Even though it’s pretty easy to make, there are times when you just can’t be bothered to whip up a regular batch of curry. While the individual steps might be simple, the total process of peeling, chopping, and boiling all those ingredients can take a long time, so often people who are busy, lazy, or bachelors take the easy way out and just microwave a pack of instant stuff.
Convenient as it may be, though, instant curry isn’t always the tastiest version of the dish. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways to spruce it up.
Japanese Internet users recently gathered to swap their favorite ways to transform their instant curry meals from palatable to desirable. Many of their suggestions are bold and inspired, but a few seem to be exactly the kind of challenges no one who’s regularly eating instant curry would be up for. For example, “dice some onions, sauté them with butter, then heat them in a sauce pan with the instant curry” sounds an awful lot like making regular curry to us. So does “stir-fry three strips of meat, add onions, season with salt and pepper, cover with instant curry.”
Likewise, pouring instant curry on the Japanese crepe called okonomiyaki or crowning your plate of curry with a chicken cutlet both sound like swell ideas if you already happen to have either of those completed, main dishes lying around. But then again, if you did, wouldn’t you just eat them and bypass the vacuum-sealed pouch of liquid curry?
▼ We guess you could eat this steak dinner without adding some instant curry, but would you want to?
Instead, let’s skip to the pointers that seem compatible with the kind of sparsely-stocked pantry and barely passable chef who eats enough instant curry that he’s looking to mix it up a little.
Technique #1: Add toppings
Instant curry tends to be almost entirely roux, with just a few cursory bits of meat or vegetables included. This usually makes for a pretty Spartan meal, but you can take care of that with any of a number of toppings.
We’re guessing no matter how bad you are in the kitchen, you can at least manage to fry an egg, which makes for an easy protein boost. But if every egg in your fridge is past its expiration date, you still have a couple options that involve no cooking at all. Crushed almonds will add flavor and texture, and some instant curry gurus swear by a dash of cocoa powder, which is similar to the trick some Japanese chefs have of adding a small chocolate bar to their pot of curry.
Perhaps the most unique topping mentioned is noritama, a mix of dried seaweed and egg that’s usually sprinkled on white rice.
It’s not just the curry that can benefit from toppings, as some people recommend adding cheese or butter to the rice, then pouring on the heated roux and letting everything melt together. Decadent as these sound, we’d recommend making sure your digestive tract is up for the challenge before you jump into these rich waters.
Some instant curry aficionados even managed the neat feat of thinking outside the box by thinking entirely within it with their success stories of adding dry curry powder or mixing two different brands of instant curry together. For that last one, you’ll end up with twice as much curry, but that’s never really a problem.
▼ A meal with curry is like childhood, in that it always seems to end before you’re completely ready for it to.
Technique #2: Turn it into something other than ordinary curry
Don’t be afraid to break out of the curry rice confines, though. If they’re tired of curry with rice, some people pair it with pasta, instead. If you’ve got some frozen udon or soba noodles, you can stick them in a bowl, add some bonito stock and instant roux, and after a few minutes in the microwave, you’ve got yourself a bowl of curry noodles.
Or, if you want something extra fortifying, plus you’ve stocked up on instant meat sauce, some say that combining it with instant curry roux produces something not unlike Keema curry, the South Asian-inspired dish made with ground meat.
Technique #3: At least make it look nice
You should never underestimate the ability of appetizing presentation to add enjoyment to a meal. When all else fails, try eating your instant curry by candlelight, or served on your finest china. If you’re the artistic type, you might want to try using whatever other items you happen to have around the house to recreate your favorite anime in curry form.
Or, if every other piece of advice on this list is beyond your capabilities, you can do what this Internet commenter suggested:
“Scoop rice onto half the plate, then pour the heated roux onto the other half.”
You may recognize this as nothing more than the standard way each and every curry restaurant in Japan serves the dish. Still, when you have to settle for instant food, you may as well have instant food that looks like the real deal.