Grilled Curry (焼きカレー) from Moji, Japan

Moji Grilled Curry/門司の焼きカレー

Given Name: 焼きカレー (background and recipe in Japanese)

Alias:  Yaki* Curry, Grilled Curry

Place(s) of Origin: Moji*, Kitakyushu, Japan

Place Consumed: Moji, Kitakyushu, Japan

Common Features: Rice, Japanese curry sauce, cream/cheese, eggs

Background: Years ago, for my second visit to the island of Kyushu, I decided to visit Kitakyushu. It is an industrial city that for lack of a better description, affords nearby views of the city of Shimonoseki on Honshu, Japan’s largest and most populous island.
Close to Moji train station is an area called “Retro Moji (レトロ門司),” a section with buildings from the late 1880s, when this district became a regionally strategic port.

Moji Port Train Station, Moji, Japan

Although one of my goal’s was to visit Shimonoseki, a city famous for fugu*, I had read that the Moji district of Kitakyushu had a little something of its own, baked Japanese curry.
For those of you familiar with standard issue Japanese curry, which employs something of a blue-collar demi-glace replete with pickled ginger and pearl onions, Moji’s yaki curry is nothing like it.

Verdict:
The grilled curry was a bit decadent, what with cream forming a moat around the pile of eggs, resting on top of potatoes and rice, all blending together to create a slightly sweet and salty baked Japanese curry.  The cheese melted right in, which emphasized how filling the yaki curry was.  Some local Moji restaurants even add their own flair with beef and pork options.

*Yaki = 焼き/焼, cook, bake, roast, grill
Moji= 門司, formerly a city, now a district in Kitakyushu;
fugu= 河豚, 鰒 or フグ, poisonous pufferfish/blowfish

The Gac (Gấc) Fruit of Vietnam

One of the truly wonderful aspects about traveling is introducing your taste buds to new and/or fresh flavors.  Southeast Asia is no stranger to my passport; consequently, nor is its diverse array of foods nearly unknown outside of the region.

Today’s entry is about the gấc (roughly pronounced “guhk”) melon, also known as a “baby jackfruit.” This fruit is originally from Vietnam – the second part of its Latin name, Momordica cochinchinensis, refers to Cochinchin, or what some foreign countries used to call Central/Southern Vietnam.  However, the gac has also come to be planted in tropical and sub-tropical parts of Australia and China; in Chinese, it is called 木鳖果 (mùbiēguǒ), which unusually translates as tree freshwater soft-shelled turtle fruit.

The gac is a tricky one, because it doesn’t ripen off of trees, has a toxic exterior, and only the reddish aril (the extra flesh surrounding the black seeds) is edible.  Not to mention, the orange melon is typically harvested in two months of the year, December and January, thus it’s not always the easiest to find, nor the cheapest to try.

It was in Chiang Mai, Thailand where I first heard about and tried the gac, due to a menu calling my attention to it.

Yet, in order to make the gac fruit palatable – on its own the gac has more of an avocado/cucumber taste – other fruit juices have to be added.

In spite of its nearly unsweetened flavor, the gac has a couple of things going for it.  It is extremely high in beta carotene, good for your vision and immune system, and lycopene, an antioxidant; consequently, it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.  Additionally, it’s orange and red, red being a lucky color in its native region.  Thus, you would likely see a plate of xôi gấc, or red gac sticky rice for Tết, the Vietnamese lunar new year.

Kouji: The National Fungus of Japan

If you have ever traveled to East Asia, visited a Chinatown, or studied Chinese and/or Japanese, you likely have come across the character 酒.  In Chinese, it is pronounced jiǔ, and in Japanese, generally it is さけ (sake) or しゅ (shu).  The character originally referred to wine, but now encompasses all liquor.  Harking back to when pubs doubled as places to spend the night, in China, 酒店 –  jiǔ​diàn –  means “hotel,” although it literally means “liquor store.”

Referring to the above photo, 甘酒, or amazake, can be translated as sweet liquor, or sweet sake.  Yet, written right below that word in the picture is the phrase ノンアルコール, meaning non-alcoholic.  How can that be?

A bit of backstory: the full name of the drink is 米麹甘酒 (こめこうじあまざけ) komekouji amazake, or malted rice sweet sake.  The key element of the name is the character 麹, aka 糀, which is koji/kouji, a fungus primarily used to ferment soybeans, in addition to aiding in the creation of rice vinegar and alcoholic beverages.

Kouji was first discovered in China more than 2, 300 years ago., and introduced to Japan around 300 A.D.  To create kouji, spores of a fermentation culture, called Aspergillus oryzae, are injected into rice that has been steamed and then cooled. After a couple of days of being stored in a warm place, as A. oryzae begins to break down the proteins and carbohydrates of the rice, the fungus begins to form.  Finally, the kouji is separated from the decomposition, ready for their task in preparing our favorite soy sauces, mirin, and liquor, among other products.

Indeed, it is the fermentation process that explains why the amazake drink isn’t mislabeled, and why kouji has become Japan’s 国菌 (こっきん) kokkin, or national fungus.


Among these two titans of international cuisine, it’s always fascinating to learn about the humble ingredients quietly playing their parts behind the scenes.

FoodTrex Spain Presents The 4th International Congress of Gastronomy Tourism, Pamplona, May 27th-28th

This Thursday and Friday, the World Food Travel Association, in association with Navartur, is holding its FoodTrex Spain event, also known as the International Congress of Gastronomy Tourism.  Normally, Navartur would be hosting a larger event focused broadly on tourism; however, due to COVID-19 this was postponed until next year.

The 4th Annual International Congress of Gastronomy Tourism will focus primarily on workshops in which exhibitors and patrons learn about how to reignite culinary tourism in the wake of a pandemic.

For background, the World Food Travel Association is a 20-year old non-profit organization that promotes hospitality and tourism through local cuisine, and Navartur is a Pamplona-based tourism group focusing on Navarra and the Basque country, located in the central northern portion of Spain.  Furthermore, with its idyllic beaches, cuisine, landscapes, and ancient history, Spain is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, not to mention the headquarters of the World Tourism Organization.

In addition to in-person conferences and B2B sessions, as the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a concern, event organizers have decided to also add a virtual session for attendees unable to travel to Spain for the two-day summit.

New Tokyo Take-Out Serving Mehari-zushi, One of Japan’s Oldest Snacks

Meharizushi with Shrimp Tempura, at めはりと鶏天みふく

To explain a bit about what Finding Food Fluency can represent, I’d like to introduce to everyone today’s meal, mehari-zushi (sushi becomes zushi, depending on the preceding sound), coming to us from Japan.

Mehari-zushi – 目張り寿司 – is one of the oldest recorded fast foods in Japan, dating back hundreds of years to Kumano city in Wakayama prefecture (source, in Japanese: https://gurutabi.gnavi.co.jp/a/a_613/).  At the time, Kumano was in a state called Kishuu (紀州), which comprises of parts of present-day Wakayama and Mie prefectures.  Mehari-zushi is simply a ball of vinegared rice enveloped in pickled mustard leaf.  That’s right, no fish, no bait, no mayonnaise, just two major components.

The origin of the name is amusing; since the mehari-zushi clumps used come quite big – with each one intended to be a snack for hungry workers – the Japanese name roughly translate as “sushi that makes your eyes open wide,” since opening your mouth wide does the same for the eyes (見張る/みはる).

Although it’s much more common in the Kansai area of Japan (where Wakayama, Osaka, and Kyoto are), a new mehari-zushi restaurant, めはりと鶏天みふく (Mehari to Chicken Ten Mifuku) opened on April 20th in the Tsukiji district of Tokyo.

As a huge fan of Japanese food and Tokyo, I can’t wait for international tourism to restart, particularly in Japan.  Knowing that mehari-zushi aren’t so easy to find in the capital makes me want to add this take-out shop to the endless list of places to try.

Restaurant link: https://www.instagram.com/mifuku_tukiji/
Restaurant location: https://goo.gl/maps/XXEyspFccHwjM9wV6

The 26th Annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Starts This July

From July 15th until November 20th, 2021, if you’re raring to travel abroad but your desired countries are still closed due to COVID-19, perhaps you will want to check out The 26th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  To attend, you will need to have both admission to Epcot, as well as reserve a place in the Disney Park Pass system.

Marketplaces such as Greece, Germany, Hawaii, and Islands of the Caribbean will be present, showing off food and drink commonly found in those parts of the world.  Wine and beer aficionados will also have their shops at which to indulge in buying souvenirs.

Due to the pandemic, the Festival will be taking place in a somewhat modified format.  For instance, due to frequent overcrowding at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, in order to properly maintain social distancing among Festival attendees, Epcot will instead host local musical acts spread throughout the day.  Also, the number of global marketplaces will only be twenty, as opposed to thirty before the pandemic.

Epcot is known for its futuristic attractions as well as its permanent country pavilions, with Morocco, Japan, and the United Kingdom among the more popularly visited ones.

Menorca, Spain Is A 2022 European Region for Gastronomy

Along with Trondheim-Trøndelag, Norway, Menorca earned the recognition of European Region of Gastronomy for 2022, as voted by the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts, and Tourism (IGCAT). IGCAT is a non-profit organization formed in 2012 with four primary goals:
  • Empower People and Engage Citizens
  • Instill Local Pride
  • Support Local Communities
  • Create Ambassadors and Inspire Young Generations
Although it had been chosen at an event in Brussels in 2019, since the tourism outlook for Spain is improving with regards to COVID-19 – and, they are planning to open to fully vaccinated tourists on June 7th – I decided that this would be a good first post for FindingFoodFluency. In spite of its small size – Menorca being 43 times smaller than Belgium – this Balearic island in the Mediterranean is home to more than 300 food producers, and more than 1800 businesses in the food industry, including hotels, restaurants, bars, and distributors. You may also be interested to know that its capital, Mahon, lent its name to one of the world’s most popular condiments, mayonnaise.
h/t to https://www.hosteltur.com/133501_menorca-ya-es-la-region-europea-de-la-gastronomia-2022.html

If Food Had Passports: Guatemalan Cardamom

Source: https://qtradeteas.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/cardamom/
Source: Qtradeteas

Ever since I started raiding the breath freshener (and carminative) trays at Indian restaurants, I’ve been curious about cardamom.  Whereas my usual reason for diving into those trays was for the candy-coated fennel seeds, the inimitable aggressive and unique flavor of cardamom always stood out.  When else could I find the expensive pods in my food?  Atop biryanis, in milk and as a seasoning for teas.

And in Antigua, Guatemala, in chocolate:

Antigua, Guatemala - Cardamom Chocolate (2)Prior to World War I, German coffee farmer Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced cardamom to the fertile soil of Alta Verapáz.  Guatemala is currently the world’s largest exporter of cardamom, though hardly uses it on the domestic front, save for adding it to bars of local chocolate much to the amusement of self-declared travel/food bloggers.  Most of it is shipped to the Middle East and India, the latter of which frequently expressing sour grapes over one of its native crops.

If you’re curious about the history of cardamom – a distant relative of my favorite root, ginger – visit the Western Ghats of India to discover its origin.


Are you a fan of cardamom?  Have you ever been to Guatemala?

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