Have you tried Japanese curry?
When I say curry, most people will associate it with the fiercely hot and spicy Indian curry. You can also visualize the flavor of Thai green curry, Malaysian curry chicken, and Indonesian rendang. However, Japanese curry is an exception. It is not hot and spicy and has a tinge of sweet flavor.
Japanese curry is a quick, easy fail-safe recipe, making it a great choice for busy people to prepare a simple delicious meal.
You probably guessed that curry is not an original cuisine from Japan. It was introduced to Japan during the Meiji era (1868–1912) by the British. During that era India was under the British colonial rule and curry had been widely accepted by the Britons. Curry had been installed in Japan through improvisation hence a new flavor completely different from any curries from the South-Asian countries was developed. Japanese curry has become a staple meal of the Japanese and is enjoyed by people of all ages.
Most of the curries in Asia are usually prepared by sautéing the aromatics such as onions, ginger, and chilies, and combining them with a mix of curry powder to form a gravy. Coconut milk is added to further enhance the flavor. For Japanese curry, the onions are sautéed until they are caramelized, which is the important step to add umami and sweetness to the curry.
In addition, the curry is thickened with roux, much like preparing brown sauce in the western cuisine. A small amount of fruit (commonly apple) is added to give the curry a sweet flavor. Japanese curry is indeed more like a hearty stew than a typical curry.
It is an easy Japanese curry recipe, but to prepare the roux can be time consuming. Fortunately, there is ready made Japanese curry roux available in most supermarkets and grocery shops. The mix contains the roux (oil and flour) and the curry spices so you just need to add vegetables and meat. I have just bought one box of Japanese curry roux, but I am interested In making it from scratch too. In fact, it is hardly complicated. In this post I will show you the Japanese curry prepared from scratch as well as one prepared by using the ready made Japanese curry roux.
- 800g of onions
- 60g of butter
- 70g of plain flour
- 3 tablespoons of garam masala or Japanese curry powder
- 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
- 1 kg of boneless chicken thigh
- 2 medium carrots, cut into 2cm wedges
- 1kg of water (or chicken stock if available)
- 4 cardamom pods
- 2 medium potatoes cut into 3 cm cubes
- 1 Fuji apple grated
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 180g of frozen green peas
- Melt the butter in a pan over low heat. Add the flour and combine it with the butter to form a paste.
- Cook until the color becomes medium brown, which will take about 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Combine the garam masala, Worcestershire sauce and tomato ketchup with the roux.
- Slice the onions thinly. Saute the onions over low heat with some oil until they are caramelized, which will take 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove the onions from the pan. Use the remaining oil in the pan to brown the boneless chicken meat.
- Add the carrot, onion, cardamom and one liter of water into the pan. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Skim off any impurities floating on the surface of the curry.
- Add the potatoes, salt, and apple. Simmer for another 40 minutes.
- Add the roux. Mix well.
- Add the frozen peas and wait until it boils. Serve.
How to make Japanese curry
- One of the most important aspects of making Japanese curry is to sauté the onions until they are caramelized, which can take up to 20 minutes. The onions should be cut into very thin slices so that they can caramelize easily. The caramelization will render the unique flavor to the curry that sets it apart from other curries. Most of the curries from Asian countries are prepared by sautéing the onion, chilies, and ginger together for a few minutes only. (Image below : left- caramelized onions, right-browning the chicken).
- The roux should be cooked for at least 15 minutes until it turns to medium brown, which will give the characteristic color of Japanese curry. The process is identical to making the roux for preparing the brown sauce.
- It is easy to buy the Japanese curry roux for preparing the curry. It saves you time but the taste is not as good as the roux that you make from scratch. There are various levels of spiciness you can choose from. The one I suggest is S&B brand as shown below.
- Making your own roux has the advantage of you controlling the level of spiciness and the proportion of various spices used. However, it can be quite tedious if you want to prepare your own blend of spices. I suggest you buy the garam masala or curry powder to prepare the roux as what I mention in this recipe (Image below: left- butter is mixed with the flout to form the roux, right-garam masala and sauces are added to the roux)
- Do not cut the carrots and potatoes into small pieces as they will break when simmering for a long time. I usually like to add the carrots first and the potatoes 15 minutes later. This is because carrots need longer time to cook than potatoes.
Final note: Make your own roux. The flavor is far superior and without the unnecessary MSG and other food additives.
This recipe is the standard in most of the Japanese restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, where I live. Over here it is served mainly as Japanese curry rice set. Enjoy cooking and let me hear your comments.