Japanese Curry (Including Recipe)

Yes, this is my first recipe, although I'm not sure that's really the right word for it. It's a little bit more like instructions. 

You my be wondering why I don't give recipes, well the answer is very easy, I am not a thief. I didn't grow up learning to cook Japanese food, so I have no original or family recipes to share. My blog is about learning to cook, and I always try to give credit where it is due so you can go to the fantastic blogs and cookbooks that I have used. I hope that you come to my blog for advise and inspiration, not to mention my brilliant pros.

So why am I breaking my tradition so soon? This is my own personal way of making Japanese Curry so there isn't anyone else to give credit to. 

Curry came to Japan, not by way of India, as you might expect, but via Great Britain. (Although Great Britain got it from India while it was part of the Empire, so it all comes around in the end.) I mentioned in an earlier blog post that during the Meiji Period in Japan  (1868-1912) there was a high influx of western style foods. (By western I mean from the western continents, not John Wayne's favorite cuisine). One of the foods very quickly embraced and reimagined by the Japanese was, of course, curry. Today it is considered a national dish and is eaten very frequently in almost every Japanese home.

Can you blame them? Is there a dish out there in the world that has more to offer than curry? Vegetables, spices, meat, ease of preparation, a certain openness to personalization. Curry is even an appetite stimulant, which is why after eating one bowl you still feel like you could eat ten more. Wait, is that last one actually a plus? 

I grew up eating Thai coconut curry, which is also fantastic. (If you really want my family recipe--yes I have one--I'll post it on Facebook, so you had better go like my page.) Another fantastic use of curry that my mother used to employ, was using it for honey curry bread, which I'm pretty sure is what the ancient Greeks were talking about when they mention ambrosia. Other curries that I have in my arsenal include several Indian curries and one very tasty dish hailing from the Philippines. 

I cook curry at least once a week. Often just throwing whatever seems good into a pot, adding tomato puree, coconut, or chicken stock, depending on the other ingredients, and then adding curry powder. That's one of the things I like about curry, you can make it so many different ways. Which brings me back to the main topic, Japanese curry. 


This recipe is made using a prepackaged curry sauce mix. You may be screaming "sacrilege!" at the computer screen here, but let me explain. Though many people in Japan prefer to cook things from scratch, and I generally do too, the way that almost every single home cook makes this dish is with a box of curry sauce mix. When I first made Japanese curry I did it all from scratch, using a recipe on NoRecipes.com. I highly recommend it, but it is a little labor intensive. 

In my never ending quest for authentic Japanese flavors, I was eager to try the more common "boxed method" and therefore was very pleased to discover that my local grocery store stocked Golden Curry sauce mix. You can get it on Mitsuwa if you can't find it or something similar locally. 

Okay, so I hope that I've convinced you. Let's move on to the other ingredients in my own personal recipe. Starting with the vegetables I use 2 yellow onions, 2 yellow potatoes, 3 medium carrots, and 1 Japanese sweet potato. I'm lucky enough to have a local co-op that always has Japanese sweet potatoes, but if you can't find them, a regular sweet potato will do just as well.

So I begin with chopping the vegetables into bite sized pieces. The pot I use is my wonderful cast iron enamel stew pot (dutch oven?). With a little sesame oil I start the onions caramelizing, then add about a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You could also use beef or pork and still be right on the Japanese mark, do whatever sounds good. 

Once the onions are translucent and limp and the meat is starting to brown, add the other vegetables and stir. I don't really let it cook like that long, maybe two minutes, then I add enough water to cover everything up, with maybe an inch over. 

The next step is to add the sauce. If you've been picturing a sauce the consistency of ketchup, it's more like a block of clay. Just take it out of the package and submerge it in the water. Don't worry about breaking it up, it will dissolve pretty quickly. I use two packages, by the way.

Next I add about a half cup of either apple sauce, apple butter, or apple puree, depending on which I have in stock. Apple is a pretty traditional ingredient in Japanese curry and is part of what gives it the nice sweet flavor that makes it so special. There is usually some in the box mix, but I like to add extra. In this weeks video, you can see me adding in some apple jam that I made myself a few weekends ago. 

That's all the ingredients for now, so I put the lid on and let it get to a boil before stirring everything up well. I leave it on medium heat for about fifteen minutes, until the meat is cooked though and the regular and sweet potatoes are tender when poked with a fork. At this point it is time for the last touch, a bag of frozen peas. These do not take time to cook so I add them last and turn the burner off. The curry should be plenty warm for thawing up the peas. 

While this has been going on, I usually have the cooker on, making a pot of Japanese rice. There's a great instructional post on making it here. This curry is meant to be served over a steaming bowl of rice, so that's a non negotiable part, as far as I'm concerned. 

Even if you have eaten curry in the past and did not like it, you might be pleasantly surprised. It is mild, sweet, smooth and tasty. A big pot like this should serve for a large family dinner, or several days of left overs. 

I hope that you enjoy my personal way of preparing Japanese Curry. I shared the instructions once before, after serving it to some friends, and then we had a little turf war over the limited supply of curry sauce at the grocery store. I'm glad they loved it so much, but was very happy when the store got the message and upped their stock. 

Until next time, keep your kitchen happy by cooking up a storm!

"Hey wait a second, isn't this Italian music?" Yes, I like Japanese food and Italian opera!