Currying Flavor: Karei Raisu

Curry on rice is almost a national dish of Japan—many eat it at least once a week. And why not: it’s delicious, easy to make with the widely available instant curry roux, can be made with a variety of ingredients, keeps well (even improves) as leftovers, and is inexpensive. It’s a meal I am fond of: see my early post about making curry!
From The New York Times, 23 October, 2008
japanese-curry_9131“Indian curry came to Japan from England,” explained Hiroko Shimbo, the Japanese chef and cookbook author. “Roux of course came from France.” It was only natural that someone would put them in the same dish, she added, then paused for a moment and laughed. “It’s perfect for Americans,” she said. “It’s a very American impulse to mix.”

a recipe from Hiroko Shimbo
Curry is not a traditional Japanese food. It dates to the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868) soon after the opening of Japan’s borders to trade with the west. The British took curry recipes back with them from their colonies in India around the end of the 1700s, and from England curry spread throughout the world. The British navy served curry, which is well adapted to military cuisine because it can be made in large quantities. The British Empire ruled the seven seas, and Japan’s navy emulated the British navy’s meals and started serving curry on its ships.
Japan was at war with Russia, and it is said that after the war, the soldiers went back home and showed their family how to make curry, In that way, curry was introduced to Japan as a type of British cuisine. It was part of a national fascination with foreign flavors and textures— a reverse of the fad for Japonisme that gripped Europe at the same time.
The recipes gained acceptance as a way to serve a little meat, flavored with a curried sauce, with rice as a side dish to the meal. In those days a meal with curry was a luxury, but the new taste gradually spread to homes and ordinary restaurants in towns and cities. The meal was called karee raisu . The modern recipe for curry on rice originated in the 1910s, and has remained basically the same since then. The curried sauce, which contains more vegetables than meat and is thickened with flour, is served over rice with a relish: pickled daikon radishes, fukijin zuke, or rakkyou.
Curry in Japan is served in a number of ways including curry rice, curry udon, curry bread, curry buns, katsu curry, and dry curry.
Japanese-style Chicken Curry with Rice
Tori no Karei Raisu
serves 4

page 316
  • 5 TBS butter (3 for the vegetables, 2 for the chicken)
  • 2 medium onions, minced (I used a grater)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger (micro-plane grater)
  • 3 cloves garlic (micro-plane grater)
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs

In a large heavy pot, cook  the aromatics over low heat until tender, about 25 minutes. Brown the chicken lightly.

  • 3 TBS S&B dry curry powder

Heat the spice in a small pan until fragrant (30 seconds) then add it to the onion mixture. Stir.

  • 1 medium carrot, grated (I used 2 small red carrots)
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1 mango, grated or chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree
  • 2 TBS mango chutney
  • 5 cups chicken stock

Add the above ingredients  to the chicken pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low.

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon toban jiang

Add the seasonings, stir, and cook uncovered for 3 hours. Stir about every 1/2 hour to prevent burning and sticking. The sauce thickens so you want to pay attention near the end of the cooking time.
For serving:

  • 3 Tablespoons brandy
  • parsley
  • plain white rice
  • mango chutney

Ms. Shimbo directs the cook to add 3 Tablespoons brandy to the skillet and light a flame to burn off the alcohol. I was fresh out of brandy, and also had no parsley to garnish. Serve the curry with plain white rice and mango chutney.

Other ecipes may include these spices and other ingredients:
(These ingredients may be used to “fix-up” store-bought curry roux.)
potatoes, carrots, onions…
mire poix, sauteed onions, butter, milk, fresh cream, ketchup, apple, tomatoes, yogurt, oyster sauce, garlic, cheese, cashew nuts, bananas, coconut milk, chocolate, red wine, consomme, ginger, instant coffee, mango, and other fruits, honey, mayonnaise, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce…
…bay leaves, cardamom pods, cayenne pepper, chilli powder, cinammon sticks, coriander powder, cumin powder, curry powder, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, garam masala, paprika, black peppercorns, turmeric, curry leaves, star aniseed, coconut milk, tamarind paste, vegetable ghee.
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8 thoughts on “Currying Flavor: Karei Raisu

  1. My Navy career took me to Japan, where I had the good fortune of eating “Yokosuka Navy Curry” with Japanese sailors. My kids grew up eating in Japan and it is one of the Japanese fast foods we get cravings for.


    • Hi Mike,
      That’s very interesting—a confirmation of what I’ve read about online, me never even visiting Japan!

      This recipe is unusual, but I think the one Ms. Shimbo wrote for the NYT may be more “authentic” because it uses flour (see quote box in the post).

      From what I read, there is a roux with the brand, “Yokosuka Kaigun Curry
      The box has a raising sun design and a silhouette of a ship.
      海軍カレー kaigun karee
      I’ve never seen it here in Michigan, though.

  2. Pingback: Home-made Japanese Curry « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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  4. I searched for “tamarind” and this came up on the top of the page. How funny b/c I bought some dry curry powder at a store last week. They have bulk teas and spices and cards and gifts and massages, go figure. I didn’t know curry was a Japanese staple. It’s easy and I’m going to make it with rice and tofu. Thanks!

  5. Oh, Japanese curry! It is not like any other curry: a bit fruity, sweet, not very spicy, but delicious. If you can, get a tin of Japanese curry powder. It’s unique. Vermont curry is good too, but I think it has beef fat in it. Or make your own, as I did here.

    Hey? Did you get your username namechange link stuff figured out in the forums? I saw your question but timethief seemed to be helping you with good advice. Are you going to make another blog?

    I think tamarind is used in Southeast Asia. And in Mexico. Sour, with a lot of umami.

  6. Pingback: A Stir-Fry: dry curry! « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

  7. Pingback: Kimchi Udon « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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