A year ago, I studied abroad in China, one of the best experiences of my life. While I was at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, I discovered the beauty of simple Japanese fare. (Which is a euphemism for ‘I became slightly obsessed with it.’) Before going to China, I had associated Japanese food with sushi and teriyaki. Then I discovered Japanese curries. I still remember my order, tudou gali (土豆咖喱), a rich potato curry atop a fried potato cake with a bed of rice, served with miso soup. My friends and I went so often, I’m pretty sure we singlehandedly gave them enough revenue to get new fancy menus.
Oh ribenfanguan’r (日本饭馆儿), how I miss you. You carried me through many a torrential rainstorm, through midterms and finals and all the tests in between. I have never attempted the tudou gali because I prefer to just remember how wonderful it was. I still hold out hope that one day I will return and enjoy my potato curry again.
However, all the other curry dishes are fair game. Up today: katsudon. I absolutely loved zhupai jing (豬排丼) in China. Fried pork with a sweet yet savory sauce on a bed of rice…mmmmm. They also served it with a dollop of Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie) that is infinitely better than American mayonnaise.
I also came to love how the Japanese cook their eggs, half-cooked and runny so that it sinks into the rice, flavoring the dish all the way to the bottom of the bowl.
I owe it to the ribenfanguan’r for showing me that Japanese food is so much more than just fancy arrangements of sushi rolls. Here’s my rendition of katsudon, combining some of my favorite aspects of Japanese comfort food: the sweet-salty sauce, the crunchy yet juicy pork, the half-cooked eggs. This recipe absolutely nails it.