Home-made Japanese Curry


My house is redolent with the scent of Japanese curry. It has been so for days: I prepared Hiroko Shimbo’s recipe for karei risu karei raisu from scratch, and it’s a long-cooking stew made with fresh ingredients that make your mouth water long before dinner-time. It thickens by reduction rather than addition of flour or starch to the liquid so the flavors are blended, complex, and intense. But even with a very nice ventilating fan, the odor is durable. 

Wikipedia note:
Instant curry roux was first sold in powder form by House Foods in 1926, and in block form by S&B Foods in 1956. Amongst the most common brands sold in the United States are Vermont Curry, made by House Foods Corporation, and Golden Curry, made by S&B Foods Inc.

Based on the amount of packaged ‘curry roux’ sold, karei raisu is Japan’s unofficial national dish; many home cooks prepare it every week! Instant curry roux is available in block and powder form, and contains curry powder, flour, oils and various spices. All one needs to do is prepare a few vegetables, some protein (meat, seafood, or tofu), cook and add the roux to have a tasty hot meal even on a weekday evening.

Aya Tanaka of Serious Eats, did a blind taste comparison of the five easily found brands of curry roux found in the U.S.: S&B’s Golden Curry and Torokeru (Tasty) Curry, and House’s Vermont Curry, Java Curry, and Kokumaro Curry. They are all available in mild, medium hot, and hot versions. She describes the subtleties of what makes a well-balanced sweet-spicy Japanese curry.
See more info on my previous posts about Japanese curry rice!
Japanese Chicken Curry
Currying Flavor: Karei Raisu
Here are some descriptions of unusual versions of Japanese curries:
Colorful curry— beef chunks with broccoli, red and yellow peppers, pearl onions and mushrooms
“Chinese” curry— chicken livers, baby bok choy, broccoli, onions, garlic, ginger and in addition to the boxed curry roux, star anise, cloves, oyster sauce, tenmenjian, and tobanjian.
Seafood curry— squid, shrimp, scallops, clams, onions, garlic, red peppers, and white wine.
Tofu curry— tofu, onions, shimeji mushrooms, eggplant , garlic and ginger then garnished with shiso.
Natto and ground beef curry— no explanation needed.
Kabocha curry— kabocha, pork tenderloin, onions, red and green peppers, coconut milk, nampla and basil.Then there are the seasonal currries using the veggies that are in season.
Spring— Soramame (like fava beans?), asparagus, peas
Summer–tomato, kabocha, eggplant, okra
Fall— satoimo, sweet potato, mushrooms
Winter— lotus root, turnips, burdock root, broccoli, cauliflower
from a comment on the Egullet Forum

As for what to serve with Japanese curry:
Fukujinzuke (福神漬?) is one of the most popular kinds of pickles in Japanese cuisine, commonly used as a relish for Japanese curry. In fukujinzuke, vegetables including daikon, eggplant, lotus root and cucumber are finely chopped, then pickled in a base that is flavored with soy sauce. The end result has a crunchy texture.Rakkyo (pickled shallots) is also popular along with fukujinzuke. Other examples of relishes include raisins, cheese, fried onions, roasted sliced almonds and coconuts.

Japanese Curry with Rice
Tori no Karei Raisu

from: The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
page 316
serves 4 to 6

  • 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 dry 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
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 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 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ Tablespoon toban jiang

Add the seasonings, stir, and cook uncovered for 3 hours. Stir about every ½ hour to prevent burning and sticking. As the sauce reduces, be sure to scrape the delicious browning bits from the sides of the pot—de-glaze with a bit of chicken broth or water. This is where the great caramelized flavor of Ms. Shimbo’s recipe comes from!
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. Serve the curry with plain white rice and mango chutney.

The main spice flavors in Japanese curry are turmeric, coriander, and cumin. The hot spices are black pepper and cayenne. I think there is a hint of cinnamon and fennel.
Other spices might include allspice, anise, bay leaf, cardamom, oregono

4 thoughts on “Home-made Japanese Curry

  1. Pingback: Curry Udon « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

  2. By the way, I laughed out loud when I saw this misspelling–karei risu–which means curried squirrel! Feel free to delete this part when you moderate, if you like. :)

    Other great additions for Japanese curry are chocolate, a little strong coffee, grated apple and grated banana!

    • Hi gaijinfarmer!
      The typo gave me a good laugh too: there are plenty of squirrels around this neighborhood. Yum. Might be a bit too Southern for this girl though!

      The idea of chocolate in curry is intriguing: I love Cincinnati Chili where the dark chocolate adds a smooth dark undertone to the Greek seasonings.

  3. Pingback: Made Japanese | AllGraphicsOnline.com

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