What is Japanese curry?
Japanese curry or Japanese Kari (カレー in Japanese) is part of the everyday diet of Japanese people. It is served with rice, udon noodles (a variety of thick noodles) or bread.
Japanese curry differs from its Indian cousin by its denser texture and a much softer, slightly sweet taste.
If the curry is served with a breaded pork cutlet called tonkatsu, it is called katsu-kare.
When curry is served with rice, the elements can be placed on either side of the plate or by pouring the curry over the rice. Japanese round and short rice is invariably used for this recipe and not the famous basmati rice like for curries from the rest of Asia.
What is the origin of Japanese curry?
Curry was introduced in Japan during the Meiji era between 1869 and 1913. The period during which India was under the administration of the English East India Company. It is through the trade organized by the English that curry will gradually spread to Japan. This is considered by the Japanese to be a Western and non-Asian dish.
Curry will have to wait until the 1960s to truly become popular in Japan. Also, it is its ready-to-use version that is the most well-known and few are the Japanese who prepare it at home.
Its simple and quick preparation makes it an ideal meal for workers and students who, since the 1960s, have favored this type of food over a more family-friendly cuisine, often complex and time-consuming to prepare.
The Japanese Imperial Navy is known for having adopted curry in its menus, a practice inspired by the British Navy, which does the same by enjoying a plate of curry every Friday.
Today, curry is such a staple of Japanese culture that it is found in many animated mangas, and it is through this medium that this dish has become so popular around the world, by wanting to imitate idols such as Naruto.
In fact, today all Japanese grocery stores offer these ready-to-use curry blocks. This dish can also be found on the menu of traditional restaurants. With okonomiyaki, curry is the food of Japanese youth par excellence, as well as manga lovers.
How is Japanese curry prepared?
In Japan, although there is a wide variety of vegetables and meats that can be used in curry, it is the version made from carrots, onions and potatoes that is the most popular.
Some versions may contain apples or honey, making this dish even sweeter.
The meat can be pork, beef or chicken, but beef and pork versions are the most common. The use of one meat rather than another often depends on the city in which the curry is prepared. The inhabitants of Tokyo prefer pork meat. In Osaka, it’s beef.
Most of the time, curry is prepared from a solid mixture sold in packages called red curry. After cooking the meat and the vegetables together in a little water, the mixture is diluted in water.
It has the immediate effect of thickening the sauce while giving it a wonderful orange color. These curry blocks represent a real commercial market in Japan and the West.
Generally, they are presented in colored boxes, each color corresponding to a level of intensity. Curry is also available as a dehydrated powder.
The instant version is so popular that finding the basic recipe is very complicated. In addition, the manufacturers of these mixtures secretly protect the composition of the instant curry.
According to the few sources available, Japanese curry may be obtained from a mixture of cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, fenugreek, cloves, pepper, chili and bay leaf.
The spices are roasted, then ground into powder and incorporated into a roux to obtain a paste that, unlike Indian curry, is used at the end of food cooking.
The flour and butter-based roux has the effect of giving a thicker consistency to the sauce, the molecules contained in the flour swelling when in contact with humidity and heat.
Some versions propose to marinate the meat in a mixture of yoghurt, garlic and ginger exactly as it can be the case in many Indian curries.
What are the curry variants in the world?
The word curry comes from Tamil Kari and refers to all dishes in sauce but depending on the region of India, the word can also mean sheep meat or a vegetable dish. It should also not be confused with curry leaves.
In northern India, the word for this type of dish is masala, which means mixture.
It was from the 18th century that the English began to market the spice blends prepared by Indian merchants under the name of curry.
Today, curry refers to any dish in sauce with spices. India and Pakistan are the two countries where curry is most popular, but curry has traveled to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, the Caribbean, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Even more widely, curry has become popular in the West where many cooks have reclaimed its codes. For example, Antonin Carême has a curry recipe based on crayfish, pork belly, lard and rice.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
- 10 oz. beef shank cubed
- 1 tablespoon uster sauce
- 2 onions diced
- 2 potatoes cut in 1-inch cubes
- 1 carrot cut in 1-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3½ cups water
- 3 cups japonica rice or other round rice
- 3 cups water
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. When the butter is completely melted, add the flour.
- Whisk the butter and the flour. Stir for 2 minutes then lower the heat and cook over very low heat for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, the roux will turn light brown. Add the garam masala, curry powder and Cayenne pepper and stir well. Cook and stir for 30 seconds, remove from heat and set aside.
- Soak the rice in a large bath of water for 5 minutes.
- Transfer it to a strainer and rinse it thoroughly by rubbing it between the two palms of your hand.
- Drain and add into a large saucepan.
- Add the water.
- Allow the rice to soak for 15 minutes in this water, which will be used for cooking.
- Cover and set heat to medium to high.
- One minute after reaching boiling point, lower the heat and cook covered over low heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the stove and set aside for about ten minutes covered.
Place the meat and vegetables in a Dutch oven with the vegetable oil, and sauté for a few minutes.
- Add the water and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes, covered.
- Skim the fat while cooking.
- Turn the heat off.
- Add the curry roux.
- Add the uster sauce.
- Place the pot back on the heat and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
- Serve with rice.