The Ultimate Japanese Curry

The Ultimate Japanese Curry

Japanese curry is totally different from every other curry I’ve ever had. To be honest though, the first time I had Japanese curry in Japan I didn’t really like it. My introductory plate was kind of fast-foody and basic, with a cheap beef stew kind of texture. I could tell there were a lot of flavors going on in there, but they were all muddy and overly sweet for me. If you were reading back when I first landed in Japan, you know my first days eating Japanese food were a bit rough, and this sweet curry didn’t help. It was a few more meals before I’d find something I thought was really delicious, and a few weeks before I got accustomed to the general flavors and smells of Japanese food.

A couple of months later I decided to revisit curry at Machi-san’s cafe, and it was night and day different from my first bowl. This curry was complex, spicy, very clearly homemade, and just barely sweet. After flipping out over the deliciousness, returning, reordering, raving to every NASA person that would listen to me, and raining a million “oishii’s” on Machi-san, I asked her if she would share the recipe. She said yes, and spent some time having a friend help her translate it into English for me. On the way home after my four months in Tanegashima, I made a point to stock my bags with packs of her recommended brand of curry flakes and a giant red tin of S&B curry powder.

When I got home I made her curry with chicken according to the handwritten and illustrated recipe she wrote for me and it tasted exactly right. It was really weird, smelling such a familiar Japanese smell in my Maryland kitchen, but it made me happy. I felt “transported” the way some people say food can do, especially when you have a specific memory attached to a particular dish. This recipe, for me, is a place, a time, a phase of my life, and a treasure.

The Ultimate Japanese Curry

Even if you can’t bring yourself to order the exact, spicy curry roux flakes that Machi-san recommends (which I’ve found here on Rakuten), I’d recommend at least finding some S&B curry powder, which is a bit easier to track down. If you don’t want to have to find curry roux flakes at all, Japanese curry tablets will do. Use enough to thicken 6 cups of liquid.

Because this recipe is a bit of a hassle to collect ingredients for, I recommend making a gigantic batch and freezing the sauce for future dinners (freezing is smart!). I swear, it tastes even better when you have time to forget making it.

The Ultimate Japanese Curry
makes a ton (probably would serve 12-14 at once, half it if you don’t want freezable leftovers)


Group 1:
-3-4 Tbsp butter
-4 medium onions, diced
-2 large carrots, grated
-2 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated
-2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated

Group 2:
-2 tsp nutmeg
-4 tsp dried oregano
-4 tsp dried basil
-4 tsp allspice
-2 tsp ground cinnamon
-2 tsp coriander
-1/4 tsp cloves
-3 bay leaves

Group 3:
-5 cups chicken broth
-1 can tomato puree (sauce will also work)
-6 Tbsp S&B curry powder (red can)
-2 180 gram bags Yokohama Hakurai-tei curry flakes, or your favorite curry flakes (or enough of your favorite curry tablets to thicken 6 cups of broth (read this for a taste comparison of some easy to find tablets))
-3-4 Tbsp mango chutney

-white rice (preferably Japanese) and your choice of protein: chicken, slow cooked pork or beef (with carrots and potatoes if you want), or tofu
-optional toppings include: avocado, green onion, a fried egg, even cheese (they do it in Tokyo!)


1. Collect your ingredients. This recipe has a lot of them, a few of which can be tricky to track down. Before you set yourself on curry, make sure you have all your bits in order. If you have everything, you can dice your onions, mince your garlic and ginger, and grate your carrots.

2. In a large stock pot over medium heat, cook onions and carrots in butter until soft and slightly caramelized. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.

3. Add all the spices in group 2 and stir. Lower the heat if the garlic or spices brown too much.

4. Add chicken broth, tomato puree, and curry powder and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 30 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat and add the curry flakes and mango chutney. Turn heat to very low and allow the curry to thicken for 10 minutes.

6. Serve on top of your choice of meat or protein (or veggies) and rice. Top with avocado, egg, cheese, green onion, or feel free to get creative (they do in Tokyo).


Freeze leftovers in pint or quart tubs (or freezer bags). Reheat over low heat and stir stir stir until it is returned to its former glory.

  1. Or you could bring your pal some of those left overs to try....

    courtneyh — February 24, 2016
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Freezing Fundamentals for Foodies

Freezing Fundamentals for Foodies

I think freezers are seriously underrated. Sure, they keep ice cream icy and can make it possible for “busy moms” to prep a month’s worth of dump meals in one afternoon, but they are more.

Foodies tend to regard freezing as a lesser form of food utilization, more suitable for homesteaders and people wanting to liberate themselves from the kitchen rather than revel in it’s sensory possibilities, but I think they misunderstand.

Freezing is practical, yes, but until you have experienced the joy of a fresh tub of scratch-made pesto with real sun-fed summer basil in the middle of December…or the delight of warming a pot of homemade twenty-something-ingredient curry that tastes as good as if someone else made it (because you barely had to lift a finger this time), you don’t really appreciate what freezers are capable of.

I’m a fan of freezing. It’s a less-technical, more versatile method of preserving food than canning, it helps me minimize food waste, and it keeps me well fed on nights when I’m too busy to make proper food. Freezing is giving gifts to future me. With a little knowledge and a few strategical tweaks to your cooking routine, you can turn your freezer from a parking garage for half-eaten ice cream tubs into a treasure box of culinary possibilities and, yes, weeknight liberation too.

Freezing Fundamentals for Foodies

On storage:

Temperatures: the freezer in your house should be at zero degrees Fahrenheit at the highest. Foods you plan to freeze should be brought to room temperature or fridge temperature before being stored in the freezer.

Containers: I threw away all my tupperware and replaced them with these uniform, stackable, one-lid-fits-all containers in cup, pint, and quart sizes. They are dishwasher safe, microwave safe, freezer safe, and recyclable. They come in big packs so I don’t feel bad giving them away or getting rid of them when they get stained. If you don’t feel like you need as many as come in a box, go in with a friend and split the cost. Ziploc brand freezer bags are also totally unbeatable, and can even hold soup or sauce for flat freezing and easy stacking.

Wrappings: I use heavy duty foil and plastic wrap from Costco (that slidey cutter is amazing). Freezer paper is also a thing, but I haven’t bothered. Educate me if you like.

Labels: You can buy labels or you can get a roll of blue painter’s tape and a sharpie (painters tape is the easiest to remove). You do need to label your food though, because you will forget what it is.

Freezing casseroles: Rather than buy a load of disposable casserole tins, freeze a casserole in your baking dish lined with heavy duty foil. When it’s solid, pop out the casserole in a brick, wrap it up with plastic wrap, label it, and put your clean and unoccupied casserole dish back in the cupboard.

Freezing Fundamentals for Foodies

On re-heating:

Be gentle: Letting frozen food defrost overnight in the fridge is usually best. If you don’t have time for that (and sometimes I don’t), take it out of it’s wrapping and defrost in the microwave (using the actual defrost setting). For chilis and soups you can defrost in a saucepan over low heat.

Don’t panic: Some frozen things look ugly when they first start to thaw, but with some stirring and time getting warm they almost always turn out the way they started.

Mind the temperature: says we should all reheat our foods to 165 Fahrenheit, which is the temperature at which most food borne germs instantly die. It’s pretty good advice but I don’t always follow it exactly (though pregnancy has made me somewhat more cautious than usual). Still, if you don’t have a thermometer yet, you should get one and use it when you reheat things, for educational purposes at least.

Freezing Fundamentals for Foodies

Foods to avoid freezing:

Some foods fare better than others in the freezer. The following foods tend to do poorly:

Watery/juicy fruits and veggies: unless you plan to cook them or put them in a smoothie, don’t bother trying to freeze any produce with a high water content. Cucumbers, lettuces, fresh spinach and fresh tomatoes, for example, would make a rather mushy salad if they were stored in the freezer. Want a spinach smoothie though? Sure.

Soups that contain pasta: Pasta can technically be frozen successfully, but it’s really tricky when that pasta is suspended in a soup. If you don’t mind super mushy pasta I won’t stop you, but I will maybe judge you. Freeze soup without the pasta and add pasta right before you eat.

Unstable eggy things: Homemade mayo, meringue, hollandaise, sabayon – don’t try to freeze them. They are so delicate to begin with, freezing them will end in runny, splitty, greasy sadness.


Foods to be careful freezing:

Cheesy things: I hear mixed reports about freezing cream cheese, but I keep a batch of frozen cream-cheesy crab dip around for emergencies and it always bakes up nicely. Cheese sauces can be pretty delicate, so if you try to freeze them, reheat them gently. I have had success freezing and reheating potato leek and cheddar soup, but I had to stir it for a while to make it nice and smooth.

Starch thickened soups and sauces: Just be gentle with these. They will almost invariably look fugly when they begin to defrost, but time, gentle heat, and stirring will set them right.

Potatoes: Chunks of cooked potato tend to re-heat with kind of a different texture, but I find that hash brown potatoes do well and mashes only need to be resuscitated with a bit of extra milk or broth.



So now that you know some basics, here are my favorite tips for incorporating freezing into your cooking.

Big Batches: If I’m going to the trouble of making something labor intensive like lasagna or Japanese curry or stew, I always make at LEAST double. That means I can eat it again (and maybe even a few more times) without putting in the work again. It’s like someone else cooked for me which makes it taste even better the second time around.

Strip it Down: What I mean here is that if you are freezing something, freeze it in the most versatile possible format. When I make curry, for example, I will make a huge batch of the sauce by itself. That way I can use the same sauce in the future for chicken curry, pork curry, veggie curry, or whatever I feel like at the time. If you make chili, make a meat-only version so you have the option to use it on chili dogs or add beans and eat it by the bowl.

Focus on Favorites: Most people (especially foodies) have a bit of a mental block about pulling anonymous bags and tubs out of the freezer and trusting them to become dinner. If you freeze foods you didn’t totally love the first time around, I guarantee the leftovers will fall victim to the oubliette effect and be forgotten for eternity. Freeze foods you crave on the reg and don’t waste space on things you “might get around” to “eventually” because you won’t.

Consult Often: Before you plan your meals for the week, check the contents of your freezer for things that have been sitting for a few months and use them for inspiration. Feel yourself reaching for the takeout menus? Check the freezer first.


The most awesome things to freeze:

Cookie dough – pre-portioned into individual balls and bagged so you can have a fresh baked cookie whenever you want.

Pucks of homemade curry paste – freeze them on a piece of parchment paper, uncovered, and pop them into a bag once frozen.

Homemade pesto – I use my one-cup tubs.

Beef stew – freeze it without the potatoes and simmer a spud or two after it’s thawed and reheated.

Lasagna – Brick it and wrap it up.

Hummus – Pint tubs, straight to the fridge.

Tomato sauce made with fresh summer tomatoes – Nothing fresher.

Bolognese – So much work, make it count!

Pie dough – Again with the work, but homemade is definitely better. Might as well make extra.

Scones – Like cookies, you can bake these straight from frozen with a few extra minutes in the oven.

Black bean soup – reheats perfectly.

  1. […] ingredients for, I recommend making a gigantic batch and freezing the sauce for future dinners (freezing is smart!). I swear, it tastes even better when you have time to forget making […]

    The Ultimate Japanese Curry | Sweet Salty Tart — February 24, 2016
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  2. […] Cover with plastic and freeze for up to 3 months (brick style is smart!), or bake immediately for 30 minutes in a 350F […]

    Real Food Chicken Divan | Sweet Salty Tart — March 18, 2016
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Broiled Oysters With Mignonette Butter

Broiled Oysters with Mignonette Butter

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend! Does that make you happy, or sad? I’m a happily married lady so I should be into Valentine’s Day, but it’s never been my thing. Somehow it feels like a test and I resent being tested arbitrarily. Cody and I are very chill most years, and this one is no exception, but I’ve learned that I need to plan a little or I will feel like an absolute deadbeat wife. So we’re making a slightly fancy breakfast and dinner at home this year (because we don’t like overly crowded restaurants) and probably heading to a matinee, so popcorn for lunch.

Broiled Oysters with Mignonette Butter

If I were not pregnant, and if Cody liked oysters, these delectable little gems would be a feature at our homemade dinner. Are you an oyster eater? I get that they can be intimidating little meat-rocks, especially for the home cook, but I shucked my first oyster moments before taking these photos, and it wasn’t a massacre. My advice is to get an oyster knife (about 5 bucks), buy your oysters from the store with the best looking and smelling seafood section in your area, and watch a good oyster shucking youtube video before you start. Maybe have a little cocktail sauce on standby so you can eat the evidence if your first couple end up ugly.

Broiled Oysters with Mignonette Butter

These oysters are quickly broiled, so they are a bit more approachable than a straight raw oyster, and they are basically bathing in butter, so even if your Valentine’s target is apprehensive, you may be able to convert them to the way of oysters.

Broiled Oysters with Mignonette Butter

Other advice: use some crumpled foil on your baking pan to hold the oysters upright and keep the liquor from sloshing out the sides (that stuff is tasty). Use a high-quality unsalted butter if you can, but any unsalted butter will do. Oysters are really salty on their own, so salted butter would be a huge mistake.

Broiled Oysters with Mignonette Butter

So, mignonette sauce is this old school vinegar and shallot sauce that you will be familiar with if you have ever ordered oysters before at a fancy restaurant. I’ve used the same red wine vinegar and shallot and black pepper combo to make this butter, and added a little parsley for aesthetics (and I guess flavor, sure). Obviously this butter version is better than regular mignonette, because of the butter.

Broiled Oysters with Mignonette Butter

I think these oysters look really impressive, deceptively impressive even. Make some butter, shuck some oysters, pop them under the broiler, and you are suddenly some kind of culinary wizard.

Boost your ego, treat yourself, and maybe even impress a date with some butter bathed broiled oysters.

Broiled Oysters with Mignonette Butter


Broiled Oysters with Mignonette Butter
makes 1 dozen oysters


-12 oysters
-1/2 cup unsalted high-quality butter (Kerrygold or Plugra are two of my favorites for this)
-1 shallot, minced
-1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (rice vinegar is also really good)
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-1 Tbsp minced parsley


1. Soften butter to room temperature and use a whisk to combine butter with shallot, vinegar, pepper, and parsley. Set butter aside. You might be tempted to add salt. DON’T.

2. Prepare a baking sheet with crumpled aluminum foil (or if you have it, a thick layer of coarse sea salt, which looks very pretty) to hold the oysters in place and upright while they broil.

3. Preheat the broiler of your oven on high while you shuck the oysters. I recommend watching a youtube video like this before you begin, and definitely procure an oyster knife before you attempt to shuck. Keep as much of the oyster liquor as you can inside the shell.

4. Arrange the oysters so each is level and nestled securely in the foil (or salt). Top each oyster with 1/12 of the mignonette butter.

5. Broil the oysters for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, or until the butter is melted and the oysters are heated through and just barely cooked.

6. Serve with crusty bread to soak up all the butter.

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Crunchy Panko-Topped Braised Chicken and Leeks with Creamy Parmesan Pasta

Braised Chicken and Leeks with Crunchy Panko Parmesan Pasta

I created a new Pinterest board today entitled “Let’s Freak Out About Babies” and it pretty much sums up my state of mind lately. I’m swiftly approaching my third trimester and I have bought approximately none of the things I will be needing. I have goals to paint large swaths of my house and decorate and Kon Mari all my possessions before she arrives, but WE SHALL SEE. Anyway, I am feeling like I really want someone to brush my hair and speak to me in hushed, reassuring tones while I make practical lists and eat large bowls of comfort food.

And this is what I mean by comfort food – softly cooked leeks with creamy pasta, tender chicken, a generous handful of parmesan, and some crunch to keep it interesting. It’s also relatively simple to put together and makes really good leftovers the next day.

Braised Chicken and Leeks with Crunchy Panko Parmesan Pasta

The chicken in this recipe is braised, which means it’s slowly cooked partially submerged in flavorful liquid (chicken broth in this case). I like braising for this dish because it produces chicken that’s gently past done, bordering on shred-able, in a really good way. You could also certainly use boneless, skinless thighs or even bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or breasts in place of the boneless, skinless breasts I use here (most of my family are bone haters, so I do boneless most often). I’d omit the flour dredge if you use skin-on chicken and focus on browning the skin side before braising. They should cook in about the same amount of time, but test a piece with a fork before you add pasta and panko.

Braised Chicken and Leeks with Crunchy Panko Parmesan Pasta


Crunchy Panko-Topped Braised Chicken and Leeks with Creamy Parmesan Pasta
serves 3-4

-1 lb package chicken breast, cut into 3 or 4 even portions
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-1 tsp kosher salt
-1/2 tsp white pepper (black pepper is good too if you don’t have white)
-1/4 tsp cayenne
-3 Tbsp butter plus 1 extra for panko topping
-1-2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
-1/2 cup white wine (optional, alternately you can use more chicken stock and add a splash of lemon or vinegar for brightness and acidity)
-1 1/2 cups chicken broth
-4 cups leeks, chopped and washed
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1 cup parmesan, divided (2/3 for sauce, 1/3 for topping)
-8oz bag pappardelle pasta
– more salt and pepper, to taste
-optional: parsley for garnish



1. In a wide bowl or pie plate, combine flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Mix well and dredge chicken pieces one by one, making sure they are evenly coated in flour.

2. In a large oven-safe skillet (meaning it doesn’t have any plastic bits or meltable handles), melt butter over medium heat and brown the chicken on both sides. When the chicken is browned but not necessarily cooked through, remove it to a plate and set it aside.

3. In the same pan with the butter and leftover chicken drippings, sauté garlic quickly (until fragrant) and deglaze the pan by pouring in the 1/2 cup of wine. Allow the wine to reduce by half it’s volume.

4. Add the chicken broth to the skillet along with the chopped and washed leeks, and nestle the chicken back into the pan. Reduce the heat to low and allow the chicken to simmer 30-40 minutes or until cooked through and tenderized.

5. Remove the chicken to a fresh plate and (if necessary) turn the heat up to medium/medium-high and allow the broth with the leeks to reduce until it holds a line for a split second when you swipe a spoon across the bottom of the pan (the thickness of the sauce is somewhat a matter of personal preference, so don’t worry too much about it). When the broth is reduced to your liking, turn off the heat, add the cream and 2/3 of the parmesan, taste it and add salt and pepper if necessary.

6. In a separate pot, boil pappardelle according to package directions. Don’t forget to salt the water. While the pasta boils, preheat your broiler on high.

7. In a small microwave safe bowl, melt reserved Tbsp of butter. Add panko breadcrumbs and reserved 1/3 cup of parmesan and mix well.

8. When the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan with the leeks and sauce. Toss the pasta to coat it well in the sauce, and taste. Add salt, pepper, a splash of cream, more cheese, or a squeeze of lemon to finish the pasta as you like. Nestle the chicken back into the pan with the pasta and leeks, top with the breadcrumb/parmesan topping, and broil it until the top is nicely browned. Garnish with parsley if you like.

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