Japanese curry is different than other kinds of curry! This uniquely Japanese curry sauce is made by frying together curry powder, flour, and oil, along with a few other spices to flavor, to make a Roux (thickening sauce made of flour and fat) which is simmered until thickened with any vegetables that would be added.
Vacuum-sealed curry sauce is the largest single category of vacuum-sealed foods in Japan, and domestic curry roux shipments are worth over 80 billion yen every year.
History of Japanese Curry
Curry is originally an Indian dish and it was imported to Japan by the British. These Japanese navy adapted curry with fortifications that would prevent thiamine deficiency, also known as Beriberi in Japanese, which could occur to sailors on ships with their restricted diets. The Japanese Naval Self-Defense Force’s menu every Friday consists of curry. The dish, reinvented to suit Japanese tastes. later became commonly available in supermarkets and restaurants in the 1960s.
Where to get Japanese Curry in Japan
There are some very famous curry shops in Japan known for their Japanese curry. Many of these shops will offer the ability to customize your curry by choosing your level of spiciness and your level of sweetness. (Amai is sweet and Karai is spicy).
- Curry House CoCo Ichibanya is a chain of curry restaurants that are common near train stations all along the Yamanote line in Tokyo. They can be found all over Japan.
- Go Go Curry is another chain of curry shops that are easy to find. The menu seems a little more bare than the Coco Ichibanya chain, but the default curry has a great flavor.
- Moyan Curry touts having won several awards for their rich blend of curry sauce.
Japanese curry restaurant’s menu usually includes vegetable curry like eggplant, vegetable, or curry, meat curry like pork, beef, stewed chicken, seafood curry, and even curry ramen, but I most recommend getting the katsu curry that comes with a chicken or pork or minced meat fried cutlet.
Where to get Japanese Curry outside of Japan
Many ethnic markets will carry Japanese curry in packets. You can’t call it curry powder because it’s usually a vacuum-sealed roux made of flour and fats along with the curry powder, making for easier meal prep. You simply have to boil the bag in hot water to warm up the curry roux, and then you can add vegetables like potatoes or other ingredients to your curry.
How to serve and eat Japanese Curry
Japanese curry is often served on a plate with a bed of rice, but it can also be served out of a soup bowl. The manner of pouring the curry along with the rice can be done however you prefer. Japanese curry pairs best with Japanese short-grain rice, which is stickier and more round than the medium grain of Indian curry. There are usually a pallet-cleansing pickled vegetables called fukujinzuke served with it.