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White Foods Find New Place at the Table (November 10, 2006)

The hugely popular white curry (House Foods Corp.)

White-colored foods are enjoying a surge of popularity this autumn. White versions of curry, tea, fish burgers, mushrooms, and many other foods and dishes feature prominently in this trend. Part of the hue's appeal is its ability to bring out the best in ingredients and to accentuate the dishes it is paired with, without taking center stage itself. This once humble tone in the world of food is enjoying new status as the color of choice in the kitchen.

Hokkaido White Curry
Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, is home to "soup curry," which debuted in restaurants there a few years ago and remains popular today. Now Hokkaido has ignited another curry boom, this time in "white curry." White curry contains a large amount of milk but no turmeric - the spice that gives curries their characteristic yellow color. Other spices are used in its place. The result is a dish that looks like cream stew (another Hokkaido specialty) yet tastes like curry, with a pleasantly spicy and hot flavor. White curry is often served with saffron rice, which accentuates its whiteness.

White curry was the brainchild of Kobayashi Kazunori, who supervises the team of chefs at the Sapporo Prince Hotel in Hokkaido's largest city. Kobayashi says that the dish was inspired by images of the snow that blankets the island in winter. The curry caught on like wildfire after it was put on sale at the Sapporo Dome baseball stadium as a way to root for the home team, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. ("Victory" can be written in Japanese using the characters for "white" and "star.") A dish of curry costs ¥650 ($5.40 at ¥120 to the dollar). The company in charge of marketing it says it sells 100 times more white than regular curry and wants to make it a Dome specialty.

Seeking to capitalize on white curry's popularity, House Foods Corp. came out with roux and boil-in-the-bag versions of Hokkaido White Curry, which it began selling in Hokkaido and western Japan in February 2006. Sales were so strong that the company decided to market the product nationwide. At a retail price of ¥250 ($2.08), a packet of white curry roux costs more than most regular curries. House is confident, though, that the dish will become a standard in the Japanese repertoire of stewed dishes, which are a staple in many households, especially during the winter months.

White tea from Otsuka Beverage (Otsuka Beverage)

White Green Tea
White tea has also proved popular. Otsuka Beverage Co. has marketed a bottled drink called Paicha, which is made exclusively from lightly fermented tea leaves that look white because they are picked shortly before the buds have fully opened and are still covered with a silver fuzz. Tea made with these leaves has a mild flavor comparable to that of green tea and, according to company officials, was drunk by successive generations of Chinese emperors.

Meanwhile, the Japanese hamburger chain Mos Burger has come out with a "white burger," or a deep fried fish fillet served with a marinated salad in a white bun. The new item will be offered for a limited period of time. And white bunashimeji and maitake mushrooms remain as popular as ever as low calorie, healthy fare.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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