This is Part 3 of a 47-part series of weekly blog posts looking at curries from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
Only eight of Japan’s 47 prefectures are landlocked, and Tochigi is one of them. Even so, its second-most-famous landmark is made of water: 97-meter-high Kegon Falls. This waterfall is in the town of Nikko, which is also home to the prefecture’s No. 1 landmark: Toshogu Shrine. The shrine was established in 1617 as a mausoleum for Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), who founded the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan until the 1860s.
Toshogu is decorated with colorfully painted wooden carvings, including the earliest known rendition of the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys.
It could be that these monkeys are a visual pun on the proverb “mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru,” as the negative verb suffix “zaru” sounds like the Japanese word for monkey. Or it could be that the monkeys are expressing astonishment at the very idea of this week’s curry: Tochigi strawberry.
Toshogu may be the prefecture’s main historical attraction, but strawberries are its claim to fame in the agricultural field. It is Japan’s top producer of them. According the prefecture’s official tourism website, “Tochiotome, a large, sweet variety of strawberry with a vivid red color, represents Japanese strawberries. This variety is large in size and sweet, juicy and soft in taste.”
So, naturally there is a Tochigi strawberry curry – made with tochiotome strawberrries.
The ingredient list begins, “Vegetables (onion, potato, carrot), strawberry puree, beef, sugar, flour, apple puree, lard, curry powder…” Flavors further down the list include ginger, chutney and apple vinegar.It’s sweet, but not overpoweringly so, and just a little tangy.
Upon tasting it, I had a sudden mental image of cheese – which is NOT an ingredient. The reason for this odd association is that it reminded me very much of the sweet curry sauce that the Pizza-La pizza delivery chain offers on some of its pizzas. The company markets such pizzas as popular among kids, but I haven’t been a kid for a long time and I love them.
As for this tasty curry, it was mild enough to be just right for this morning’s breakfast.