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27 October 2014 @ 09:04 pm
Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries: Week Seven: Jeera Aloo Salan  
When softlykarou originally told me about this curry and the place it had for potatoes, I figured it would be like week two's shalgam gosht and we'd be having curried potatoes on the side. It wasn't until I asked her to use up some of the potatoes she made over the weekend that were baked and then I never ate because my eyes are enormously larger than my stomach (which is saying something...) and she told me that we couldn't because the potatoes were cooked with the curry that I had some idea of what it would be like. I've had curries with potatoes before, though I don't tend to seek them out because I usually feel like the starchiness of the potato cancels out some of the flavor of the sauce. That didn't quite happen here, but mostly because the flavor was faint.

Wow, such potatos.

What did happen is that as soon as I took the first bite, I said, "It's nikujaga" (肉じゃが). As my busting out Japanese might tell you, nikujaga is a Japanese dish that's one of the most basic and homey ones there is. It literally means "meat and potatoes," and it's the kind of thing that your mother makes for you when you're up late studying for your university entrance exams and have forgotten to feed yourself or when there's snow falling outside and a hearty stew will help keep the cold out of your uninsulated house. It tasted exactly like nikujaga too, except for the slightly spicy flavor provided by using ginger and cinnamon and cumin instead of ネギ or なす or にんじん.

And before you ask, that's leek and eggplant and carrot. #SavedYouAClick

Burned onions. A necessary culinary sacrifice.

Words from the Chef
So after getting home much later than I thought, I was glad this curry was fairly uninvolved. Most of it just involved letting things be and it was easierfor me to multitask while cooking. Maybe it's that I'm getting more comfortable working with curries or this one was just really easy. This curry really put my "no really, let the onions burn" skill to task. It's so hard for me to do but I know it has to happen to get the depth of flavor (thank you Mind of a Chef). I liked the flavor of the curry and it reminded me of a good, hearty beef stew but with curry flavors. I'd make this again in a heartbeat!

I love that one potato there facing left, defying the orientation of the other potatoes. A potato iconoclast.

I wonder if the curry flavor would be stronger if it were slow-cooked? A lot of these curries seem like they're really designed to simmer for hours or days over an open fire, letting the flavors all mix in with one another and combine in that wonderful way that makes a great curry. It's why curry is almost always better as leftovers than it is the first time you have it. Then again, for something like this with potatoes, simmering it too long might have led the potatoes to turn the broth into a starchy mess, so I guess it might not have been the best course of action. Maybe simmering the rest of it and then adding the potatoes? But then the potatoes would have no really curry flavor, and it'd be the same problem I mentioned earlier with the potatoes canceling out the curry flavor all over again. I'm really not sure how it could be changed to suit my admittedly-vague complaints.

That's sheep's milk yogurt on the right and Swiss chard on the left. That chard is actually for both of us, but softlykarou just puts it all in one bowl to save time.

I guess overall, the major problem I had with jeera aloo salan is that it didn't taste like curry to me. There was that faint curry flavor I mentioned, but mostly it was just meat and potatoes and remembering nights spent huddled around the kotatsu or trying to cook in a kitchen roughly the size of a walk-in closet. And since we have a low table and sit on the floor to eat, it made the nostalgia all that much stronger. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't curry. It wasn't something I'd want to have on curry night regardless of how good it is, because on curry night I'm hoping for curry and this just doesn't hit the spot for me.

Would I Eat It Again?: Yes, but not on curry night. This really didn't trip my curry sensors.
Do I Prefer It to the Usual Thai Curry?: Not a chance. It's not even in the same category.
What Would I Change?: I don't know. I might want to try it with more spices and see if the curry flavor ends up strong enough to satisfy me.
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
Current Music: Legacy Music Hour podcast