HOMEMADE INSTANT NOODLE MIX SERIES: Instant cheesy Japanese curry udon/noodle mix
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THE UNFAILING WONDER OF AMERICAN SINGLES THAT MELTS INTO THE MOST VISCOUS INTENTION TO BRING OUT A BIT OF CHILDISHNESS IN ALL OF US
WHAT: Using Japanese curry cubes – another one of their culinary ingenuities – as a building foundation for an even more complex, cocoa-y and cheesy curry paste that will bring instant late-night slurping to a new height.
WHY: It’s creamy. It’s delicious. And if you need more than that then slap on nostalgic as well. Because Japanese curry, or shall I say kare, is a deep-rooted comfort in just about every Asian’s dietary habit. And if done right, it will withhold the same standing in your life as well.
HOW: Japanese curry cube, on its own, can be a bit sweet and lacking of intensity, born out of this culture’s rounder and more reserved disposition on tastes as well as, I suspect, philosophy. In the effort to deviate from its original path, I have been for years adding my own “defectors” to bring it just where I like it, more curry powder for spiciness, cocoa powder for complexity, instant coffee for a touch of bitterness and fragrance, and a kiss of Dijon mustard for acidity. Then last but not least, the junky yet unfailing wonder of American singles that melts into the most viscous intention to bring out a bit of childishness in all of us.
This versatile paste can be used to create, instantly if I may stress, an array of noodle-companions ranging from a milder and drinkable broth for a Japanese staple called kare udon, to a more powerful and creamy gravy to dress any noodles “dry-style” (my favorite), all the way to possibly being used as an instant mix for this fried rice. A soft-boiled egg, an extra single, or even a nub of cold butter, hell let’s put a few McNuggets on top. There’s really no possible way to go overboard with it. And even if there is, it won’t judge.
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- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 10 cloves of garlics, roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp onion powder
- 6 cups (1400 ml) low sodium beef or chicken broth
- 1 regular box (230~250 grams) Japanese curry cubes, such as this one (see note *)
- 5 slices of American cheese, torn into small pieces
- 1/3 cup (30 grams) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 4 tbsp curry powder
- 2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp ground cayenne, plus or minus to your liking
- 2 1/2 tsp instant coffee
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- In a large, wide and deep skillet (the wide diameter creates more surface area and speeds up the reduction process), cook canola oil, onion, garlics and onion powder over high heat, until the edges of the onions are slightly browned. Add low sodium beef or chicken stock, continuing to boil over high heat, until the mixture is reduced down by 2/3, about 20 minutes.
- Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into another smaller pot, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as you can then discard the solids. You should have about 1 1/2 cup of liquid left (it can be slightly under but not more). Now add the curry cubes, American cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, curry powder, cocoa powder, fish sauce, cayenne, instant coffee and Dijon mustard. Cook and stir over medium heat, until all the ingredients are fully melted and evenly incorporated into a thick paste.
- Transfer into an air-tight jar and keep chilled in the fridge until needed. Can be kept for up to 1.5 (estimate) months in the fridge, or 3 months in the freezer.
- TO USE THE MIX: You can use the mix to make a lighter drinkable curry broth, or a stronger gravy-like sauce. To make a curry broth, bring 1 cup of water to a simmer and whisk in 3~4 tbsp of instant curry mix, and let simmer for a couple minutes. Add udon noodles or other noodles of your choice. To make a gravy-like sauce, cook udon or other noodles of your choice in boiling water according to instructions. Remove the noodles and set inside a serving bowl. Mix a few tbsp of the cooking water with curry mix until it reaches your desired consistency and intensity, then mix it evenly with the noodles. As a general finishing touch, torch a slice of American cheese on top until melty, and serve immediately.
* Japanese curry cubes, or curry sauce mix, can be easily found in all major Asian supermarkets and/or online. This recipe calls for one regular box, which ranges from 230~250 grams depending on the brands (but they do come in smaller packaging sometimes so make sure you check the package). And they also come in "mild", "medium", and "hot". Here I'm using "hot".