Coco Ichibanya is eager to find a foothold in the world's second-biggest nation and favor among a middle-class with a growing appetite for international food Photo: AFP

Japanese dining chain curries favor with Indian market


One of Japan's most popular restaurant chains is embarking on what could become one of the all-time crowning achievements of salesmanship -- selling curry to India.

Coco Ichibanya has more than 1,400 locations worldwide but its owners are eager to find a foothold in the world's second-biggest nation, and favor among a middle class with a growing appetite for international food.

But it remains to be seen whether its own signature curry dish -- a distinctive, thick brown sauce and sticky white rice -- can lure diners accustomed to local varieties honed over thousands of years.

"We are not here to compete with Indian curries," Ichibanya India's assistant chief executive, Devesh Srivastava, told AFP. "We have a flavorful Japanese curry which is a bit different from the Indian one... and the response has been pretty good so far. People are coming back as well."

Beef and pork are absent from the tailor-made menu, in deference to religious requirements and local tastes.

Substitutes such as paneer and eggplant are on offer instead, making a unique global hybrid cuisine reflecting the chain's dual origins.

Curry originated in India thousands of years ago but in the late 19th century British seafarers introduced it to Japan, where it evolved into a beloved national comfort food.

Rising disposable incomes have left India an attractive market for Japanese companies, which are looking to offset declining consumer spending at home by expanding abroad.

Ichibanya believes its successful step into Thailand, another curry-loving nation, is a sign the chain could succeed in India.

"Initially there is going to be a lot of interest," Kavita Devgan, an author and food columnist, told AFP. "If the curry works for the Indian palate and is not very unfamiliar, then it has a chance."

It has shrugged off the challenges of opening in India during the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when many restaurant-goers are tightening their purse strings and eating at home.

Its first Indian franchise opened in August near the capital New Delhi and immediately piqued local interest.

Diners said they enjoyed exploring the contrast between the flavor of the Japanese sauce and the familiar Indian varieties laden with onion, tomatoes and local spices.

"The taste is something that is very addictive," said Aakash Nakra. "You want to eat more and more and more."

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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oishii da na

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Indian curry Japanese curry

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I rarely eat Japanese curry as it is more sauce than substance...

0 ( +5 / -5 )

"The taste is something that is very addictive," said Aakash Nakra. "You want to eat more and more and more."


5 ( +9 / -4 )

Population density is so high over there. You'll have min numbers of customers all the time.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Thai curry is the best.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A dish for emperors to feed upon - William Thackeray

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I assume the recipe is not the same as Japan because of the large populations in India who do not eat one of pork and beef.

I went for the first time in years a couple of months back because my wife wanted to go. I had the veggie one with added grilled veggies, but it wasn't very good. The grilled veggie topping was nothing like the photo.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Actually, curry originated in Pakistan, not India.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

"Actually, curry originated in Pakistan, not India."

Sources please? Curries originated in Southern part of India where the cuisine is different from north Indian or Mughlai cuisine. There is a curry tree native to the subcontinent from where the dish got it's name.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I've had Coco Ichibanya a few times, now that they've finally made the vegan options available in most branches. However, give me a South Indian curry with basmati rice anytime. Not so keen on curry loaded with sugar.

I rarely eat Japanese curry as it is more sauce than substance...

True. Another reason why I prefer Indian. But Thai with coconut milk and vegetables and Thai rice is delicious too.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Coals to Newcastle. Coco Ichibanya is ghastly stuff.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Insta-at Czens Underscore-food

Actually, curry originated in Pakistan, not India.


According to Sen's book, the word curry most likely comes from a misunderstanding of the southern Indian word "kari," which "denoted a spiced dish of sauteed vegetables and meat."

> "In the 17th century, the Portuguese [who colonized Goa in western India] took the word to mean a 'spiced stew' over rice and 'kari' eventually became 'caril' or 'caree' in Portuguese, then 'curry' in English," Sen tells CNN Travel.

Curry, which is thought to have originated as early as 2500 BCE in what is modern-day Pakistan, has since evolved into a truly global food, having traveled the world through colonization and immigration, indentured labor, trade and entrepreneurship.

There was no Pakistan in 2500BCE! There was India, though.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Actually, curry originated in Pakistan, not India.

Pakistan is only about 70 years old. The Japanese have been eating curry for longer than Pakistan has existed.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Despite the valiant attempts of the Japanese to make a curry that resembled Indian cuisine for British guests, the result is nothing like Indian curry.

An Indian wouldn't recognize it as "curry" and this is probably in its favour - it would not be seen as a very inferior version of Indian curry, but an entirely different food type.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Seems the culinary experts here disapprove.

Perhaps the good people in India can decide for themselves?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I do like Japanese curry, it is delicious and filling.

I once had Kung Pao Chicken at an American restaurant chain in Shanghai and my Chinese friends like it a lot.

So there's hope for selling Japanese curry in India.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Indian curries, Japanese curries, Thai curries, as well as "curries" that have found their way to the West are all different and shouldn't be compared. They are all good and preference is nothing more than personal taste. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Japanese curry is a big hit in India and elsewhere. In Japan Muji makes an reasonable effort to introduce non-Japanese curries but frankly, it's like 60-75% there. Good effort though.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thai curries, as well as "curries" that have found their way to the West are all different and shouldn't be compared.

You are joking, right?

It is one of my joys to compare different cuisines and even curries as I consume plenty!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is one of my joys to compare different cuisines

But the bigger joy is to eat them. :-)

I'm sure we all have tales to tell of our curry experiences. My favorite was when in Malaysia on the compulsory return-through-Asia trip after my first stint in Japan. At an Indian restaurant there, the manager asked about our trip and we told him our next destination was India. He told us to enjoy the food now as the best Indian food was in Malaysia and the UK. His point was that India was so poor, most people couldn't afford to eat good food. We discovered he was generally correct. But our flight to India got screwed up and we were put up in a fancy hotel in Mumbai for our first night (we should have been in Delhi). As most on the flight were scruffy gits like me, they herded us into a separate room and served a help yourself buffet. It was fantastic.

Anyway, good luck to this chain. There's a place for all kinds of tastes. (I live in the land of Haggis Pakora.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japanese curry was unique and different from India or any Asia countries. I like all kinds of curries except badly cook curry. Please, come to Melbourne.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I enjoy Indian foods as a rule but I love Japanese curry more than any other. We eat it here in the US. My Chinese wife also prefers it. The others can be too hot to be enjoyable. The very worst curry I'v ever had was in Singapore. It was inedible and not because it was hot. I just tasted bad. A little trivia; curry is the traditional Friday night dinner in the JMSDF, a holdover tradition from the IJN. I hope Coco Ichibanya does well in India.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Hmmm, there are apparently four Coco Ichibanya restaurants in the US and all of them are in Southern California.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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