Japanese Curry [Authentic]
A velvety and luxe condiment, Japanese Curry is a delicate but flavorful and perfect over rice, noodles or pork.
Most people have never heard of Japanese Curry because the word curry automatically brings India to mind. But yes, Japan has its version, which has been overlooked by many in western cultures. How Japan came to adopt and fall in love with curry is thanks in part to the British Empire during Indian colonialism.
As with every great melange, it happens by pure coincidence. In this case, the Japanese Navy adopted curry from the Royal Navy to prevent a vitamin B deficiency. And the Royal Navy learned about the benefits of curry from Indians. And 100 or so years later, we get this tasty condiment. Isn’t travel grand?
This Japanese Curry recipe is as authentic as it gets and Katherine, who spent some time in Japan, attested to the flavor and consistency. Not many chefs make Japanese curry from scratch because there are so many variations on the market that come in cubes, fast, easy and full of MSG. But we’re both better than that, and it’s not a hard recipe to make.
The most important and time-consuming part of making Japanese curry is caramelizing the onion. Ask any chef at one of the many famed curry houses in Japan, and they’ll tell you that the key to a great Japanese curry is in the caramelized onions.
There are types of dishes which use the curry as a foundation, over rice, over udon noodles, and in pastries. There are several other different variations, but in our house, nothing says dinner time like Katsu Kare.
The curry is served with “cleaned” white rice, Panko crusted pork cutlet with asparagus and shiitake mushrooms. Clean, simple and full of flavor.
The curry should have a sweetness to it, which can confuse people when they think of curry because in India they like it a little salty and a little spicy. If you look at my recipe, it has no heat at all, that is authentic Japanese Curry.
Please don’t make the same mistake many people commit when making Japanese curry and blend all the ingredients together in a blender. That will only muddle the flavors of apple and onions. If you can, pass this sauce through a fine mesh or preferably a chinois. It helps to create a creamy, velvety texture, which pools so beautifully on the plate.
Japanese Curry will hold for about one week refrigerated, but please don’t use beyond a week. Remember, everything tastes best fresh.
Katherine’s Take: My time in Tokyo was regrettably short, a result of a delayed layover on the way from Miami to Bangkok, but I spent my time wisely tasting as much as time and my stomach would allow. And fortunately, Japanese Curry was on my extensive menu. I remember being struck by how delicate the curry was compared to the palate-searing versions from India and the pungent variation of my Jamaican heritage.
Paired with a tender pork cutlet and a mound of salted rice, I think I embarrassed myself by how quickly I gorged on it. Yes, I was that American traveler. Food gods, forgive me.
Since my time in Tokyo, I’ve had the dish again, but only authentic Japanese restaurants were able to come close to the memory, until now. This is the first time Eddie’s made this dish at home, and I’m wondering why it took him so long. He nailed it. Luscious, fragrant and elegant. Make a big batch, plan your meals for the week and serve this alongside.
Suggestions and Alternatives
- If you want to cut the caramelizing of onion in half add one tbs sugar and one tbs water to your translucent onions in the beginning stages.
- Apple cider might be hard to find so instead add one whole peeled and cored apple. Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Fuji, or Honey-crisp are four of the best for this dish.
- A chinois is not something many cooks have in their kitchen so you can use a china cap or a fine mesh strainer.
- You can remove cocoa powder from the recipe. Cocoa powder adds depth and color to the curry so removing will make your curry look lighter. Still tasty.
- To taste a Thai curry, try our Massman Curry recipe.
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- 1 tbs. grapeseed oil
- 2 tbs. butter quality
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tbs. flour AP
- 1 tbs. curry powder Japanese brand S&B
- 4 cups chicken stock rich
- 2 tbs. brown sugar
- 1 tbs. salt
- 2 fingers ginger micro-fined
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder unsweetened
- 1/2 cup ketchup Heinz
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 bay leaf whole
- 1 tbs. Garam Masala ground
julienne one yellow onion, thin on a mandolin.
heat the oil and butter in a medium size pot and caramelize the onion well.
add minced garlic, micro-fined ginger, and apple cider, sauté for four minutes.
stir in the flour and curry powder and cook for three minutes.
slowly whisk in the rich chicken stock until combined (do this gradually to avoid getting lumps) on medium heat for 10 minutes.
add the ketchup, Worcestershire, Garam Masala, cocoa powder, and bay leaf and bring to a low simmer for another five minutes.
whisk in salt.
after 5 minutes remove from heat and pass through a chinois.
Caramelized onions are an essential part of perfecting a truly authentic Japanese Curry. Another important technique to remember is always toast your spices to release essential oils and aromatics. Japanese Curry just like any curry should take time to perfect.