One of the new challenges I encountered arriving in Japan was adapting to Japanese food–with its different textures, ingredients, aromas and flavors. Japanese very wisely use the ocean around them as a varied, and plentiful food source. Healthy items such as seaweed, kelp, fish of all kinds which can be served raw, dried, or cooked are consumed daily. Some creatures like octopus, squid, and eel were not on my list of edible foods before my life in Japan began, although now I think barbeque squid is not too bad.
What I did love right away was the beautiful presentation of their food. With the extra time and effort they put into displaying it, Japanese food always looks amazing and so delicious. One example is the obentou box. A careful balance of color and food groups makes for a healthy and satisfying eating experience. Obentou boxes are provided at some companies for their workers, available for purchase at train stations as well as convenience stores, and made during the week by mothers all over Japan who have young children in school.
Boys and girls are filled with joy and excitement while examining what is placed inside each compartment. How will their rice be decorated? What two proteins will they have? What two choices for their vegetable and fruit section did mother include today? How many red, yellow, and green items will entice them to eat their lunch? Who knew that everything packed tightly into a little box would be such a treasure? Even an office worker, like Eiko, has days when she packs herself an obentou.
I have learned to love Japanese food–minus a few things from the ocean. I enjoyed eating food my Japanese friends prepared, as well as eating out at restaurants serving traditional Japanese foods. Now it’s time for my confession. I rarely made it at home, partly because I didn’t keep the special ingredients on hand, and partly because of the time required to prepare the intricacies of Japanese recipes. Instead, I chose to do other things I considered priorities at the time.
When I was asked to include a Japanese recipe in the back of Sky Blue, I had to pray really hard. Then God used my family to help me out. “What about your curry rice recipe? We used to eat it every Saturday while watching Little House reruns. It is so easy and yummy and you have loved making it all of these years.” Even last Christmas when our family all got together at a mountain cabin for the weekend, the first evening meal I made was Japanese curry rice–perfectly filling on a cold evening. Here is the simple recipe if you would like to try it.
For His Glory, Karol
A Recipe for Japanese Curry Rice from the author, Karol Whaley
An easy, satisfying dish, this recipe serves three to four people. It may be doubled or tripled for large groups.
- JapaneseRice: Buy a small bag of Boton brand Calrose Rice, available at stores in USA. Follow the directions to make two cups of rice, or use a rice cooker. Minute rice should not be used.
- 3.5 oz. (100 grams) box of instant curry blocks from the S&B Golden Curry brand or from House Foods Vermont Curry brand, available at local supermarkets. Choose your level of spiciness—mild, medium, or hot.
- One pound boneless, skinless chicken
- One small bag of baby carrots
- One medium potato
- One small onion
- Vegetable oil (2 and 1/2 TBSP)
- Ketchup (1 TBSP)
- Chop the chicken and peeled potato into 1/2 inch bite-sized cubes. Slice 1/2 cup of baby carrots. Boil them together in water with 1 TBSP of vegetable oil in a pan on the stove until tender. Check on them several times. Drain with the lid when they are ready. Return to the pan.
- Take out a frying pan. Put in 1 and 1/2 TBSP of oil in the bottom of the pan. Remove the instant curry blocks from the box and place them, one by one, in the pan. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of water, stirring continuously on medium heat until the mixture is blended and becomes thicker. Put in 1/4 cup of chopped onions for a few minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add 1 TBSP ketchup to the curry sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables. Stir well. Keep warm until served.
- Put a scoop of cooked rice into one-half of a bowl or plate, and a ladle of curry onto the other half. Eat with a large spoon.
- This recipe can be customized in many ways. It can also be made with beef or pork. The amounts of each ingredient can be changed to personal preferences. The microwave can also be used to cook the meat and vegetables.
- The Japanese love to garnish this dish with Benishoga, which is bright red pickled, shredded ginger (available at Asian markets), but it is also delicious without it. Enjoy!