Curry and guilt

Cook for You, the stridently titled and rather shouty Chinese takeout I frequent, does excellent Japanese-style pork curry. There’s some qualification there around given values of excellent, since at its very finest, it’s an unwholesome slop of curry paste and MSG, festooning breaded pork. My father, who did time as a chef for the army, would recognise the sauce as what you pour over bratwurst and fried potatoes to cure hangovers.In his case, a roux with curry powder, let out with water and tomato ketchup doesn’t sound either particularly appetising or particularly Japanese, but it’s more or less the same stuff.

Yesterday, Mr C and I resolved to try it ourselves.

There weren’t exactly fireworks. It turns out that the “authentic” stuff is overwhelmingly made with prefabricated cubes of gunk – just stir through and add water. We shambled to a nearby Asian supermarket, and grabbed a bunch, narrowly avoiding an exhortation to try the frankly fatal-looking Thai imported Red Bull.

They don’t look appetising. The main ingredients are flour, oil, and an unspecified “curry paste”. MSG is next on the list, followed closely by some E numbers, Malic acid, and some preservatives. They smell of grease and cheap curry powder. I guess that’s reassuring, given it’s exactly what they are. We tossed them in with some fried onions, green peppers, and garlic, letting it out with water, and working through some udon noodles at the end.

The breaded pork was just that – pork, dipped in breadcrumbs, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Fried, and finished in the oven.

Morally, culturally, and under any of the laws of gods and men, we’re no better than people who buy jars of pour-over sauces. I know that now. But golly it was delicious.

I guess you could make yourself feel better by doing it with a home-made paste. The roux would probably contain either a premade curry powder with extra garam masala, or a from-scratch paste involving turmeric, fenugreek, pepper, fennel seeds, coriander, anise, and cumin. You’d let it out with stock, and the whole thing would actually be quite good with courgettes and fried tofu in lieu of pork. But I think that’s too much dignity for what is essentially guilty junk food I’ve given a thin veneer of legitimacy by buying ingredients from an ethnic food store.

Fuck it – bring out the bratwurst.

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