Japanese curry is thicker and sweeter than Indian curry and is always served with a bed of rice.
In a country where you can get everything from hamburgers to underwear out of a vending machine, it’s no surprise that home cooks have many instant options that make “cooking” a meal as simple as slice and bake cookies. For some dishes like カレーライス (karei raisu), it’s become the accepted norm to combine a brick of flavouring with some meat and veggies, and preparing them from scratch is almost unheard of.
Like many foods in Japan (tempura is actually Portuguese), curry is a dish that was imported from another part of the world (presumably India). Typically the mix comes in segmented bars like chocolate that you break off and add to a pot of meat, veggies and water. Japanese curry is sweeter, milder and thicker than Indian curries and used to be one of my favourite dishes growing up.
I haven’t made Japanese curry since I started blogging since using packaged food is against the very ethos of this blog. Last night, I fixed that by figuring out how to make it from scratch. For those that love the packaged curry, the taste and texture are similar, but the flavours are brighter and more intense. It has an almost creamy quality about it that the packaged kind just doesn’t have.
For those that have never had Japanese curry, this dish is chock full of big tender chunks of meat and potatoes, all covered in a slightly sweet sauce that’s redolent of caramelized onions, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg.
The best part is that this requires only a little more effort than using the packaged variety and almost no extra time (since you make the roux while the veggies and meat are cooking).
For vegetarians, just double the amount of caramelized onions and replace some of the meat with firm tofu. In my hunger, I totally forgot to add the peas, so you’ll just have to imagine how great this dish looks with little bubbles of green popping out of the dark sauce.
Equipment you'll need:
Japanese Curry Rice
for the roux
3 Tbs butter
1/4 C flour
2 Tbs garam masala (or curry powder)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (add less if you want it mild or more if you want it spicy)
fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbs ketchup (or tomato paste)
1 Tbs tonkatsu sauce (or worcestershire sauce)
for the curry
2 tsp oil
2 large onions sliced thin
2 lbs chicken thighs cleaned and cut into chunks (you could also use beef, shrimp, or tofu)
2 carrots cut into chunks
4 C water
2 large yukon gold potatoes cut into large chunks
1 small apple peeled cored and pureed (I use a microplane)
2 tsp kosher salt (use less if you use regular salt)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 C peas
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium low heat and add the onions. Saute the onions until they are golden brown and caramelized (about 30 minutes). Turn up the heat to high, add the chicken and brown.
Add the carrots, and the water then bring to a boil. Skim off any foam or oil that accumulates at the surface then lower heat to medium and add the potatoes, pureed apple, salt and garam masala. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until you can pass a fork through the carrots and potatoes and the meat is tender.
For the roux, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and garam masala, stirring until you have a thick paste. Add the cayenne pepper and some fresh ground black pepper and incorporate into the roux. Add the ketchup and tonkatsu sauce and combine. Continue to cook until the paste starts crumbling. Remove from heat and set aside until the meat and veggies are ready.
To make the curry, just laddle about 2 cups of liquid into the roux then whisk until it’s smooth. Pour this mixture back into the other pot and gently stir until thickened. Add the peas and heat through.
Serve over rice or noodles.