One of the things I love about Japan is the sense of regional speciality items and food. Tokyo-based writer Tom Baker is on a culinary mission to sample omiyage curries from every prefecture in Japan. All the posts have a good discussion of how regional ingredients and history inform the creation of the curries–though not all the curries are particularly good. (Limitations of the medium, I fear.) The history lessons are my favorite part:
In its early days, the navy was plagued by the painful and often fatal disease beriberi. Food historian Katarzyna J. Cwiertka writes in her excellent book “Modern Japanese Cuisine” that 12 percent of all Japanese sailors were found to be suffering from the condition in 1883. A high-ranking navy doctor named Kanehiro Takagi was aware that beriberi was rare in Western navies, whose sailors more often ate meat. He theorized that a high-protein diet might improve sailors’ health. Efforts were begun to Westernize navy meals by including more meat, and curry was one of the dishes used for that purpose. It became a staple of Japanese navy cooking. (“Kanagawa Navy Curry”)
So far, curries have included horse-meat curry from Kumamoto, air-base mess-hall curry from Miyazaki, and Toyama deep water (yes, really) curry. (We are very proud of our delicious Hokuriku water.) You can follow Tom’s weekly progress in his curry tag on Tokyo Tom Baker. The first post is here.