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