It’s release day for Rise of Tomb Raider! You know what that means? Game binging until your eyes bleed or you break the controller by throwing it across the room? Probably. But here on The Gluttonous Geek it means cooking up some inspired recipes with a cosplayer in my kitchen.
So if you hadn’t already gathered from previous posts and links off my page, my roommate is none other than Briana Lamb, aka “The Lady Nerd”. You might recognize her from a certain photoshoot a while ago featuring her drop dead awesome Lara Croft cosplay. You can probably also thank her for the existence of this blog. The whole reason why I started cooking geek and genre-inspired food was to help her out for a feature for her blog, and to teach her how to cook. The feature didn’t really get off the ground, but hey, now you have not just one, but TWO blogs for geek home and lifestyle! I can proudly say she hasn’t burned down our house….yet.
So for those who have not been following the Tomb Raider series reboot, the 2013 game re-establishes Lara Croft’s origins as an archaeology graduate way in over her head when her expedition in search of the legendary kingdom of Yamatai turns into a fight for survival against crazed, Sun-Queen cultists. Without giving too much away about the game, I decided to cook up something based on the culture of the setting, what you can find in the game, and also Briana’s photoshoot.
Yamatai in the game is located somewhere in the Dragon’s Triangle, likely around the Izu islands near the Chubu region of the Honshu Island in Japan. Archaeologists and historians recently believe it may have been in the Nara Prefecture of Kansai. Considering that a few varieties of katsudon are rather popular to both regions, I figured this was a good dish to start with. For those who might not have heard of it (and who could blame you), katsudon, is a bowl of rice topped with a deep-fried meat cutlet.
The game goes to great length developing the culture of their fictional island through artwork and murals, but also through the availability of their domestic life and wildlife, and the resources Lara is able to hunt and gather for survival. You can gather fruit, and it seems as if the only one available looks a heck of a lot like a persimmon.
Persimmons are indigenous to Japan, but I wonder how much thought Crystal Dynamics put into choosing them for the game since they have the image of the sun on their interior when cross-cut. Since Himeko, the legendary Sun-Queen, is the antagonist of the game, it hardly seems like a coincidence.
Lucky enough persimmons are just now in season! I managed to find a large package of fuyu persimmons at Costco recently and just in time for this post. Probably the biggest pain in the butt was peeling and de-seeding the persimmons as those things are a bit slippery when ripened.
For this I suggest a very sharp knife for the peel, pliers for the seeds, and A LOT of caution. The flavors come alive, though, with the addition of garlic, ginger, and garam masala.
Since there are chickens in the game’s abandoned village, it seemed right to make a chicken version of katsudon, also known as torikatsu. Now I know Lara probably would not have actually found coconuts on the island, giving the region. It was this photo from Briana’s shoot that made me want to work with them anyway. Besides, with the number of shipwrecks on the island, it stands to reason that at least one lovely bunch of coconuts floated ashore.
So with that in mind, I figured that this dish – Torikatsu with Persimmon Coconut Curry might be something Lara wished could have been eating when chewing on burnt chicken carcasses and unripe island fruits on Yamatai. Either that or I figure the goober found a freshly cooked offering to Himeko on a shrine and gobbled the thing down as if to raise a big middle finger of protest to the undead queen for ruining her expedition.
Now Briana is a very dedicated cosplayer. Considering we met each other when she was on cast and I was guest performing at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival years ago, to say she can commit to a character is an understatement. As you can see, re-acclimating Lara Croft to a standard kitchen with utensils was a bit difficult –whether it was teaching her the easiest way to extract coconut milk,
…pounding a chicken cutlet thin before battering and frying,
…or just following basic sanitary procedures in the kitchen.
The great thing is that this recipe is crazy delicious and rather easy to make. If we weren’t also developing the recipe and taking pictures at the same time, it probably would have taken about 30 minutes from prep to finish, tops.
The flavors are a blend of sweet, savory, with the slightest bit of spice to temper the sweetness. The panko breadcrumbs are light and crispy, certainly classing up this Japanese version of fried chicken, without the food coma afterward. This dish is just as satisfying, perfect comfort food for soothing the stomach and soul after a long journey of shipwrecks, sacrifices, and sun-queen cultists.
Sun-Queen Torikatsu-don with Persimmon Coconut Curry
Equipment: Two frying pans, pot and lid for the rice, cutting board, sharp knife, food processor, mallet, gallon-sized Ziploc bag, three bowls large enough to fit a chicken breast, tongs, paper towels.
- 2 fuyu persimmons
- ½ 14 oz can coconut milk
- 2 Tb minced garlic
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 4 chicken breasts
- All-purpose flour
- Panko bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- Cooking oil
- Place one persimmon leaf side down on your cutting board. Slice down the middle with a sharp knife almost to the leaf. Pull the fruit open. It should peel the leaf portion off. Cut the fruit into even sections until they are a size you feel like you can peel them easily enough with the knife. Remove and discard the seeds and peel.
- Do the same with the second persimmon unless you want to garnish the bowls with persimmon slices. If you want to do the latter, start slicing into the middle of the fruit as if you are slicing a tomato for a sandwich, you won’t be able to go all the way through because of the seeds. Instead, carefully move the knife around the fruit as if you’re slicing open an avocado. Gently pull the fruit open and remove the seeds with pliers. Slice a round for each bowl, reserve on another plate, peel and section the rest of the fruit. It is ok to discard anything too difficult to handle.
- Puree the fruit in a food processor or blender. Heat a skillet up on a medium-low heat. Open the can of coconut milk and put the top spoonfuls (the thickened part) into the pan with the garlic. This is probably a good time to start making the rice. Stir the mixture until fragrant.
- Stir in the puree and ginger with the garlic mix. Add the coconut milk until half the can is left. Stir in with soy sauce and reduce the heat to low. Start heating a skillet with about a quarter or half an inch of cooking oil in it on medium-medium high heat on another burner.
- Put the chicken breasts in a gallon-sized ziplock bag, make sure there isn’t an excess of air in the bag before sealing. Pound the thick sections of the chicken with the flat side of a kitchen mallet until they are an even to the rest of the meat.
- Set up three bowls. One with flour, one with panko, and one with the beaten egg. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Test the oil by tossing a few panko crumbs into it. If the crumbs sizzle immediately, the oil is hot enough to fry in. Stir the sauce every once and awhile to keep it from overcooking and sticking.
- One at a time, dredge and coat each chicken breast with flour, dip and coat in the egg, then coat all sides with the panko. Gently place each cutlet into the hot oil with a pair of tongs and let cook on each side 3-4 minutes or until crispy and reddish-brown.
- Remove the chicken from the oil and place on a plate with paper towels to soak up the excess the oil.
- Stir the garam masala into the sauce with another splash of coconut milk if it needs thinning. Add a few dashes of soy sauce to taste. Turn off the burner. Your rice is likely to be done at this point too.
- Portion rice between bowls. Slice chicken in diagonal strips and place on top of rice, distribute the sauce on top to your preference and garnish with the persimmon slices. Serve.