One of the great things about cooking without recipes is it leaves you free to add different ingredients and experiment, this keeps an old favourite new and interesting even after you’ve had it for the umpteenth time. Some might call this inconsistency, but for me there’s no such thing as a “best recipe”, because my tastes shift with the seasons and my mood.
Curry rice is Japan’s quintessential comfort food, much like mac & cheese is here in the States. While it’s not native to Japanese cuisine, it’s been ruminating in the bowels of Japan’s gastronomic landscape for the better part of the past century and it’s become one of the most popular foods there. It’s become so ubiquitous, people don’t find anything usual about a softdrink company releasing a curry flavoured soda.
Growing up, I had curry rice a couple times a month and I still make it more frequently that just about any other dish in my repertoire. I first posted about it almost 2 years ago. But that was one static snapshot of a dish that’s always changing in my kitchen. In this version I took the roux much darker which gives it a rich earthy flavour, I also made it a little sweeter, and added a black cardamom pod for it’s wonderful smokey aroma.
Check out the video for the full recipe below. If you’re ready for your own recipe-less adventure, my notes below should get you started in the right direction.
Japanese Curry Recipe Notes
I used 3 onions that have been caramelized, but you can also add garlic, ginger, and celery if you like.
You can use just about any kind of meat or seafood. 2-3 lbs is just about the right amount. If you use seafood, it’s best to brown the seafood first and then set it aside until the veggies are done and you’re ready to serve the curry. If don’t do meat or seafood, you could use firm tofu as well.
The curry takes some sweetness from the caramelized onions and carrots, but we also layer on additional sweetness with a whole grated apple, some tonkatsu sauce, and ketchup. I’ve seen some people put raisins in their curry, but this is a little over the top for me.
The dark roux serves to thicken and flavour the curry with some toasted garam masala, and the flavours of the browned butter and flour. Adding some extra garam masala to the meat and veggies when you add the water infuses extra flavour while everything cooks. I’ve chosen to add some black cardamom to this as well, but this is not traditionally added to Japanese curry. If you like it hot, add some cayenne pepper.
Carrots, potatoes and peas round our the curry, adding both color and substance. These are the traditional ingredients, but you can really add any kind of veggie that will hold up to the long cooking, such as mushrooms, parsnips, celery root, turnips, and corn.