raging lamb curry: not for the weak of heart (or stomach)

a lot of people like to generalize about japanese cuisine when it comes to heat.  most people assert that “japanese people can’t handle spicy foods,” and for the most part, i would agree with them.  but i am also of the firm opinion that we (those of us who hail from countries like the usa and canada) have a completely different concept of what “spicy” means.

we are friendly neighbors with central and south america, which means that for a lot of americans, our first introduction to spiciness is through foods like pickled jalapenos and hot sauce.  because both contain spicy chili oils, they leave a lasting capsaisin-based burning sensation in your mouth.  japan, on the other hand, regularly consumes foods like wasabi and ginger, which have a very fresh, short-lived, and intense heat akin to horseradish that builds up in the sinuses.  both chilis and wasabi are spicy, just in different ways.  sure, most japanese people would cry if they ate a raw jalapeno, but i think most americans would cry if they took a bite out a wasabi radish, too.  if you ask me, it depends on what you are used to.

still, capsaisin-based spicy foods can be a little hard to find in japan.  most options for true raging heat come from korea, japan’s neighbor across the sea.  gochujang and doubanjiang are great options to kick up the heat a little bit when cooking, and i regularly implement them when making salad dressings.  but because they are imported foods, they can tend to drive up the price of your dish a little more than you want sometimes.

my staple when i comes to spice is good old fashioned piri piri (a.k.a. capsicum frutescens, african bird’s eye peppers).  during the summer months, these little guys can occasionally be found fresh in huge plastic wrapped bouquets for a pittance in most japanese grocery stores.  in the non-summer months, they can also be purchased in small packages pre-dried and just as potent.

and it is these piri piris to which today’s lamb curry owes its rage.  if you have a pace-maker or chronic acid-reflux disease, you may want to navigate away from this page right now.  just reading the recipe could be dangerous to your health. Continue reading

a rouxed awakening: curry week on pmk.

yeah, i’ve been eating like a king.  i’ve made ceviche, prepared boatloads of raw food, made nine sauces from scratch in a single week, and eaten enough smoked meat in a single sitting to kill a lesser man.  i’ve made a three-course dinner and eaten it all by myself more times than i can count.

but that isn’t what pmk is about.  making a huge quantity of food that tastes so rich you can feel yourself getting gout is all well and good, but the point of pmk is to show that the average person can create kingly meals with a normal person’s salary.  i’ve haven’t truly been living like a peasant to the greatest extent possible, and for that, i apologize.

so in an effort to get in touch with my own slogan, i have officially declared this week “curry week.”  cheap, delicious, and almost infinite in its varieties, curry is the perfect dish to showcase what pmk is all about.  can i feed myself this week for less than ¥2000 (about $20) and still make food that would make your average diner jealous?  i don’t know, but i’m going to do everything within my power to make it work.

most of my money saving efforts will be concentrated on roux.  in japan, your average grocery store has so many different varieties of prepackaged roux it would make your head spin.  mild curry roux, spicy curry roux, beef stew roux, cream stew roux, tomato beef stew roux, hayashi rice roux.  you get the idea.

“wait, did he say prepackaged roux?”  yes, i did.  most people in japan use this roux for exactly what it was intended, namely to make a thick and delicious sauce with none of the waiting, ingredients, or know-how normally required.  is the flavor way too salty?  of course.  is it terrible for you to just eat vegetables boiled in a concentrated high sodium sauce?  you bet you butt it is.  so why, as a person who has no problem spending the time and using the know-how required to make a good sauce, would i choose to use a prepackaged roux?

two reasons.  one, they are crazy cheap.  two, they are one of the best thickeners on the market.  a few cubes of roux eliminate the need to reduce or dilute the flavor of your food with flour/corn starch.  think of japanese roux like condensed soup in the usa.  starting to make a little more sense?  great.

now go look into opening a new bank account, because we are about to save some serious money.

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