I often feel that one’s love for cooking is put to test during weekdays. Juggling between work and meal preparation can be a real challenge when all you can think of after work is doing absolutely nothing in your pj’s. Since I usually have light lunches during the day, like clockwork, my stomach will start to grumble and hunger strikes from the moment I finish work. With an hour commute from work to home, I transform from a gentle white-collar lady into a total cookie monster by the time I got home, scouring whenever I can from the pantry and fighting the strong urge of getting KFCs or McDonalds (which are within walking distance) at the same time.
Needless to say, taking away all the time is not only a costly option but often, the food can be too greasy. Forget about making salad for dinner, I’m not about to wake up in the middle of night, feeling restless and hungry due to the “barely there” dinner. I need rice, noodles or pasta, something “substantial” that can fill me through the night….
So yeah, I have been cooking using ready-made sauces and pastes a lot lately. For week days’ meals, I love dishes that can be made in large quantity and last me for a couple of days (even enough for packed lunches sometimes). Due to the frequency of such meal preparation, this also marks the beginning of “my cheat days” series. This series is about sharing snippets of what I ate during the week, especially I don’t feel like cooking from scratch.
Japanese Chicken & Vegetable Curry
I learned about this curry from a guy friend who “cooks to live”. All you need is to buy the “curry cubes” from the supermarket (likely to be found the Asian food aisle, of course!), add some meat and vegetables (like you do with all other pre-made sauces). So the star ingredient for this curry is the cubes ( as shown in the pictures below).
There are instructions on the packet on how to make this curry. Usually, I just add 500g of diced chicken (get pre-diced ones to save time), 1 large carrot, 2 potatoes and 1 medium sized onion. For this post, I’ve added 700g of chicken….(I was too ambitious and really want to bulk it more, haha!)
Here’s my meal saver. The curry cubes come in mild or hot. I had to pick the hot one, of course!
Start by dicing the fresh ingredients. Okay, this may seem to require some knife work, but this pot of curry yields approximately 6 -8 servings, depending on your serving size. Since I’m cooking for two, this is definitely effort well spent.
Add oil and butter into a hot pot over medium heat.
When the butter is sizzling and melted, add onions and carrots.
When the onion has turned translucent, add chicken. The idea is to brown the chicken but with the amount of chicken I had in the pot, it is obvious I couldn’t brown all of it. So try your best with this.
When the chicken is semi-cooked, add the potatoes and gently toss them around. There were times that I just added the potato and chicken together, toss them around to get some brown bits.
Then, add enough boiling water to cover the ingredients. Otherwise, it’s going to take a while to soften the potatoes. When the mixture starts to boil (which won’t take long because of the boiling water), cover the pot and lower the heat to simmer. (Basically, we are waiting for the potatoes to soften.)
When the potatoes are soft, break the cubes and add them into the mixture. Stir around gently until the cubes dissolved into the mixture. Cook for 5 minutes or until the gravy is thick enough to coat the chicken and vegetables. Confession: I must say I have added too much chicken this time (500g / 18oz is ideal), in turn added too much water, resulting a more watery consistency as compared to the photo on the packet. However, this can be rectify by simmering the mixture a little longer.
(Note: Since the cubes contain wheat flour, which means the gravy is going to thicken as it cooks, I think it’s best not to add the cubes before the other ingredients are cooked.)
I love to pair this curry with rice. If you are like me and get sick the same curry and rice for the next meal of two, for a change, I cook some instant ramen (minus the flavouring) and ladle the curry over it. I haven’t tried it with pasta but this may not be a bad idea either.
This japanese curry is a very mild and on the sweet side. This means I won’t turn my office kitchen into a spice market when I have this for lunch.
Also, if you have overripe bananas lying around and not in time to turn them into banana loaves, mashed them up and add them together with the cubes – a trick learned from a Japanese friend (I hope this is a legit trick, he can be a prankster too!). The idea is to make the curry a little sweeter, which I agree, but that’s about it. I guess it would be disastrous if I can taste the bananas in the curry. So go easy with the bananas!