I've been pretty sickly lately. Two weeks ago I caught some awful stomach flu (or food poisoning? whatever) and as I laid in my bed for 72 hours in a sweat pool of misery, starving but unable to keep anything down (nay liquids, tmi), all I truly desired was a bite of... katsu curry.
This was pretty odd, as I'm not a curry fanatic, and I've never been that fond of deep fried meat in my curry either (don't get me started on this whole katsu on ramen thing. Gross). As any self-respecting Japanese person, I have my own specific way of making curry. I use two different curry mixtures, I add hard boiled eggs, and keep my potato ratio low. I'll put up my recipe soon, and duke it out against Yamahomo's kabocha (pumpkin) curry.
So after my full recovery, I trekked to downtown SF for JapaCurry. Another food truck??? Eh. We use that word very selectively here on Planet Umamimart, but just sit back and think about this for a second: Japanese curry out of a truck. A true miracle! A gift from the heavens!
JapaCurry parks its flaming orange truck in specific spots in San Francisco during lunch hour. The truck is cute right? All the drawings are so Japan-style. Well, it better be, since it was drawn by an actual Japanese artist. Duh.
Jay Hamada started JapaCurry almost by accident. His ideal was to open his own ramen shop, after returning from a ramen apprenticeship in Japan for two years. But after some thought, he decided on Japanese curry instead, taking into account the logistics of a food truck.
"A ramen truck is difficult because you need so much boiling water," said Jay. But curry? You can prep all that before! There's the A-HA moment.
When I opened my $8 to-go box, a rush of excitement went through my belly. The tonkatsu sat perfectly atop a bed of steaming white rice, with a splattering of tonkatsu sauce. The curry itself comes in a plastic container, so it doesn't create a soggy mess. Plus, you get a bit of the requisite neon orange fukujinzuke (pickles very specifically accompanying Japanese curry).
Look at all this food! EIGHT DOLLARS, people!
Jay's curry is a bit thinner than what I am accustomed to--I am used to Japanese curry that is thick and goopy. He explained that it's because he does not use any potatoes at all, and that, "the umami really comes from the onions." Turns out that he uses 50lbs. of onions for each batch of curry (about 150 servings). FIFTY POUNDS! It takes him three hours to cook down the onions, then another two to finish the actual curry. Then, he lets it rest for a day or two before serving. We all know that Japanese curry, or any stew really, tastes better the next day. Like leftovers.
The curry itself is 100% vegetarian and you can get it 'spicy'. It wasn't crazy Yoko spicy, but it had good heat.
You get to choose between chicken or pork katsu for your curry. The chicken katsu curry is the most popular dish at JapaCurry, but of course I got the pork. It was hot, not overly-chewy, with a nice crispy layer of panko. Just right.
Jay debuted JapaCurry in November 2010, and it has been quite the rage since. The menu goes beyond curry and there are assorted bentos as well. They sell about 200 meals a day! For real? A food truck that specializes in Japanese curry, that is actually successful??? This is why San Francisco might be the RADDEST city... in the galaxy. Possibly. Maybe. (Probably love).
Follow JapaCurry on Twitter to stay updated on where it's parked. His weekly schedule can also be found here. Jay is working on a rad new menu addition, that he'll roll out in a few weeks. Stay tuned on that!
Fun fact: Jay, who is originally from Kyushu, used to live right across from Sushi Kuni and knows Kunio! He gets 100 points for that.