I’ve been traveling. And one thing about getting older and more confident is that I’ve become more articulate about what I prefer to do on holiday and how we get to travel. I always thought that hubs was a thwarted secret tour guide and he used to take control of all our holidays and bookings, but this year with revenge traveling I seem to be channeling an inner wanderlust and have been organizing road trips to different places.
I don’t do well traveling with other people but with my own family we are familiar with each others’ rhythms and we seem to like the same things. So our trip to Tasmania was a blast! It was one long road trip where we stayed in a different town every night, some locations being rather remote and in the middle of nowhere. The surprising highlight was a glamping experience – I couldn’t find decent accommodation around Cradle Mountain over Boxing Day but it turned out to be a magical experience as we saw amazing night skies and glow worms at night as there was almost no light pollution at all.
So one of the best things about family holidays is that I get to cook through the holidays. I know it’s weird but I got such a kick from planning meals and cooking in unfamiliar kitchens. This time I even baked a chocolate cake and made bagels and sausage rolls…these baked goods kept us well fed on the road as we were mostly visiting way out places without many good food options. The other thing I had great fun with was the challenge of cooking up leftovers and adapting recipes to whatever produce we had on hand. We did move to a new AirBnB every day and it was always a little unpredictable how well the kitchens were set up. I must say that the wonderful thing is that most of the kitchens came with an oven and good stove top and except for out last stop, all had real cooking utensils to work with. I remember our road trip in California was a little annoying as every stop had no vegetable peelers and so I’ve taken to traveling with a vegetable peeler in addition to my favorite knife on holiday!
So it’s a very Asian thing to cook from nose to tail and to never throw away leftovers. I suppose it’s a long history of poverty and prudence so that it’s ingrained in our entire cultural consciousness never to throw anything potentially useful away. Sustainability was always in our DNA before climate change made it fashionable. So on our recent trip I was pretty proud of myself that I used up the whole bag of onions and the garlic and every thing I had bought to cook with. I did leave behind half a bottle each of soy sauce and oyster sauce at our last stop – I had already anticipated this from the beginning because nowhere can you find travel size bottles of these and I already had bought smaller bottles to start with.
So getting back to Singapore the very next day I had to host a bunch of hubs’ relatives from the UK. I ended up doing Chinese steamboat because it was the easiest thing to do as I didn’t have any help that Sunday as it was D’s day off. I set up 3 steamboat pots for 15 people and in keeping with the other cultural imperative in Asian hosting, we had to have an abundance of food! So needless to say I ended up with a good amount of leftovers like octopus balls, tofu, Shabu beef and mushrooms. We had had laksa steamboat which was a lovely spicy twist on the usual Chinese steamboat and I didn’t feel like having the same again (I think we had enough of laksa after the gargantuan mea).
So dealing with the leftovers was a little bit daunting but I suddenly had a craving for Japanese curry. Japanese curry is pretty different from the South East Asian curries that we are used to. The curry is sweeter and the gravy is thick as it uses a flour roux for thickening. I’ve always used xanthan gum as a thickener in low carb cooking but I did discover a new keto hack (thank you Google) which uses whey protein powder as a substitute for flour in the roux. It’s a little grainier and you have to be careful not to let the protein powder burn, but the results were quite decent and I think made this Japanese curry close to the real thing.
I confess I was surprised at how well this Japanese curry turned out. The steamboat ingredients were quick and easy to cook in this curry and I believe you can throw anything into this Japanese curry. If I weren’t throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the curry, I think some boneless chicken thighs or beef cubes would make a wonderful chicken or beef curry, but you would have to simmer the meat for longer than in this recipe.
Everything But The Kitchen Sink Japanese Curry
- 4 cups of water
- 2 pieces of konbu
- 1 cup bonito flakes
- 100g butter
- 1/3 cup whey protein powder
- 3 tbsp Japanese curry powder (I used the famous SB brand)
- 2 tbsp oil (I used peanut oil)
- 1 large onion, cut into large chunks
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 4 cups of dashi stock
- 1 serving of curry roux
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar substitute
- miscellaneous ingredients (fish balls, sausages, thinly sliced beef, king oyster mushrooms, tofu puffs, firm tofu pieces and pumpkin were what went into the pot)
- Heat up 2 tbsp oil in a large pot over medium to high heat. Saute the onions for about 2-3 minutes till lightly caramelized. Add the carrots in and saute another 1-2 more minutes, then add the dashi stock in and turn the heat down low to simmer the carrots and onions. The broth should be simmered for about 10 minutes for the carrots to be cooked through.
- In the meantime, melt the butter over low heat im a small saucepan. When the butter is bubbling, add the whey protein powder and keep stirring without stopping till the roux browns. Be careful not to burn the roux. Add the curry powder and keep stirring for another 1/2 minute, then add the roux to the simmering stock.
- Add salt snd sugar to the curry and adjust the seasonign according to taste. Add the curry ingredients and cook for about 5 – 10 mibutes (depending on what fresh ingredients you are using; with shabu beef you only need 1-2 minutes of cook time). Serve hot with some cauliflower rice.