This is Part 14 of a 47-part series of almost-weekly blog posts looking at curries from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
If you climbed the southern slope of Mt. Fuji, you’d be in coastal Shizuoka Prefecture, home to the sardine curry I blogged about earlier. Then, if you descended the northern slope of Mt. Fuji, you’d be in landlocked Yamanashi Prefecture, where you could sample curry made with fruit.
Yamanashi, west of Tokyo, is a mountainous prefecture. In addition to half of Mt. Fuji, it is home to a dozen peaks more than 2,500 meters tall. Many Japanese people find the pronunciation of its name mildly amusing because “Yama nashi” sounds like a patently untrue statement: “There are no mountains.”
The name is written with the kanji characters 山梨, which mean “mountain pear.” This too is rather odd. Although Yamanashi is famous for fruit, nashi pears are not one of its top crops. (According to the prefectural government, the name’s origins are unknown.)
Grapes and wine are Yamanashi’s most famous products. The cultivation of grapes dates back about 1,300 years, apparently beginning with a monk who had a vision of Buddha holding a bunch of them. Wine production didn’t get started until the 1868-1912 Meiji era, but there are now more than 80 wineries in the prefecture, making about 40 percent of Japan’s domestic wine.
In 2007, the prefecture was No. 1 in grape production, at 51,400 tons, well ahead of second-place Nagano with 30,700. It was also first in peaches (54,100 tons, ahead of then second-place Fukushima at 27,800) and plums (6,660, ahead of second-place Wakayama at 3,280).
While driving through Yamanashi Prefecture a couple of weeks ago, I picked up some grape and peach curries at a highway rest stop. Here they are side by side in one bowl after I brought them home:
They both had a low-to-medium level of spiciness, along with a weak sweet flavor. The sweetness was slightly more noticeable in the grape curry than the peach. The peach curry contained one impressively large chunk of fruit along with smaller fragments.
As big as the peach piece looked, it was so thoroughly cooked that it dissolved to nothingness the instant I put it in my mouth. Neither it nor the curry it was in tasted particularly fruity. (Last week’s Tottori nashi pear curry was a big winner in that regard.)
The grape curry was slightly sweeter, and it contained two whole grapes. Because they were still in their skins, they held their shape and texture much better than the peach did. This added some textural variety, but in terms of flavor neither of these curries was especially exciting or interesting.