Milestone Curry #4: Red Wine and More Cocoa Powder

So my latest experiments led me to the conclusion that a richer Japanese Curry was possible if I used more cocoa powder and some red wine.  The Cocoa powder had already worked wonders and red wine was a known ingredient in some curries (along with fruit juices).  So here’s the latest – and as you may have guessed, it’s a milestone.

  • 4 tablespoons low-fat vegetable spread (I’m just going for this now since the goal is low sodium, low fat)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder. (S&B CURRY)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste.
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp garlic
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth OR replacement broth below
  • 1/2 cup red wine (shiraz and zinfandel are good)
  • 2 1/4 tsp cocoa powder (about 3/4 a tablespoon)

Broth Substitute (I didn’t really change the spice mixture so you may want to tone it down a tad – I used storebought broth this time)

  • 2 1/2 cups water.
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • 1/4 tsp marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp thyme, ground
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dill weed, ground
  1. Melt the Spread over low heat in a pot of your choice.
  2. When the spread is melted, add the flour, curry powder, tomato sauce, soy sauce, maple syrup, cocoa powder, red pepper and black pepper. Mix thoroughly; I mash, fold, and mix until the color is consistent.
  3. Turn the heat to medium-low.
  4. Now, you want to brown the roux, and there’s a bit of an art to it. What I do is let it cook like a pancake, about 20-45 second until one side browns, then mix it up, fold it into a “pancake” and let it cool again. You may have to play with the heat, but the goal is to basically brown it/fry it slowly. This is needed to develop the flavors.
  5. Eventually it will get crumbly and crack – and you’ll see it visibly brown when it’s let to sit.
  6. Add the vegetable broth and wine to the roux. Turn the heat up so the mixture boils mildly. Do this incrementally so you don’t overdo it or underdog it.
  7. While waiting for it to boil, and when it boils, with a whisk, mix the broth and roux. It also helps to use a spatula to crush chunks of roux against the side of the pan. This can take a bit of effort. In general while mixing, I moderate the heat to get the mild boil.
  8. Stir regularly so it doesn’t adhere/burn.
  9. I wait until the sauce thickets – it reduces by about a fifth. The key I use is when it’s not “boiling” but has the bubbly “bloops” of a thicker sauce. This can take awhile – I find it needs a minimum of 15 minutes, though between heat, time, size of pan, etc. it can vary.  Taking time is good as it also boils away the alchohol.
  10. Serve or put in freezer containers.

The result?

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Curry Diary 8/14/2013: More Cocoa Powder

Well been on a roll with the Japanese Curry testing – because I’m going to make it for friends this weekend, and two have lived in Japan, so it’s a big test.  Also, hey, curry.

So my latest experiment is just modifying proportions, and using that Big Mess of curry to try adding 50% more cocoa powder.

Now cocoa powder is a fascinating spice.  It’s bitter, earthy, and rich – and it interacts with ingreedients in fascinating ways.  If you’ve tried different kinds of chocolate, used it in chili, etc. you know what I’m talking about.  My energy bars mix vanilla, cocoa powder, maple syrup, and peanut butter together to make oatmeal into bars – and the taste is really hard to describe.

Cocoa powder’s bitterness can work against you like any spice if you’re not careful, so you also don’t want to overdo it.  The first time I tried cocoa powder in my Japanese Curry I put in too much and the bitterness became an unpleasant edge, despite the richness of the overall taste.  I cut it in half and was pretty satisfied with the result – my last Milestone Curry with the cocoa and maple syrup roasted together in the roux is quite a good testimony to what it can do.

But I began wondering if in my quest for richness and depth (OK, kind of an obsession) if maybe I’d cut it too much.  So I upped the cocoa powder to 50% more as noted.

The result?  It definitely added what I was looking for; richer, deeper, more complex without a noticeable increase in bitterness.  Like several of my tweaks I think it enhanced the sense of spiciness, but as noted cocoa powder is a wonderfully complex spice.  It’s also a good reminder how the “parts” of a spice’s taste can vary with combinations and preparation – I thought it would add more bitterness.

So another lesson is I probably cut too much in the first place.  Each spice works differently and has to be adjusted differently.

I also have to wonder what I could do with cocoa powder and Mexican or Indian food . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at


Curry Diary 7/22/2013: Milestone Curry #3

Well the last time I made curry, I experimented with mixing the Maple Syrup into the roux, not the broth.  It changed the flavor, and got me thinking.  The roux is where the flavors really combine, so what else should go in there?

So this time, I added the cocoa powder to the roux.  Did it make a difference?  Yes, enough to call it a Milestone  It’s a more subtle improvement than I got from adding the Maple Syrup to the roux, but it is a definite improvement.

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