Happy November, dear friends! We’re welcoming the second-last month of the year with a savory post!
A Little Browse Around the Shop
I always enjoy browsing around Marks & Spencer’s food locations here in the Lion City. Marks and Spencer’s food halls (known as M&S food) are some of the perfect places for British grocery fixes. Being in the Harbourfront area on a lovely afternoon, I popped into M&S Food to explore. The M&S Food that I tend to visit is smaller than this outlet, so my foodie senses were on the lookout for potential delish eats… and I did bring a munchie home to add to my snack stash!
M&S has some delightful finds that are usually unavailable at other shops. The VivoCity outlet in particular offers a relatively wide range of grocery staples, and most of these products belong to the M&S brand. Many of these items originate from the UK and around Europe, and some bits and bobs are from the Asia Pacific region. There are pasta, cheeses, cartons of eggs and fresh garlic heads that I believe are from New Zealand and the UK/Spain respectively, frozen ready meals, bottled sauces and relishes, canned staples, boxes and tubs of chocolates, and a whole lot more.
Personally, I love dropping by M&S at Christmastime as the shelves are lined with fabulous British Christmas cakes, puddings and biscuits that are cherished delights in my family’s Christmas spreads. During my visit, iced Christmas cakes were just beginning to make their debut for the year.
While it was a bit early for Christmas at that time, the cozy year-end feelings were indeed present. A cute mini Halloween display with a small assortment of treats added a splash of autumn – this year’s Halloween highlights were ‘bleeding’ chocolate brains, ‘tragic’ chocolate truffles, Colin the Caterpillar treats, butter biscuits in haunted house tins, and a reasonably-sized pumpkin (yes, Halloweenie pumpkins made it to the tropics!)
Introducing Chicken Katsu Curry Crisps!
Of course, any trip to the supermarket is incomplete without having a peek at the snacks aisle in my book. M&S’s snack section certainly didn’t disappoint with all the fascinating flavors to choose from.
While I was tempted to taste most of the crisps flavors that were on display, the one that said “bring me home!” the loudest was the radiantly-packaged chicken katsu curry crisps. I’ve heard stellar reviews of chicken katsu curries in the UK – especially the one from Wagamama, a British restaurant chain that features Japanese food on its menu. As it is a much-adored dish in Britain, I simply couldn’t pass the opportunity to experience chicken katsu curry’s flavors. Plus, my sleuthing senses were eager to find out more about katsu curry and how the curry’s touch is celebrated in the form of crisps (potato chips). Hence, the crisps joined my snack stash as a savory addition.
I had Japanese curries a handful of times many moons ago, therefore, my experience is more so through the eyes of a fan of South Asian and Southeast Asian curries rather than from a katsu curry connoisseur’s viewpoint.
A fun fact is that these crisps are vegetarian-friendly, which means that more foodies can embark on the flavorful katsu curry adventure. Plus, this is a clue to the taste experience as the crisps would stay true to the curry’s notes which accompany the chicken in a regular chicken katsu curry dish. Based on the list of ingredients, the starring flavors are familiar to curry fans through the medley of spices that are commonly included in curries.
Served alongside rice, katsu curry is a Japanese curry dish that comprises of a crispy and juicy breaded katsu cutlet (chicken and pork are some katsu favorites) and a curry sauce with a few veggies such as onions and carrots. From what I’ve seen through my metaphoric magnifying glass, different chefs have their own takes on Japanese curry through the spices in their curry powders and their preferred curry consistencies.
The part that definitely makes the katsu curry crisps unique to me is the addition of coconut milk, as this ingredient wasn’t featured in my previous katsu curry experiences. While sleuthing, I noticed that most curry recipes from Japan don’t include coconut milk as an ingredient to thicken the curry’s consistency. The coconut milk part depends on personal preferences and where the recipe originates from, as many foodies around the world adore this blissful-looking dish and have shared their versions of the curry that suit their taste buds. As always in the food realm, it’s all relative when it comes to creating ‘perfect’ flavors.
Another interesting foodie fact is that in Japan, the most convenient method to make curries at home is by using curry roux, which is essentially pre-made blocks of solidified curry mixes. Some people do make their curries from scratch, but opting for curry roux from the local supermarkets is a popular way to make a nice bowl of curry in a jiffy.
Thinking of all the curries I saw on the sleuthing trail, I couldn’t wait to taste these crisps!
As soon as the crisps were revealed, fabulous scents of spices and coconut milk made their entrance. Interestingly, the aroma jogged my foodie memories of the Australian-Asian coconut-based curries I enjoyed in Australia rather than curries in Asia itself.
Munching thoughtfully on a crunchy crisp, I realized that the layers of flavors, which my taste buds became acquainted to almost instantly, are a three-way crossover between Japanese, Indian and Thai/Malaysian curries. The crisps beautifully reflect that food does indeed unite the world!
The soul of these crisps is the flavorful punch from the spice mix – which is the crisps’ base note. Its bold spices remind me of delicious Indian curries that I love. It isn’t ‘spicy’ in a chili pepper way, but it would please spice-loving palates. The crisps are balanced between savory and sweet, like regular Japanese curries – I reckon this is credited to dried coconut milk and dried tomatoes.
Delightful coconut milk undertones are present in every bite, and it reminds me of curries from Thailand and Malaysia that include coconut milk as a key ingredient. Being my first katsu curry experience with coconut milk, I was pleasantly surprised with its flavorful role as it works with the spice mix. Coconut milk adds the cozy feeling that comes from eating a hot bowl of creamy curry with rice. It works very nicely with the spices as it brings another flavor dimension to the snacking experience.
From a chips/crisps view, the potato crisps are seasoned well. The wavy ridged crisps are wonderfully crunchy and thick. They are a nice snack to enjoy when you are in the mood for something savory (which was how I was feeling that day!)
All in all, I had an absolute blast tasting these crisps. I can’t wait to return to M&S for their Christmas goodies soon!