Curry… It’s more “Japanese” than you think. Yes, curry is so popular in Japan, that it’s regarded as one of the top two national dishes, along with ramen. Oh my, even ahead of their sushi and miso soup.
Japanese curry is nothing like other curries you have seen or imagined. It’s more like a cross between stew and curry. It’s a thick, rich, velvety and glossy concoction that’s sweet, savory and umami in nature.
It’s my pleasure to get you acquainted with this unique yet delicious curry from the land of the rising sun.
I myself come face to face with this thick brown beef stew like thing in Cairns, Australia, on the boats that used to take my tour groups on day outings to the Great Barrier Reef. That was a decade back.
Most of the clientele on the boats used to be Asians, along with some Indians. Maybe that’s why they put this on their lunch menu. Though few Indians would dare to go close to it, as the majority of Hindus don’t eat beef. Yes, I come into the minority.
I never had a clue what it was or what it was called, but it tasted awesome over a plateful of rice. I used to scarf it down along with the freshest shrimp you could ever find.
Anyways… fast forward a decade and slowly that very familiar taste goes somewhere back into your memory and it stays there till your husband gave you a packet of curry roux.
All it says is “golden curry” on the packet. Well, you just follow the instructions of the packet, cook the curry, taste it, and… OH MY GOD! My Great Barrier Reef curry. 🙂
I did some looking on the internet about this golden curry. It turns out it’s Japanese curry. I never knew I was eating Japanese curry every single time I used to hop on that boat, at least 40-50 times throughout my time escorting tour groups in Australia.
Who would have thought that one day I would write a blog about it and encourage you to make it in your very own kitchen?
What is Japanese Curry? Well, first let me tell you how curry landed in Japan in the first place…
Curry is not the image that your mind conjures up when you think of Japanese cuisine, right? That delicacy of subtle or meticulous arrangements of Sushi. Sashimi. Maybe golden fried tempura. Perfectly seasoned vegetables cooked to perfection. Delicate soups… one of the most refined cuisines in the world. That’s what most of us think when Japanese food comes to mind.
So how come one of the most popular dishes in Japan is this brown colored stew of beef or some other protein mixed with carrots, potatoes and curry powder?
Japanese curry, or Kare raisu as it’s known in Japan, is a favorite to all ages. From households to school cafeterias to the stalls in pretty much every train station to the restaurants, everybody scarfs it down lovingly. It’s believed the average person in Japan eats curry more frequently than sushi or tempura, many as often as once a week.
Curry was introduced to Japan in the form of curry powder in the late 1800 by the Britishers who colonized India at the time. Of course, over the years it was adapted to Japanese taste. It’s mild, less spiced, a bit on the sweeter side with distinct hints of curry.
The simple feast of cooked rice covered in meat and vegetables boiled in a curry sauce become one of their beloved comfort foods in no time. You can make your own curry roux from scratch, but most locals use and prefer store bought instant curry roux. It comes in blocks that dissolve and cooks very fast.
What Japanese pre-made curry roux are available in the market:
Nowadays you can easily get curry roux mixes in the Asian aisle of your grocery store. If not, try an Asian grocery store.
The famous and popular brands are as follows:
- S&B brand Golden Curry: Their roux is the most traditional, with a basic curry savory flavor. It’s less sweet than other brands. It comes in different levels from mild to medium to hot. But believe me when I say, even the hot also doesn’t turn into HOT curry. Many add extra additives like soy sauce, some kind of sweetener like grated apple or some sweet fruit preserve, and tomato ketchup to enhance the basic curry flavor.
- House Foods brand Vermont Curry: This one is a little sweeter and the most kid friendly. It one contains honey, apples and cheese… maybe that’s why the name Vermont?
- House Food brand Java Curry: This one has some Heat. It’s less sweet than Vermont but has a good balance of savory and sweet.
What normally goes in Japanese curry?
Beef is sought after and popular in Japanese curry along with onions, carrots and potatoes. That’s classic comfort food for most of them. However, pretty much any protein is great in a curry. Try it with chicken or pork. I can see peas, mushrooms or zucchini going great with this curry.
Today I am making it as I remember from my Great Barrier Reef days…
This is what we are using today
- Beef – Any stew meat is great, you want it melt in your mouth tender. Chuck roast is ideal.
- Veggies – Onions, carrots and potatoes.
- Curry roux – I’m using S&B Golden Curry Hot mix.
- Aromatics – Garlic & ginger.
- Sauces – Soy sauce, ketchup , worcestershire sauce, apricot jam or preserve (you can use apple sauce instead).
How to make Japanese beef curry
It’s a pretty simple affair when you have ready made curry roux. As I mentioned, most Japanese prefer to use it, as it’s one of few things that tastes just as good as that made from scratch.
Start by browning the beef chunks, seasoned with salt and pepper. Plate them out.
In the same pot, fry diced onion till they are a nice golden brown. Add in chopped garlic and ginger and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Stir in potato and carrot chunks. Give it all a good mix.
Add seared beef chunks back in the pot.
Add 3-4 cups of water and cook on medium low heat for 45-50 minutes till the meat is tender. While it’s simmering, you can check out my collections of the best Curry Recipes and best Asian Recipes for more great meal ideas.
Time to add in the curry roux blocks. They will dissolve pretty fast.
Add in the rest of the flavor enhancers like ketchup, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and apricot or apple jam. Cook for 10-15 minutes. And it’s ready… 🙂
How to serve this curry
- Kare raisu: Meaning curry + rice… a nice scoop of curry over a plateful or bowlful of rice.
- Katsu curry: Another very popular way to eat curry with the Japanese. This is curry served with rice and crispy breaded cutlets of pork or chicken.
- Dorai curry: Curry flavored fried rice or curry rice with a drier, mincemeat curry sauce.
- Curry udon: Curry served with udon noodles along with eggs and other toppings.
Leftovers and storage
Like any curry or stew, it refrigerates and freezes beautifully. Store it in an airtight container up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
You can also freeze it up to a month and microwave or thaw it in the refrigerator and heat it up on stove top.
Curry doesn’t need to always be one dimensional. It’s real fun exploring the different tastes and flavors of this special culinary marvel, from all different parts of the world. This Japanese curry is an excellent start if you want to shy away from heat and spice.
This rich, milder sweeter curry will win your heart in no time. It’s easy and it ends up delicious. Next time you are in the Asian aisle of your grocery store, do remember to grab any of the Japanese ready made curry roux mixes and whip up this Asian version of my beloved curry.
There are tons of curries coming your way very soon. Subscribe to GypsyPlate and they will reach your mailbox. Until then, get currying!
Japanese Beef Curry, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
If you love curry, try these other great recipes!
- 2 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1.5 onion, chopped
- 2 potatoes, cut into large chunks
- 2-3 carrots, cut into large chunks
- 1 4oz box curry roux
- 3 garlic, chopped
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
- 1 Tbsp ketchup
- 1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp apricot jam or preserve
- 2-3 Tbsp oil
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Season beef chunks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add beef chunks and sear till they get a brown color all over. Plate them out. Do not overcrowd, cook in batches if necessary.
- In the same pot, sauté chopped onions till golden brown. Add in garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add in potatoes and carrots, along with beef chunks and mix well. Stir in 3.5 to 4 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook till meat is tender.
- Add in curry roux and stir till it dissolves. Add in ketchup, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and apricot jam. Cook for 10-15 additional minutes.
- You can use the same recipe for chicken or pork.
- Try using different brands of curry roux. They are all a little different in flavors and taste.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 630Total Fat 38gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 25gCholesterol 131mgSodium 443mgCarbohydrates 30gFiber 4gSugar 6gProtein 43g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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