Many outside of Japan would be surprised to know that curry is one of the most popular dishes there. It is ubiquitous in many Japanese fast food and family restaurants, often served with rice. Another popular way of serving curry is with ramen or udon as seen in my Japanese Curry Udon. The taste of curry is described as “karaku oishii” that roughly translates to spicy delicious.
Japanese curry is a variety of curry all by itself. While most curries are thickened with coconut milk or yogurt, Japanese curry is roux based and tends to be mild and somewhat sweet. A wide variety of vegetables and meats are used but the most common are onions, carrots, and potatoes. Side dishes frequently served with curry are pork cutlet (tonkatsu), shredded cabbage, and pickled ginger (beni shoga).
The most common way of preparing Japanese curry is to use instant curry roux, which is available in blocks. They can be easily found in Asian grocery stores and come in three heat levels, mild, medium, and hot. Some are ready-made and come with sauce and vegetables.
I come from a culture predominated by hot and spicy curries that can be quite a challenge to my kids who have milder palates. Japanese curry is a good bridge for them into the world of delicious spicy food. While the instant curry roux is very convenient, I have always wanted to make this dish from scratch. I adapted the recipe below with Marc’s Homemade Japanese Curry Rice from No Recipes. For the roux, I used a mix of Malaysian curry powder, garam masala, tomato sauce, thick Worcestershire sauce, and rice flour, making it gluten free. I sweetened the curry with apple juice instead of grated apples.
Before we move on to the recipe, I would like to take a moment to announce a Facebook bento group I have recently created. There is definitely a growing interest in bento and lunch packing today. I have been packing lunch for Ro-Ri San and the boys ever since the boys started going to school and will continue to do so as long as they need it. The group on Facebook is known as Bento Banter and I invite you to join the group to share your bento and lunch packing experience with all of us. Please consider joining. I hope to see you there.
- 20 oz (560g) skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 medium sized onions, chopped
- 2 medium sized carrots, rolled cut into bite size pieces
- 6 medium sized potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1½ cups (360ml) apple juice
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp rice flour
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tbsp thick Worcestershire sauce
Heat a large Dutch oven with oil. Brown onions over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Turn up heat and add chicken. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Add in carrots. Pour in apple juice and water and allow it to come to a boil. Lower heat and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes. Skim off fat appearing on the surface. Add potatoes and continue to let it simmer for another 20 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the roux. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in rice flour and allow it to cook until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder, garam masala, and cayenne pepper. Give it a good mix. Add Worcestershire sauce and tomato ketchup and continue to stir until well incorporated and paste starts crumbling. Remove and set aside.
When meat and vegetables are ready, ladle about 2 cups of hot liquid from Dutch oven into the roux and mix till smooth. Pour mixture back into Dutch oven and gently stir until thickened. Add green peas and allow it to simmer for another 5 minutes.
Serve warm over rice or noodles.
I added a side of lightly stir-fried mixed vegetables. This Japanese Curry Rice is fragrant, mildly sweet, and very delicious. My second son, Ro-Jiro absolutely enjoys it, without having to down it with cups of water. Brings me right back to the curry scents of Yokosuka. Read about it in my Food Adventures in Japan.
Over the years of lunch packing, I have used many different containers for my boys’ bentos. This is one of my favorites for them when they were little. It is a small food flask that can keep food warm for a few hours and is perfect for rice and dishes like this curry. The side of vegetables is kept in a separate container. The food flask and container is then packed into an insulated lunch bag. The boys had the regular rectangular lunch bags. This one is mine.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!