For people who care about their food

Willow Falls™ Spicy Durban Curry cooking sauce

I’m not a fan of cooking sauces, for several reasons. One reason is that they’re hideously overpriced for what they are. Another is that they’re usually chock full of additives – not just stabilisers, preservatives and colourings, stuff like salt and sugar as well. But the biggest reason is that I reckon I can generally make something better myself using my own ingredients.

All the same, from time to time I see something on the supermarket shelves which catches my eye – something I’ve never tried before and which I think I might enjoy. So when I was shopping in Kuala Lumpur the other day and saw Willow Falls™ “Something South African” Spicy Durban Curry cooking sauce, I thought, hmm, why not? and slung a packet into the trolley. When we got home a few days later, I included half-a-dozen chicken thighs in the big weekly shop specifically for the purpose of making this curry. I generally find that chicken thighs are much tastier than chicken breasts and are especially good in a curry.

I had a go at making the curry yesterday. Looking at the package, it all seemed very easy; they give you instructions for making it on the hob, in the oven or even in the microwave if you’re that way inclined. I chose to follow the hob instructions.

Step 1 told me to brown the meat. Good start, I thought. Just bunging in the meat and hoping for the best is a widespread mistake – all the flavour is lost from the meat. If you’re going to do that, you might as well just use textured protein. They advise you to do it in a tablespoon of oil on a high heat setting for 1-2 minutes. I had been cooking streaky bacon (for a Caesar salad) the day before so there was lots of lovely bacon fat in the frying pan – perfect for the job of browning and adding flavour to the chicken thighs.

Then came Step 2. “Stir in cooking sauce and bring to the boil.” I snipped open the packet and poured in the contents. Urggh! A gloopy brown liquid came flowing out. Not very appetising-looking. Oh well, maybe it would look better once it warmed up.

“Cover and simmer on low heat.” I was using my wok, and don’t have a suitable-sized lid for it. “For thicker sauce, remove lid for last 10 minutes.” OK, we’ll have an extra thick sauce…

I tasted it. To my disappointment, it was a pretty run-of-the-mill curry sauce, with little to distinguish it except a mildly unpleasant bitterness and saltiness that made it rather unbalanced to my palate. I didn’t fancy it but Mr ND was game to try some for his lunch. He wasn’t too impressed either – after he’d eaten about a quarter of it, he commented, “It’s a bit salty.”

Verdict

I wouldn’t bother getting it again. This isn’t just prejudice against ready-made sauces – there are some that I’ve used, enjoyed and bought again. But this just didn’t do anything for me at all; I’d rather make my own.

8 Responses to “Willow Falls™ Spicy Durban Curry cooking sauce”

  1. Mr Not Delia

    I had some more earlier today from out of the freezer. It hadn’t improved – still gloopy and salty.

    The chicken was absolutely fine, and Not Delia had cooked the rice perfectly in accordance with the Ken Hom method. It was just the sauce that – well, not spoiled the meal, but let it down.

    Oh well, only one more to go before we can expunge it from our freezer list.

  2. Lennart

    Hello.
    Bye coincidence I ran into your site and after I read about Willow Falls cooking sauce I said to myself “Is that so ?”. Of course it´s NOT. I use them VERY often and LOVE them. Delicious, easy to handle, making miracles to the meat and so on. Either you have used a too thin pan or to much heat or both. Also you say you used old fat, NO good ! I have never met better cooking sauce. For an extra good dinner try the Karoo Farmstyle with thick spare ribs cut into peaces, fry the spare rib peaces, drain the spar ribs peaches on paper, do NOT use the fat left in the pan. Clean it or use another clean one. Just put in the peaces, fill over the cooking sauce and boil covered on LOW heat for 40-50 minuits. Maye some people like more salt. DELICIOUS. Best regards from Sweden.

  3. Mr Not Delia

    Hi Lennart

    All a matter of taste, I’m sure. What I can say is that:

    a) It certainly wasn’t the thinness of the wok, which is a heavy-duty piece of kit from Meyer’s Professional Choice range, made of thick-gauge aluminium;

    b) It certainly wasn’t too much heat – the sauce was simmering slowly, not boiling;

    c) I don’t believe it was the fat either. Frying chicken in a frying-pan used previously for bacon is a pretty widely used means of making it tasty. As Not Delia says, the curry itself was cooked in a wok, so I don’t think the amount of fat lifted out of the frying-pan and into the wok with the chicken is likely to have affected the taste of the curry sauce to any significant extent.

    Maye some people like more salt

    Perhaps they do. I’m not averse to salty things myself. But the amount of saltiness unbalanced the sauce for me – which is a shame, because it smelt like a moderately good curry sauce otherwise. The makers would have done better to reduce the amount of salt in the mix and leave it up to the individual – you can always add more salt if you like it that way, but you can’t take it out once it’s in.

    Glad you enjoy Willow Falls sauces, anyway. But if the Karoo Farmstyle is as salty as the Durban curry, I think we’ll be giving that one a miss too.

  4. Not Delia

    Hello Lennart

    Thanks for your comment. I thought that the curry was revolting – unbalanced and too salty. However, after I published the posting above I had a queue of people wanting to know where they could buy it. Nowt as queer as folk, and obviously some people seem to like this type of curry.

    I agree that it’s very easy to make, though, so if you’re not fussy and don’t have a sophisticated palate then I guess it would taste fine.

    I certainly won’t be buying it again, and thanks for the heads up on the Karoo Farmstyle brand.

  5. Elizabeth

    I wouldn’t say that it was revolting as some said, but this sauce just doesn’t have a much flavour. It is very disappointing, especially as years ago I bought it and it was very nice. I think the company that makes this must be skimping on their ingredients. So I won’t be buying this product again and don’t recommend it to anyone.

  6. Nico

    We haven’t had these sauces for years as the supply seems to have dried up from around 2004. The Durban Curry was not my favourite one for very much the reasons you give (though I personally wouldn’t use bacon fat), however we used to really enjoy the Karoo Farmhouse Apricot and Tulbagh Tomato Bredi – both worth a go, if you know where to find them! Any ideas?

  7. Brian

    Hi Not Delia. I have to say that I completely disagree with you. I think the Spicy Durban Curry is delicious, it tastes superb with beef. Indeed I’ve some on the go as I write. Ok, it doesn’t look great but I love the stuff. Cheers, Brian

  8. Fudgelady

    Tried this today after liking the look of it and the ingredients. I doctored it up with sweet potatoes and onions, and some extra Madras (good) curry powder. I liked it! Must agree it is a bit salty but the extra veg and chicken stock stretched it out so I only used about 1/3 the packet. don’t know when I use the rest, will try freezing it for future. From Canada, where we love curries!

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