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Japanese curry is a family favourite dish in Japan enjoyed by everyone from adults to kids. Compared to Indian curry, it’s more suited to the Japanese’s taste buds being minimally spicy, sweeter, and thicker. It is also really easy to prepare with simple ingredients and the essential Japanese curry roux.
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Curry was introduced to Japan during the Meiji Era by the British. British Navy Anglo-Indian officers carried over curry powder on their ships. Served in Japan, the dish gradually developed to better suit the locals' liking - less spicy, thicker, sweeter, and eaten with rice.
You can easily get your hands on some Japanese curry roux at any supermarket in Japan. There are many brands you can try. They are all good, and a little different, with their own share of loyal shoppers. For example,
Vermont Curry by House Foods which uses apples and honey in their curry is a good choice for people who like sweet curry.
Java Curry by the same manufacturer House Foods has tropical fruity accents. Where Vermont is sweet, Java is targeted at those liking spicy curry.
Kokumaro Curry by House Foods was created after listening to their customer’s comments. It combines two different types of curry roux to make the ultimate curry. It is frequently pitted against S&B’s Torokeru for which is the best curry.
Torokeru by S&B is a well-balanced curry with both sweetness and mild spiciness. The sweetness comes from vegetable bullion made using round cabbages and Chinese cabbages.
Golden Curry by S&B is very easy to find; you can get it outside Japan too. Often said to have the most traditional taste, it has a strong curry powder taste which some people dislike.
A basic Japanese curry is incredibly easy to make. You can also personalise it however you want - switch meat for seafood, or add potatoes to make it starchier, or add chilli powder to kick the spice up a notch, or add milk/coconut milk to turn it creamy; anything goes.
Here’s a super simple basic Japanese curry to help you get started.
Prepare your base ingredients of carrots, onions, and potatoes.
Slice the onions and carrots into wedges, and the potatoes into quarters. The meat you can get them pre-cut at the supermarket. Beef, pork, or chicken is fine.
Add some oil to a suitably sized pot and saute the onions until they yellow a little and soften.
Add the meat and cook until the surface isn’t red. Don’t worry if it’s not fully cooked since you’ll be boiling later.
Add the cut vegetables, then add water until it almost covers everything.
Boil until the vegetables are soft - you can pierce through with a fork/chopstick.
Add the curry roux, making sure it fully dissolves. Doing it the miso way - roux in a ladle, using a chopstick to stir and dissolve - will help ensure you don’t miss out on any bits.
And you’re done! Serve over rice or over udon for curry udon!
Japan has many, many curry restaurants called kare-ya カレー屋 meaning curry house. Aside from chain curry restaurants, there are also mom-and-pop shops to discover with amazing homemade curry - these shops are usually known only to locals so you’ll have to sniff them out. Japanese curry restaurants are not the same as Nepalese or Indian restaurants serving authentic curries from their countries of origin so you usually can’t find them in the same shop.
Some Japanese curry chain restaurants are Coco Ichibanya, 100 Hours Curry, Go Go Curry, and Hi no Ya Curry. There are also some areas in Japan that are famous for Japanese curry which you can visit, such as Kanda Jinbocho in Tokyo which just so happens our WeXpats Team has visited.
What is Soup Curry?
A hybrid of soup and curry, soup curry is a spicy watery curry soup with plenty of vegetables and meat. It is more soup than curry, so another way of describing it can be curry-flavoured soup.
Where to eat Soup Curry?
Soup Curry is Sapporo’s soul food. The best place to try it is definitely Picante. The nearest train station, Kitajunijo on the Namboku Line, is a 4-minutes walk away and less than 10 minutes from Sapporo Station. They also sell Chicken Soup Curry boxes which you can get as a souvenir.
Another area famous for Soup Curry is Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. Amongst the many soup curry restaurants there, the most famous is Magic Spice which our WeXpats Team have visited, twice!
India - India has a huge variety of curry dishes like Korma and Tikka Masala. Blends of raw spices are essential to get the rich aroma and complex flavours Indian curries have. The spiciness is also important in bringing out the flavours more, a non-spicy Indian curry is an incomplete one. Indian curry is usually eaten with flatbreads like naan and paratha, or long-grained rice like Basmati.
Thailand - Thailand also has numerous curry dishes, the most famous being green curry. They also have yellow curry and red curry (best with beef). Just from the appearance itself, Thailand curries are very different from Japanese curry which is usually a medium brown to dark brown colour. Thai curry is usually eaten with white rice. Just like India, the spiciness is crucial.
Malaysia / Indonesia - Though there are differences between curries in these two countries, let’s put those differences aside for now since there are many similarities between them as well. Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine, including curry, love using coconut milk which adds sweetness and creaminess. Malaysian chicken curry usually includes whole chicken parts like the drumstick, thigh, and breast rather than chopped into bite sizes like in Japanese curry.
You can usually find good shops for all 3 kinds of curry in Tokyo!
Of course it is possible to eat curries from other countries in Japan. There’s Indian curry, Thai curry, Nepalese curry, so why not give Japanese curry a try to make a comparison?
As thanks for reading this article, here’s a curry recipe you can try - Sliced Pork and Daikon Japanese Curry. If you use lean pork meat, it makes for quite a healthy curry.
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