Photo: Pakutaso

You put WHAT in your curry? Japanese netizens reveal their favorite secret ingredients

By Katie Pask, SoraNews24

Japanese curry is pretty simple to make. Just pick your favorite roux, add meat and vegetables and that’s it! But, much like other comfort foods from around the world, Japanese curry isn’t limited to just one recipe. Each person has their own individual way of making it, right down to the specific way they cut their veggies or how long to cook the curry for. And even if the same curry roux is used, the taste may vary from family to family, as people use their favorite secret ingredients to give their curry a unique taste.

We’ve seen some strange curry ingredients before, like matcha and sakura petals, but surely these are just trendy ingredients to attract foodies, right? Regular Japanese households don’t use such unorthodox ingredients… right?

A survey by Japanese lifestyle portal Kufura asked 437 Japanese women what secret ingredient they used in their curry, and the top ten results were posted.

  1. Yoghurt

  2. Tomato

  3. Milk

  4. Ketchup

  5. Honey

5. Soy sauce

Perhaps not so surprising, soy sauce was the fifth most popular response. Proponents said they liked how it shifted the flavor balance from spicy to rich, and also how it added a traditional Japanese taste to the dish.

4. Garlic

Another pretty orthodox ingredient, garlic, comes in at number four. Because this is a ranking of “secret ingredients” though, respondents aren’t tossing in whole cloves and eating them like the large chunks of potato or carrot you find in Japanese curry. Instead, the trick is to grate the garlic before it goes into the pot, so that it melts into the roux.

3. Chocolate

Yes, a surprising number of respondents (36) said they added chocolate to their curry. Dark chocolate was favoured over milk, in order to give the flavor extra depth without making it sugary sweet.

2. Worcestershire sauce

Ketchup made an appearance in the top ten, but the second most popular secret ingredient was what’s simply called “sosu” in Japanese, a savory liquid seasoning most similar to Worcestershire sauce. Because the sauce itself is made up of a mixture of various spices, it can added to curry to enhance the flavor without overpowering the roux’s inherent taste.

And finally…

1. Instant coffee

Taking the top spot in the secret ingredients was instant coffee, for those who want a sweet caffeine hit with their meal. With Japanese curry already representing spicy, salty, and sweet notes pretty strongly, the addition of a bitter element really makes for a complete, maturely sophisticated eating experience for fans.

The top 10 most popular responses have a couple of unusual ingredients in there, but other less common but equally unusual answers included Calpis (“It gives the curry a refreshing taste,”) and leftover jam (“It’s eco-friendly,”). Equally, a number of respondents replied that they didn’t use any secret ingredient at all, preferring to enjoy the taste of the roux on its own.

Next time you make yourself some Japanese curry, why not try one of these ingredients for yourself? You might end up discovering your new favorite flavor. Just… whatever you do, don’t call it katsu curry unless there’s some actual breaded cutlets on the top.

Source: Kufura via Yahoo! Japan News via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- The U.K. thinks Japanese curry is katsu curry, and people aren’t happy about it

-- No time to cook? No problem! Three easy ways to improve instant curry

-- All-plant-based katsu curry arrives at Ikea Japan

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Curry, the bastion of hot, spicy perfection, ruined by sweeteners. I'll pass.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

My god. Give me Indian or Thai curry anyday. And Japan needs to understand, curry does NOT need chicken or beef to make it curry.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

It is what it is. No need to get snobbish about it.

I prefer Thai or Indian, but I ate Japanese curry in the company cafeteria.

It’s okay. It isn’t repulsive.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

China 5 Spices

Japan 7 Spices

India 10 Spices

All taste different but if you mix & match, it won't go well until you put your own secret ingredient i.e you know your own.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Japanese curry has its place and can be pretty good. It's based (or is supposed to be) on caramelized onions, a mighty fine ingredient. It's also something kids will eat without complaining, which should not be underestimated.

Pretty much everyone makes Japanese curry with commercial roux. They all taste different, so one alternative to experimenting with secret ingredients is simply buy a different roux that tastes better to begin with. I don't like Vermont or Kokomaro, and would probably have to do all kinds of experimentation to make them work. Instead, I buy Glico "Premium" (actually one of the cheapest), which I do like.

We make it in a pressure cooker and I dice the onion very finely with a Bohner slicer so it caramelizes quickly and melts into the sauce.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My problem with Japanese curry roux is that it is either half lard or half palm oil. I'd never even heard of curry roux until I came to Japan. I avoid it like the plague. Make your own curry with your own spices. You can control what oils and vegetables to use too.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Natto for me.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

When I was a kid, we lived in Sri Lanka. My favourite curry was banana curry. Ever since, I've loved this combination. Sliced banana is a beautiful topping for a curry.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Maybe out of those top 10 three are legit. For me, it is curry with brown rice.

Brown rice does not work with sushi, not sticky enough. Brown rice normally takes much longer to cook than white rice but using a rice cooker and hot water speeds up the process.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Any else here try brown rice with their curry? I'm surprised that was not one of the obvious choices.

Gotta use a spoon though, because the brown rice is not sticky enough.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )


”It isn’t repulsive” is hardly a ringing endorsement!

Well, it fills a hole.

I’m not doing a very good job of selling this, am I?

Maybe a box of Costco wine could help wash it down.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

JimizoToday  06:46 pm JST

Well, it fills a hole. 

I’m not doing a very good job of selling this, am I? 

Maybe a box of Costco wine could help wash it down.

I can eat cafeteria curry; have to add kimchi to it though.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Any else here try brown rice with their curry?

I try to. And I prefer basmati. Japanese brown rice is still too heavy for me, but I prefer it to white rice. I don't know why Japanese are so repulsed by brown rice or even foreign rice.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Pukey2Today  08:34 pm JST

I try to. And I prefer basmati. Japanese brown rice is still too heavy for me, but I prefer it to white rice. I don't know why Japanese are so repulsed by brown rice or even foreign rice.

I admit I like white rice, but I go all out to avoid it. I am surprised Japanese stay away from brown rice. Maybe because the rice farmers here have a monopoly on the rice market.

Is basmati the same as Nepal black rice?

Nepalese black rice is probably the best for taste. If you find it, try it.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Any else here try brown rice with their curry?

Brown rice is our go-to; if we have rice instead of naan with our curry, it’s brown rice.

But I draw the line at curry made with roux; far, far too much fat, and virtually guaranteed to have extract of some poor beast in it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Adding natto to a cheap hot instant really is good and might even be healthy

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

We cook up batches of brown rice with the mixed grain sachets and freeze it. Brown rice takes about 80-90 minutes to cook. A 5.5 cup rice cooker can only do 3 cups of brown rice, so getting a bigger machine helps if you want to do batches for freezing.

The points about curry roux having palm oil (for starters) and animal products are well made. If you care about what goes in your body, read the labels.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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