Believe it or not, curry is one of the most popular home-cooked dishes in Japan. The most common way of serving it is over rice, with pickles called "fukujinzuke" and "rakkyo," but you can find curry with udon or in pastry. Japanese people hold a special place in their heart for curry. Though it may seem odd, curry is definitely comfort food for many people here.
Curry was introduced to Japan in the late 1800s, during the Meiji Era, by the British at a time when India was under their administration. The Imperial Japanese Navy adopted curry from the Royal Navy that served stews mixed with curry powder. To this day, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force serves curry on Fridays. The dish became popular and available for purchase in supermarkets and restaurants in the late 1960s when instant roux in a block form was introduced by S&B Foods. It contains curry powder, flour, oils, various spices and flavorings. Because of the easiness in preparation compared to other Japanese dishes, curry with rice became very popular. Curry roux box sales nowadays surpass 80 billion yen a year.
The basic way to make curry at home is using onions, carrots and potatoes with meat which can be beef, pork or chicken. Adding potatoes to curry sauce was introduced by William Clark of the Agricultural College since there was a rice shortage. It has become a must-have ingredient when making curry. Every family has their favorite brand of instant curry roux. They usually come in three levels of spiciness. There is even curry roux for babies that contain less spice. It is so widely consumed that it can be called a national dish. These mixes or boxed curry roux can easily be found in Japanese or Asian food stores outside of Japan. Just follow the instruction on the box and you will not go wrong.
Although the basic recipe calls for onions, carrots and potatoes with some sort of meat, for those who have tried making this before, how about trying other ingredients to spice things up a bit? I usually like to add seasonal veggies such as sweet potatoes, sautéed eggplants, or a big bag of spinach. As for protein, using prawns, sautéing them in butter and white wine first, makes curry extra fancy.
The other day, I was craving curry, but not the typical kind. I wanted to have curry-udon style curry over rice. Kind of picky, I know. Curry for udon usually contains “dashi” which is broth made with sea kelp and bonito flakes. This makes your curry taste more Japanese. Instead of the usual onion, carrot and potato combo, I kept it simple with thinly sliced onions and fresh shiitake mushrooms. For the meat, I chose a nice lean pork cutlet which I chopped up into bite size pieces. The result? Superb! I wanted to share my version.
Extra-Japanese flavored Japanese Curry
Ingredients • 1 packet Japanese curry roux • water • 100 -200 grams pork cut into cubes • 1/2 thinly sliced white onion • 6 sliced shiitake mushrooms • One package of "dashi" or 2 tablespoon of "dashi" powder • 1 tablespoon butter • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- Sauté sliced onion with oil in a saucepan. Caramelize.
- Add pork and brown.
- Add water according to the package instruction.
- While simmering, add “dashi”.
- Add curry roux.
- In a small frying pan, sauté shiitake in butter then add to the curry.
- Let the sauce simmer until it thickens. Serve over freshly cooked white rice.
- You can dilute this sauce with a little water, and serve with udon noodles as well.