Sunday, June 15, 2014

Retort Report: Two From Osaka! And Brief Recap Of Japanese Curry History

A couple more nerdy reports on Japanese retort pouch curries to cap off the weekend. Yay.

These two I owe thanks to Kat of Our Adventures in Japan. It was really great to hang out with her for a day in Osaka end of last year. I'm still working on the dedicated detail post but a preview can be read on my belated New Years greetings while Kat's more timely recollection of the day can be read here.

The first is the Hanshin Tigers Beef Curry. Hanshin Tigers is the region's Pro Yakyuu (Japan's equivalent of Major League Baseball) team well known for their fanatic fans. The Curse of the Colonel Sanders is a good read on their wiki page.

On the back of the box was the team's anthem Rokko Oroshi (六甲おろし). Humming along, found it a nice passing of time while waiting for the pouch to boil. ;) The spice level was stated as yaya-karakuchi which means so-so spicy, a Kansai tongue-in-cheek humor that also made me grin. :)

The curry had some tender beef and vegetable pieces. The tasty roux's flavor profile was close to the classic Bon Curry and staple House's KuKuRe (Cookless) Curry, however with extra unique spices to give the product a nice edge. Solid stuff. Thanks again Kat!

While the Hanshin Tigers Curry may be considered a novelty product, the second labeled Hankyu Hyakkaten Daishokudou Meibutsu Karee (translated: Hankyu Department Store Dining Hall's Famous Curry) I found had a very interesting history the more I dug into it.

The origins of Japanese Curry coming from the British Navy I knew about, but how it spread to the common middle class, Osaka's Hankyu Department Store takes credit for. A quick recap, when Japan was modeling their Navy from the British, the custom of eating curry on Fridays was also adopted for the crewmen. When you're out in sea for long periods of time, a person can lose track of the week's days. Eating something spicy on a scheduled interval helps the crew establish a reference of the week. But additionally in Japan the curry also supposedly helped mask the flavors of meat which most at the time were still not accustomed to eating.

Moving forward several decades to the 1920's, curry was still an expensive meal for most common Japanese. In 1929, Hankyu Department Store opened its large cafeteria / dining hall to the public where the highlight was a curry rice dish that was a loss leader sold at half the price than what was typical. The popularity quickly rose and was said the tradition of having Japanese pickles with Japanese Curry also began here. Very cool!

So how was the taste? Very creamy and actually quite mild. The beef pieces were extremely tender and soft. This was a really cool treat and I learned something more about the Japanese Curry in the process.

A thorough focus on Japan's love of curry rice on NHK's BEGIN Japanology (love the show) below which includes the story of Hankyu Department Store as well as popularity of retort pouch curries:

Japanology 54th : Curry [1] by abricot5725

Japanology 54th : Curry [2] by abricot5725


K and S said...

great post, so much history I had no idea about!

KirkK said...

Love the videos Dennis!

Dennis K. said...

Hi Kat, thanks again! Was tasty and learned something in the process. :)

Glad you enjoyed it Kirk! It's a great series and are also on youtube. Embedded the DM links since I thought it would be more permanent.