By David Hammond
“When I was sick, ” recalls Chef Edward Kim of Mott Street, “or when I came in from the cold after shoveling snow with my father, I might have a hot porridge of rice with a little soy sauce; chicken soup…or a Japanese curry pork over rice. To me, Japanese curry is synonymous with the colder days of fall and winter; it was a dish my parents would often make for me. Japanese curry evokes memories of the smell of stewed meat with curry in a kitchen comfortably humid in an otherwise brisk house. It reminds me of my childhood.
“From a strictly culinary perspective, Japanese curry is comforting because it’s thick, it sticks to your bones, yet it’s mild in seasoning and has a distinct sweetness to it. While the curry is indeed black pepper-forward, the spiciness is not aggressive. It pairs well with braised meats. To me, braised meats capture comfort because they’re simple to make, yet they take time—and time is important.”
We asked Chef Kim how preparation time was related to the comfort quotient of a food, and he remarked that “the more time you take preparing a meal, the more nurturing you’re putting into it. A good indication of how important something is would be the amount of time you spend with it.” So when a mother or father takes the time to prepare a comforting meal for the family—like Japanese curry—the time that’s spent is a kind of reflection of parental love. You’ll see this in the long preparation times for other ethnic favorites, like tamales for Mexican or chitterlings for African-American families.”
The Mott Street menu features Berkshire Pork Shank with Japanese Curry and Brown Rice. “I think this dish in particular is a testament to one of our philosophies as a kitchen in that we look to our fondest food memories and try to capture how much we loved them,” Kim says.
Making curry from scratch, Kim explains, “has allowed us to alter the flavor to our specific taste, and make a dish that is infinitely lighter and not full of preservatives or msg. With all of its components, this dish seems like it should be very heavy, but I feel that we’ve been able to create a product that’s hearty and still befuddling-ly light.“
4 oz. butter
4 oz. flour
2 tsp. tomato paste
3 tbsp. curry powder (garam masala)
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. paprika
8 oz. vegetable stock
1 tbsp. molasses (blackstrap)
Optional: potatoes, onions, carrots, apples
- Melt butter in a saucepan, add flour, and create a roux by stirring over medium heat for fifteen-to-twenty minutes. The roux should be the color of coffee with a little cream.
- Into the tomato paste, stir and mix well the curry powder, Worcestershire sauce and paprika.
- Add vegetable stock, whisk, then add molasses; strain through a fine sieve to avoid lumps.
- Season the curry with salt and pepper to taste. Add more molasses or a pinch of brown sugar if the curry isn’t sweet enough.
- Add potatoes, onions and carrots, if you like (at Mott St, we add pearl onions, diced potatoes and chopped Fuji apples at the very last minute so they retain some crunch). Simmer for about twenty minutes. Add additional stock if the curry reduces too much.
Berkshire Pork Leg
1 Berkshire shank (either fore or hind-shank), approximately 34 oz.
1 large carrot, chopped large
2 stalks celery, chopped large
1 onion, chopped large
8 thyme sprigs
3 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
1 qt. sake
Handful of chopped parsley
Enough vegetable oil to submerge shank in fryer
- Truss pork shank with twine.
- In a big pot, add carrot, celery, onion, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns; place shank on top of all those ingredients and add sake. Submerge at least three-quarters of the shank in sake (supplement with water, as necessary).
- Bring pot to boil, turn off heat, and place two layers of tinfoil over the entire vessel, crimping the edges so no steam escapes.
- Place the shank in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately three-and-a-half hours, or until fork-tender.
- Remove shank and allow it to cool overnight; reserve the braising liquid for another use (you can use it instead of vegetable stock to make curry next time!).
- Fully submerge shank in a fryer at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and fry for five-to-ten minutes until the shank is warm at the center, brown and crispy outside. If you don’t have a fryer, crisp the shank in a pan with a little oil, then place in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven to warm through.
- Season pork with salt and pepper before serving; cut off the twine.
- Serve over a bed of brown rice with a generous pour of Japanese curry and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
Dining and Drinking Editor for Newcity, David also writes a weekly food column for Wednesday Journal in Oak Park and is a frequent contributor of food/drink and travel pieces to the Chicago Tribune, Plate Magazine and other publications. David has also contributed chapters to several books, including Street Food Around the World, Street Food, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org