With curry, we often think of a thick chunky Indian style recipe served hot and spicy over some rice in a bowl. Japanese food always has a unique presentation, and this is often what makes it different from foods from all over the world. Japanese curry rice is no exception. This curry is almost always served on a plate in two halves: rice on one side, curry on the other.
The recipe for a Japanese curry sauce isn’t only different in presentation. The soup’s contents themselves often require no chunky parts. When the sauce is meat based, the mince is broken down, leaving barely any chunks within the sauce and keeping a smooth texture. Any additions to the sauce are generally very deliberate. You can easily see all the ingredients from the recipe on your plate. Key ingredients in a Japanese curry rice recipe will almost always sit prettily between the curry sauce and the rice. This can be seen pictured below.
Any restaurant specializing in curry is known as a “curry houses,” and they are very popular throughout Osaka, Japan. Of particular popularity is Coco Ichibanya. Curry houses are easy to spot: they are mostly always yellow, and will have “Curry” or “カレー” displayed on their shop’s signage. In Japan, it is common to eat curry rice with a spoon. You can still use chopsticks if you like, but a spoon is completely normal in this case. If eating at a restaurant isn’t your style, hundreds of Japanese instant curry brands are available to buy at any supermarket or 100 yen shop. These packets only need to be heated up and served with rice, good for a cheap and easy meal.
Japanese curry rice is also one of the few dishes among all Japanese food that uses red pepper to make the recipe spicy. Wasabi aside, most every Japanese recipe is not intended to be spicy. There are a few different things you will find when you eat at any Japanese curry house, and the most interesting to me is the plethora of seasonings you can mix with your meal. Common seasonings are chili, Japanese pickles, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and sauce “sousu” (ソース) which is a thick, black, sweet sauce. It is common to select sweet things such as honey or sauce to season your curry. Once I went to a curry shop that also offered crushed nuts and diced fruits like raisins and pineapple for adding into my curry. There is definitely a sweet tooth embedded in Japanese food culture, and even spicy curry rice is no exception to this norm.
Japanese Curry Rice Recipe:
This is a simple and easy recipe for Japanese curry rice sauce. You can always adapt the recipe to your taste or dietary requirements.
- Rice. (of course!)
- 5 Tbsp plain flour.
- 4 Tbsp Butter.
- 1 Tbsp Garam Masala.
- 1 Tbsp Curry powder.
- 2 Cups water.
- Two handfuls washed spinach leaves.
- 3 eggs.
- Salt (to taste).
- Red chili (to taste).
- Neatly cut pieces of meat or vegetables. About four per person. I used fried squid that was ready to heat and eat. You can get creative and decorate however you like, grilled eggplant strips, an omelette, strips of grilled chicken, etc.
1. Cook 3 cups of rice in a rice cooker.
2. Add butter to a pot and melt.
3. Add garam masala and curry powder and mix to remove any lumps.
4. Slowly add water while continuing to whisk to prevent lumps.
5. Slowly add in the flour, whisking so that no lumps form. Change heat to simmer, and allow to reduce until the texture is similar to thickened cream.
Congratulations, you made basic Japanese curry sauce! At this point, I removed ¾ of the mixture to a jar in the fridge for another night. This means I can make different variations of Japanese curry over different nights. But if you are serving 4 portions of this meal, continue with the recipe.
- Cut your spinach leaves into strips and add to the pot. They will wilt and add a green element to the meal without causing chunks.
- Crack your eggs into your simmering curry. Stir continually with chopsticks (or a fork). This will break apart the yolks, giving you lovely little streaks of egg through your curry. Again, the texture will be smooth.
- Season with salt and/or chili to your liking. Be careful not to let the curry burn on the bottom of the pot.
- Place the cooked rice in equal portions on half of 4 plates.
- Heat up your addition (mine was ready-fried squid), and place it neatly against the rice as pictured.
- Pour your curry sauce equally onto each plate’s empty side.
Grab some honey and/or pickles and enjoy your meal!