Rekindling Travel Moments in a Meal
Recreating your favourite meal from a holiday is a great way of keeping the memories alive. In a society where kids peel off to their bedrooms and online worlds as soon as they come in from school, having a meal together based on a trip is a chance to reform travel bonds and remember good times you shared together. It’s also a reminder that there are flavours beyond the routine family dinner table fayre. When we found out Aldi were stocking a new range of wagyu burgers we decided to create our own version of the fast food curry we enjoyed so much during our summer in Japan. And ended up having an impromptu Japanese themed night-in.
The many faces of Japan
Vermillion gates stretching to the sunset, and beyond – to enlightenment. A perfectly sculpted pyramid of sand in a silver palace garden. A katsu curry in Kyoto, on a search for a Geisha. This was our Japan.
Neon toytown, where girl bands on giant screens vie for attention with Hello Kitty and vending machines. A sacred mountain that shows itself only to the worthy. A katsu curry in Osaka, while a garden floats between a railway line and forever. This was our Japan.
A Shinto gate in an ocean moat, wade-able if you believe. A line to walk to find true love between stones in a temple overhanging a cloud. A katsu curry in Nara, as a revered deer does tricks for food outside. This was our Japan.
But where’s the sushi?
Japan may well be the land of the sushi but despite our pre-trip sushi acclimatisation it didn’t figure large in our Japan. Instead, wherever we went in Japan, our staple meal quickly became the fast food katsu curry. Within days all three kids could spot the logo of their favourite chain of cheap and cheerful CoCo Curry restaurants as soon as they entered a town. In a land where picnic space is scarce, these brightly coloured curry houses were a relief from the urban heat. And in a country where eating out can be expensive, they provided a welcome, and affordable hot meal. And it was fast food with a twist. Part of the fun was ordering the exact strength of our curry, what meat we would like (chicken or pork) and how many grams of rice we had the appetite for. This was fast food with portions individually tailored to our tastes. How Japan.
Remember the curry?
I thought it would be fun to recreate a katsu curry at home. I surfed the net and found recipes for homemade versions of the curry sauce. I toyed with whether the kids would prefer chicken or pork. And then I heard about the wagyu burger. The most exotic fast food in the world.
Wagyu beef originally hails from Japan (Wagyu actually means Japanese cow) and has a reputation for being the world’s priciest. The meat is famous worldwide for its soft white fat marbling which comes from the pure bred cows being given a long and high intensive grain feed programme. Kobe beef, the most expensive, fetches hundreds of pounds a kilo in Japan. In recent years other countries have picked up on this trend for the luxury meat including Australia New Zealand, USA and the UK. Chefs have been falling over themselves to get it on the menu. And now Aldi is educating the palates of UK meat eaters. And the great news for families is it comes in the form of a tender, melt in the mouth burger.
An evening of Japanese food and chat
We have a theme night. I oven bake the burgers and mix the ingredients together for the accompanying katsu curry sauce. It’s a quick and easy combination of finely chopped carrots, honey, curry powder, onions, garlic and soy sauce. I cook some sticky rice and arrange a few salad leaves on the plate for colour. The whole dinner is done in minutes. Meanwhile the children set the table Japanese style, with seats on the floor, chopsticks and little tea cups.
The food brings back the memories
In true Japanese style the kids decide how much rice they want, and how hot they want their curry sauce. We sit down to eat and to reminisce. About the shrine ritual of clapping and bowing and giving thanks. About cat café’s and haunted prison experiences. About the moving hush of a peace dome, the ringing of a temple bell and the delicate ritual of a tea ceremony. About geisha lookalikes tottering about on unwieldy shoes.
It’s not a true Japanese katsu curry. And we are not in Japan. But it is a moment. A moment of good food and great company and a reminder of a time, not so long ago when we had more time for each other without the distractions of regular life.
And then life intervenes
And then Hannah’s lift arrives for running club and Cameron goes out to dance practice and Matthew retreats to his bedroom and his headphones. You have to catch these moments while you can. Family life is like a holiday; it is there and then it is over. It can melt in the mouth quicker than your wagyu burger. Recreate the pasta of Italy, the tapas of Spain or the pancakes of your breakfast on route 66 and you may be able to hold on to the moment, and your family, a little while longer.
Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you thanks to a little help from Aldi UK. The experience, cooking, eating, idea and opinions remain, as ever, entirely our own.