A very nice jerky idea.

One of the great things about Japanese curry is how versatile it is. Sure, just about every batch includes potato, carrot, and onion, but really you can toss just about anything into the roux and it’ll taste great, and with such wide-open possibilities, there’s always room for a new, and tasty, surprise, like beef jerky curry.

If you’ve flown into or out of Japan on a trans-Pacific route, you’ve probably seen Tengu-brand beef jerky, whose packaging is graced by the crow-like creature of the same name from Japanese folklore. Originally founded in Los Angeles, Tengu is one of Japan’s favorite jerky makers, and its Japanese handler, Suzuho Ltd., offers a made-in-Japan instant curry featuring Tengu’s soy sauce-seasoned lean beef thigh jerky.

Like most instant curries in Japan, it comes in a vacuum-sealed pouch that you can prepare either by boiling the unopened pouch in a pot of water (for five minutes) or by pouring the contents onto a dish, covering it with plastic wrap, and popping it in the microwave (for two minutes).

We went the boil-the-bag route, and once it was ready, we followed Japanese convention by pouring it onto half of our plate, with white rice covering the remaining part.

Since you’re supposed to eat Japanese curry rice with a spoon, you might be wondering how that works with beef jerky. Instead of a long tough strip, the Tengu curry (officially called Asahitengu Beef Jerky Curry) is loaded with jerky bits, sort of like the bacon bits you might sprinkle on a salad or baked potato.

This gives it a classy look, like the sort of curry you might find in a fashionable cafe. The flavor, though, is as straightforwardly delicious as you’d expect from beef jerky, with a special smoky quality that sets it apart from other curries.

The spiciness builds slowly but surely, so that you get a kick without the jerky’s thunder being stolen. The marque ingredient really is the star of the show here, and even if you might not guess it’s beef jerky from how it looks at first glance, it definitely makes its presence felt.

Though the Tengu beef jerky curry is made in Japan, we actually picked ours up at a semi fancy market that specializes in imported foods for 389 yen (US$3.75). But wherever you happen to come across it, we recommend grabbing a pack for a tasty curry treat like nothing you’ve had before.

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