January 18, 13 | Takako Chiba
This recommendation comes from the Hokkaido Likers Curry Department! (What's that? You didn't know we had a curry department?) This spicy curry takes full advantage of Hokkaido's abundant veggies. It may come in a pouch, but don't let that fool you, this is high quality curry.
Sapporo's Keio Plaza Hotel is located right by Sapporo station, and will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year. At the hotel you can find today's featured "Master Chef Curry" for sale.
I spoke to Master Chef Maruyama about the secret origins of this product.
"About 40 years ago, when I was studying at a restaurant in the UK, a Pakistani chef would make curry meals quite often. It was incredibly spicy, making me think that it wouldn't at all fit the Japanese pallet. However, I soon got addicted to the taste, and I haven't been able to shake it from my memory since."
▲ Master Chef Maruyama. He has studied at the Tokyo Hilton Hotel, London Hilton Hotel, and the Taillevent restaurant in Paris. He began working at the Sapporo Keio Plaza Hotel in 1974 and in 1989 he became executive chef.
"The recipe that I learned from the Pakistani chef was made by simmering onions, garlic, and oil slowly over low heat for 30 minutes. Then add the chicken and let simmer again. Finally add the tomato, zucchini, eggplant, and other veggies and let those simmer. Almost no water is used. For my own recipes, I tend to use whatever ingredients I have at hand, but I always include an ample amount of curry powder and paprika powder. And, of course, a dash of Cayenne Pepper gives it that high class flavor." explains Chef Maruyama.
▲ "When preparing the dish at home you can add shrimp and scallops for a seafood curry, or make it a veggie dish by adding only potatoes. It's a fully personalized dish that you can enjoy."
After spending some time away from the dish Chef Maruyama began to crave the taste and so he cooked up a batch in the kitchen at Keio Plaza. Soon it was a hit with all his employees!
"It was just a light version of the meal, so there wasn't very much, meaning that not everyone got a taste. So everyone began calling it the phantom curry," explains Mr. Mat sui, a food and beverage sales manager.
After receiving the stamp of approval from his employees, the curry hit the shelves in packaged form in 2003. The product stayed true to Chef Maruyama's recipe and included only Hokkaido raised vegetables and meat. Sadly it was a limited time product, and quickly sold out. But this past year, on November first, the product came back for the first time in nine years!
Chef Maruyama told me that the best thing about the product returning "is the delicious Hokkaido ingredients used. It's a curry that will keep you coming back. Especially the Tokachi pork. Normally used in ramen, this pork has a fantastic taste that goes well with the curry."
▲ The juicy pork!
Usually packaged curry has a spice that really bites, but this taste is completely different. The spice here doesn't hit you right away, rather it slowly grows after you take a bite hitting you mostly in the aftertaste. This spice isn't the same as your normal curry. It is a deeper flavor, bringing a hot and yet refreshing feeling. Even as you sweat through each bite you'll be left with a cool pallet when you're done. It's quite a mature flavor.
▲ "At the start there wasn't really any spice, but after a moment I started sweating!" says camera man (and taste tester) Itsuki.
The pork used is so tender that it practically melts into the curry, giving small patches of mild taste throughout the meal. On the flip side, the Shiretoko chicken hits the pallet with a direct spiciness that's a lot of fun. The zucchini and paprika also add their unique flavors to the dish concentrating the flavor.
▲ There are two kinds of curry, Tokachi Pork and Shiretoko Chicken. One 250g pack costs 750 Yen. (Tax included.)
This curry isn't available in supermarkets or department stores. For those outside of Sapporo who can't visit the hotel to pick up a pack, please visit the Sapporo Keio Plaza Hotel site below for purchase. If you're a fan of curry, or know someone who is, this is a must buy!
● Keio Plaza Hotel, Sapporo
● Keio Plaza Hotel, Sapporo - Shopping Site
● Keio Plaza Hotel, Sapporo
Location: 2-1 Kita 5-Jyo Nishi 7-Chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
TEL : 011 - 271 - 0111
FAX : 011 - 271 - 7943
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)
(Photographs provided by Keio Plaza Hotel, Sappori and Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer Itsuki)