Japanese Curry

2015-08-13 18.05.42RECIPE #43, DAY #46

ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Retro Curry,” from Japanese Soul Cooking, by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat*

TIMING: 1 hour and 45 minutes, with simmer time

DIFFICULTY: If you want ethnic food for dinner, this is going to be on the easy end

TOOLS: A soup pot, a whisk, and a small saucepan

COOK TYPE: Stove top

HEALTH: This is one of those stews that can serve as a healthy, hearty meal for your family with not a ton of effort (that is, if your family tolerates curry). Basically, it’s just meat and veggies in a curry sauce, so there’s really nothing here to be afraid of except, perhaps, the white rice that you must make to accompany it. Then again, the Japanese eat white rice every day…

EXPERIENCE: Still on my Japanese cooking kick, due to the new cookbook. I was so intrigued by the book’s chapter on curries because of the history. I mean, how does it make any sense that the Japanese have basically no infiltration of Indian (or even Thai or Indonesian) curry, but that they are obsessed with British curry (which was, of course, adapted from Indian curry but is really a creature all its own)? For decades, the Japanese have enjoyed curry as both restaurant and home-cooking food, and their Navy is so into it that it is traditionally served every Friday and the different ships have serious cook-offs and competitions. Fascinating.

So, naturally, I wanted to try this Indian to British to Japanese fusion thing, fully expecting the result to be mostly like British curry. And it was.

I would make this again, but not before I try the other versions in the cookbook (Battleship Curry, anyone?) or even some other British versions. The truth is, I am an Indian and Thai curry fanatic, so these British and Japanese versions taste all wrong to me… like they are grainy, less-dimensional knock-offs of the original. But like American pizza and Italian pizza, they are really just different animals from a shared ancestry. I also found it quite spicy for kids (or people who don’t do spicy) and the foreign flavorings were so prevalent that you really need to have a tolerant stomach and digestive system.

If you are a fan of British curry, I would encourage you to try the Japanese version and see what you think. It is an easy and satiating dinner to make–full of veggies. You just need some time to let it simmer.

NOTES: The original recipe allows for you to substitute chicken, pork, or seafood (with less cooking time on the seafood) for the beef. It also suggests adding or substituting celery, eggplant, green bell pepper, daikon, broccoli, spinach, or tomato wedges. The spinach and tomato would have to be added very close to the end.

I also might try adding more tart apple and caramelizing the onions, which is what Ono does (for more sour and umami). Also, honey or mango would add a sweet dimension.

Japanese S&B curry powder would be the most authentic.


  1. Sprinkle 1 pound stew beef (cut into bite-size pieces) with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground back pepper.
  2. In your soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the beef and saute for 2 minutes. Add 2-3 coarse-chopped onions and saute another 5 minutes. Add 2 chopped carrots, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, and 2 cloves grated garlic and saute another 2 minutes.
  3. Add 1 tart peeled and grated apple, 5 cups beef stock, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir, scraping at the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in 3 tablespoons flour and continue to stir for 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder and 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala and stir for 2 more minutes. Set aside.
  5. After your hour of simmering, ladle 1 cup of the gravy and whisk it into your set-aside roux (curry mixture). Whisk the runny roux into the stew and add 3/4 pound peeled, chopped potatoes. Simmer 20 more minutes. (Add water if it becomes dry enough to burn.)


Serve with white rice, or Japanese Navy style with rice, a glass of milk and a salad of lettuce, tomato, and a boiled egg.

*Recipe changed from the original.


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