Seeking Spice in Japan 15: A Hee-Hee Curry (Cup) in a Mall

Somehow, my last day running around Shinjuku, I felt like a simple Japanese curry – even more of a feel-good, home-style meal than udon – would be in order.

Looking here and there, just to see if I would find anything more (e.g. of matcha-flavored KitKat…) I felt like bringing back home with me, I chanced upon the Curry Cup in the small food court of one of the Shinjuku (Lumine) malls.

Simple beef curry it should be, feeling a bit down with the end of the time here approaching, the extra-hot version seemed appealing.

It also fit, much as I argue against the simplistic conflation of chilli with nothing but pungency, to try how hot extra-hot would be in Japan.

And the person I ordered it from made things all the more interesting, linguistically, as he warned that this dish would be “hee-hee kara”, extra-hot, using the term for it I had otherwise only ever encountered in Ocha-no-ko Saisai’s label (for their extra-pungent products).

Two guys were sitting next to me and also enjoying some simple-but-appealing Japanese curry. One of them Japanese-American, the other Japanese, as it would turn out as we fell into a bit of a chat about Japan, its cooking, and the pleasures of its spices and especially curry at places like that.

That extra-spicy beef curry was fine. Not to be trifled with, but not overdoing it, either. Actually, I found that I prefer the spicy-but-less-spicy standard versions of Japanese curry – as one can quite easily make them with the ready-made curry blocks sold in most “Asian” supermarkets, no matter where – rather more.

Fast Food, Japanese

Thinking back, the memory makes me wonder if I should have gone to a McDonald’s just to see if even those would be rather better in Japan than other places. I had my surprises, found dishes that did not appeal to me – but overall, as so usual, found most Japanese food of a quality that is just amazing.

Funnily in light of the popular discussions about cultural appropriation around food, the less-than-ideal food came with cases of creative Japanese cooking, the best food was quite truly Japanese – and what Japanese have made of “imports,” as tempura and ramen and curry had originally been…

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