Surviving SURF Summer Part 1: Cooking Japanese Curry

Surviving SURF Summer Part 1: Cooking Japanese Curry

SURF provides you a great research opportunity with renowned professors, but it also challenges you both academically and non-academically. One of the biggest challenges you face is food: now that I only have a $500 declining balance plan instead of Anytime plan, the first alternative option I turned to was cooking. I currently live in Bechtel Residence, an unaffiliated undergraduate housing on campus. I live in a 4-person suite which comes with individual rooms and a small lounge area equipped with a microwave and a fridge, so I can keep my ingredients without worrying about forgetting or getting anything stolen. My suite is conveniently located right across the hallway from one of the three kitchens in Bechtel. Each kitchen in Bechtel comes with several pots, pans, utensils and gadgets for communal uses, as well as basic seasonings and oils, a communal fridge, a stove oven, microwaves, and a dishwasher. This summer, especially, Bechtel kitchens have been bustling with Caltech and non-Caltech students cooking and sharing meals with friends. So, I decided to give this plan a go.

Being more than 6156 miles away from home, I get homesick sometimes and start craving my mom’s home-cooked meals. Luckily, there’s H-Mart (an Asian grocery store) in Arcadia, where I can buy most of the Korean ingredients that I need for my mom’s recipes. I planned out my meals for the first two weeks of SURF and started cooking for myself.

Here’s the first meal that I have cooked: a Japanese style curry. It takes around 1-1.5 hours to cook this curry, but bear in mind, I barely cook for myself, so my cooking skills are at a beginner level. I also cooked 6 servings at once, so it took longer to thoroughly cook all the ingredients, especially potatoes. Cooking in bulk helps me save time, especially during SURF, when I almost have no time or energy to cook everyday. I kept my curry in my fridge, since I will be finishing it up pretty soon, but if you plan to eat it much later, you can also freeze it for longer storage.


(Says 6 servings on the box, but 4 servings in my portions)

  • 1 potato (approximately the size of your fist)
  • 1 onion (approximately the size of your first)
  • 1/2 box of House Foods Vermont Curry (around 6 servings. 1 box is 12 servings)
    • I personally prefer Mild flavour, but it also has Hot and Medium Hot flavours.
    • They have this curry available at H-Mart Arcadia.
  • 0.5 lb beef
    • I use brisket chopped in small cube shapes.
    • In H-Mart, they sell packs of beef for curry.
  • Optional:
    • You can add more vegetables like carrots, but personally, I’m not a huge fan of vegetables, so I decided to keep it simple.
How to cook it
  1. Cube the potato. The size of the cubes doesn’t matter, but the bigger the cube, the longer it takes to cook the curry.
  2. Chop the onion.
  3. Heat up the pan. Once the pan is warm, put some oil and sauté the potato at medium heat.
  4. Once the potato is somewhat cooked (as my mom says, looks less fresh), put the beef in.
  5. Keep mixing the ingredients well until the surface of the beef is cooked (but still has some red colours here and there). Then put in the onion.
  6. Once the onion starts turning somewhat transparent, pour 2 cups of water into the pot. Keep it at medium heat.

(Above) This is how it looks at step 6.

  1. Once it starts to boil, put the curry cubes in. Stir to make sure all the cubes melt. Keep cooking it at low-medium heat.
  2. Curry has to be boiled until potato cubes are fully cooked. Add more water to the pot if the curry gets too thick or tastes too strong.
  3. Once potato cubes are all cooked, turn off the heat. You can enjoy this with rice (classic!) or udon noodles.

(Above) This is how the curry should look! YUM!