelled via the East Indies. In this book, Anderson seeks to challenge the idea that ‘Japanese food is delicate and fussy’ whilst sharing dishes that are both ‘accessible and delicious’.
The recipe below is taken from Nanban, as reprinted by JNTO. All photos are my own.
Tim Anderson’s Yaki-curry (焼きカレー)
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
For the curry sauce:
- 200g Japanese curry roux, you can buy this in big supermarkets*
- 1L water or vegetable stock
- 1 very ripe banana (about 100g)
- 50ml soy sauce
- 1 tbsp yuzu juice*
- 1 tbsp hot chilli sauce (or more or less, to taste)*
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 65g butter
- 15g dark chocolate
For the yaki-curry:
- 300g Japanese rice
- 375ml water
- 3–4 carrots, peeled
- 400g potatoes, peeled
- 300g cauliflower
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 quantity of curry sauce
- 100g mushrooms
- 80g cheddar cheese, grated
- 80g mozzarella cheese, grated
- eggs, 1 per serving
*Notes: I couldn’t find any yuzu juice and, whilst I probably could have used lemon juice instead I decided to leave this out. I wasn’t sure what sort of chilli sauce to use but had some Tabasco in so I used that. Watch out for the curry roux! It comes in a 100g pack and you need 200g. I didn’t realise this until I had measured out all of my ingredients – then I had to halve everything! (>_<)
For the curry sauce:
Put the curry roux with the water or stock in a pan and stir until the roux has dissolved. Bring to the boil.
Add all the other sauce ingredients, stir and remove from the heat.
Then use a hand blender to purée everything together.
For the yaki-curry:
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/200°C (fan)/gas mark 7. Wash the rice and let it soak in the water for about 30 minutes, then steam in a rice cooker or cook in a lidded saucepan.
Cut the vegetables into bite-size pieces, bearing in mind their cooking times – the carrots and potatoes take longer to cook than the cauliflower, so cut the cauliflower a bit larger. Heat the oil in a large sauce-pan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat until it just starts to colour.
Add the rest of the vegetables except the mushrooms, then add the curry sauce and bring to the boil.
Cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring the sauce frequently to ensure nothing catches.
Add the mushrooms at the end of the cooking time so they retain their bite.
Lightly grease a casserole dish or baking tray. Add the cooked rice and spread it in an even layer along the bottom.
Ladle over the vegetable curry, then top with the grated cheeses.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and barely starts to brown.
To serve, dish out the curry into shallow bowls and top each serving with an onsen egg (recipe for onsen eggs is in Nanban. Soft boiled eggs will also work).
If I do say so myself, this was one of the yummiest things I have ever cooked! I’ve made Japanese curry before, and it was nice enough, but this really was soul food. I curled up on my sofa, put on a DVD (Japanese, of course), and tucked in. I’ll be making this one again for sure! If I don’t win a copy of Nanban it will definitely be going on my Christmas list! ^_^
I’ll be back in May with a new recipe! If you have any suggestions, or perhaps you would like me to try one of your recipes from a book or website, please leave a comment below or get in touch! All the recipes I try on this blog have some connection to Japan and, because I don’t eat meat, they need to be vegetarian or pescetarian. I’m particularly interested in helping to promote Japanese recipe books, so do let me know if you have one I might like!