Last weekend, I attended the 13th Annual Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival at the Culinary Institute of America’s Napa Valley campus. The theme was “Japan: Flavors of Culture,” and a team of 39 of Japan’s most talented chefs came to teach other chefs, foodservice workers, suppliers, food writers, and more about the magic of Japanese food.
Now I’m staring at kare pan (kare is the Japanese word for curry, and pan is bread) at the newly opened Fuji Bakery in Seattle. (They offer even more goodies in the Bellevue location.) I think about many of the themes of the Worlds of Flavor event: seasonality, umami, aroma, and more, trying to figure out how kare pan is a fit for Sexy Feast.
Suddenly, I get it.
Ruth Reichl, former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, was a speaker at the conference, and she predicted that texture will be the next point of appreciation to make its way from Japan to America. In addition to being quick, easy, and convenient, so many Japanese people love kare pan because of its textural differences. The panko-crusted exterior is crispy, while the curry filling is soft.
Since starting Sexy Feast on the Voracious blog, I’ve also incorporated it into the sex speeches I give on the college lecture circuit. As part of the Q&A, I invite audience members to yell out their favorite dishes, and I must think on my feet to quickly figure out how each dish relates to sex.
Kare pan reminds me of some of the most common queries I get, such as fried chicken, burritos, tacos, and corndogs. These dishes all feature meat in some sort of casing or shell or covering–all varying in texture. What they teach us about sex is that you can still enjoy meaty pleasure, even after putting a wrapper on it. And some, actually, are even better with a little bit of lubricating liquid inside or outside of that protective wrapper.
Fuji Bakery’s kare pan doesn’t need any such lubricant liquid; its savory filling is moist and meaty–and the pastry wrapper is good, too. There were many other tempting treats in the showcase, with fillings that ranged from mushroom to mentaiko (pollock roe), and from chocolate to custard cream. Safe to eat ‘em all, I’d say.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on November 11, 2010.