We once again dabble in the dark culinary arts.

Long-time readers of this website might remember the times we made a Dark Nabe hotpot and Dark Ehomaki sushi roll. This is where each person brings one ingredient without the others knowing what it is until the finished dish is eaten.

▼ The Dark Nabe

It’s been a few years since we’ve attempted one of these dishes, largely because we’re tired of the self-inflicted abuse. However, we needed to do something to honor Curry Day on 22 January, and since no one had any better ideas, our writer P.K. Sanjun once again ventured into the darkness.

He had his work cut out for him though, as his fellow writers were apprehensive about taking part for fear some wag would bring in a stag beetle or surströmming. This resulted in our Japanese-language editor-in-chief Go Hatori stepping in and issuing a decree that no one intentionally bring in a weird item under penalty of everyone else saying, “Come on…” and “What the heck, man?”

Thanks to the added level of security, P.K. managed to get 10 participants, including himself, onboard for this meal. The way it worked was simple. First, P.K. would prepare the basic components of Japanese-style curry, carrots and onions, and stir-fry them.

As he did this the lights would be turned off and each person would add their own ingredient to the pot, one by one. Finally, it would be cooked in the curry roux and served to everyone. Since this was P.K.’s show, he decided to give us all a preview of his secret ingredient, Iwashita New Ginger.

▼ P.K.: “Curry roux contains ginger to begin with, so this will just accentuate that. Besides, Iwashita New Ginger goes well with pretty much anything, so I’m confident this will be a hit!”

After adding his fresh young ginger with the carrots and onions, he called the others into the darkened room one at a time.

Ahiruneko: “I think this will definitely make it better.”
P.K.: “It’s wiggling. What is that?!”

Go: “This is absolutely delicious. I’m so sure of this that I got three of them. They were expensive too.”
P.K.: “Canned food, eh?”

Yoshio: “I’m just going to dump this all at once. Ohhhhhh yeah, baby!”
P.K.: “What? Is that a liquid?”

Masanuki Sunakoma: “I was deadly serious when I bought this. It’s definitely the best stuff.”
P.K.: “I hope you’re still being serious.”

Yuichiro Wasai: “I think the spices will go well together…”
P.K.: “A liquid? It kind of smells like caramel…”

Mr. Sato: “I brought some serious stuff.”
P.K.: “A bottle? Is that some kind of sauce?”

Seiji Nakazawa: “I brought something that’s good for you.”
P.K.: “Another liquid? It looks like it’s turning white.”

Takashi Harada: “This stuff’s super delicious.”
P.K.: “Here we go with liquid again! It suddenly smells sweet.”

Mariko Ohanabatake: “This room smells all sweet and sour…”
P.K.: “Thank god. Finally some solid food.”

As Mariko said, the room had filled with a very tangy odor. Normally, the lights are kept off until after eating a dark dish, but since there’s a ban on shenanigans and most of the people brought liquids anyway, we decided to take a peek at things so far…

Bear in mind that no curry has been added yet. This is just the murky concoction of whatever everyone poured into the pot with carrots and onions. Although it was a little disconcerting, once the curry roux was brought into the mix, it began to look rather normal. Even the weird smell seemed to have largely gone away.

Everyone gathered around the pot to taste the sum of their parts. In theory, this should turn out at least all right.

However, even with everyone acting with the best intentions, it might be hard to ensure these different flavors will come together harmoniously in the roux.

In a way, this was a microcosm of all the personalities in the office. Can the synergy between these elite writers translate to the language of food?

Everyone dug into their dish with wide eyes and smiles of optimism over what they might have created.

However, bit by bit, the smiles seemed to fade from everyone’s faces…

In their places were winces and held-back tears…

Something had gone wrong… terribly wrong.

It wasn’t that the curry was shockingly or comically disgusting. It was just really disappointing.

It was edible in the sense that no one was gagging or rushing to the restroom.

But, it was objectively not good in the sense that if any restaurant served you this, it would be your last meal there.

There was a mysterious underlying sour and fishy flavor that ended up overpowering even the bold spices of the curry roux itself. To help unravel this mystery of what caused this distasteful result let’s find out what each person brought and also get their opinions on the final creations.

Ahiruneko brought in Ika-kun processed squid snacks because he thought the rich flavor of squid and this product’s smoky seasoning would go well with the curry.

Ahiruneko: [Ahiruneko was not present for the tasting because he suddenly claimed to have had a “family emergency” about which he would not go into detail.]

Yoshio brought shrimp bisque hotpot seasoning because he loves shrimp in curry and using a soup stock would keep things less cluttered.

Yoshio: “The moment I took a bite, I sensed a fishy and sour taste. Honestly, I was just like, ‘What the hell?’ and wondered where my shrimp went. I guess the saying that everything goes well curry is a myth. That being said the mochi kinchaku were delicious.”

Mochi kinchaku are little pieces of mochi in small bags of fried tofu, but we’ll get to that later.

Masanuki brought in a bag of consommé flavor Cratz pretzel snacks because he felt the strong seasoning would go well with the curry and the pretzels would add some pizzazz to the overall texture.

Masanuki: “I couldn’t stand the smell. If I walked into a curry restaurant and smelled that sour odor I would have turned right around. If it weren’t for the mochi kinchaku and my good old Cratz, that would have been complete hell.”

Yuichiro brought Iyoshi Cola, a craft cola with a more sophisticated blend of spices than regular colas and something he thought would add depth to the curry.

Yuichiro: “There was no depth. They say curry can make anything delicious but I think we just disproved that theory.”

Mr. Sato’s contribution was a bottle of Lea & Perrins authentic Worcestershire sauce from Worchester, England. He felt it was a great product that tasted delicious no matter how he used it and expected it to be the secret weapon of this dish.

Mr. Sato: “The curry was sour. It wasn’t inedible, but it also wasn’t good. It’s not every day you come across a curry that just isn’t delicious. In a way, I think this is a valuable experience for us.”

Seiji added a bottle of Yakult 1000 lactic acid drink to the dish. He said he hadn’t been sleeping well lately so adding this would not only enhance the flavor but help everyone get some rest.

Seiji: “I really hate fishy smells. The taste was pretty sour too. I didn’t think it was possible to make curry that bad. On the other hand, the stress of this ordeal has been alleviated thanks to my Yakult 1000. Turns out that was really needed here.”

Takashi brought in some Protein brand protein drink with a banana flavor. It’s something he drinks every day recently because he believes protein is important for a modern lifestyle, so why not have it in your curry too?

Takashi: “It’s not entirely inedible, but the sourness was so strong that I struggled to eat it. It just wasn’t good. I also found those weird crunchy things painful to eat. It really makes me appreciate all the other curry made in the world…”

The mochi kinchaku which many said was the saving grace of this dark curry was thanks to Mariko who knew that it was a shoo-in because mochi is essentially just rice, the natural sidekick of Japanese curry. What’s more, she imagined the tofu pouches would soak in the curry roux for a more delectable taste.

Mariko: “I noticed the strange sweet and sour smell at first and got worried. But I’m thankful for the curry roux which managed to make this mess barely edible and helped me eat everything on my plate.”

A common misconception of “dark” dishes like this is that they’re literally made in the dark. But the truth is that these hard potlucks always reveal the darker side of humanity, and this one was no different.

The undeniable objective truth was that this curry was a sour and fishy disaster, but it wasn’t clear why it turned out this way. This led to a flurry of accusations, name-calling, and hurt feelings between our normally congenial staff.

A few hours after the dust had settled, Go sent a message to the whole staff. At first, they thought he was admonishing them for making such a crappy curry, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. Here’s the message in its entirety:

“I only wanted to eat delicious curry and refused to allow anyone to sully the sanctity of curry with joke flavors. So, the day before, I activated my authority as editor and issued an executive order to ban all ridiculous ingredients. I understand this was a shocking overreach of my powers, but I acted in the best interest of everyone.

For my ingredient, I selected three cans of K&K Canned Grilled Oysters from Hiroshima with Lemon and Black Pepper. They cost 819 yen [$5.55] per can for a total of roughly 2,500 yen [$17]. Because the oil the oysters were canned in was of the highest quality, I added it all to the curry as well to make it delicious.

However, what ensued was a taste oft described as ‘fishy’ and ‘sour’ by some. I am now of the mind that it may have been my oysters that caused the ‘fishy’ flavor. And while many pointed the finger at Mr. Sato’s sauce for the sourness, that too may have been from the lemon and black pepper of my ingredient.

I was the one who forbade ingredients that would ruin the flavor. I was not kidding about that, and yet in the end, it appears that I had inadvertently ruined the flavor. For this, I am very sorry. I will take this time to reflect on what I did and ensure it will not happen again. I’d appreciate privacy during this difficult time.”

After reading the message, P.K. recalled that Go seemed to slip out of the room soon after the accusations started flying, which is why there’s no initial reaction quote from him. He must have known from the first taste that he was truly the one to blame.

▼ Come on… What the heck, man?

Still, P.K. didn’t sense any ill intent from Go, and to be honest, it takes a village to ruin a curry and the Protein, Cratz, and Yakult 1000 really didn’t do it any favors either.

And so, once again Dark Curry has proven that a great deal of darkness lies in both food and our hearts. We’d rather not do this kind of this again, but we probably will.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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