Saturday, March 31, 2012

Japanese Curry Rice (カレーライス)

Japanese curry rice, カレーライス (karē raisu), is a dish having its roots in European cuisine, a "yoshoku" food. Curry is insanely popular in Japan, though Japanese curry is unlike Thai or Indian curries; much thicker and sweeter, it's more like a stew, flavored with curry. 

Introduced to Japan by the British during the Meiji era, the curry typically contains beef along with carrot, potatoes and sometimes peas as well, which are simmered in the curry sauce until thickened. Typically, the curry is served with rice, eaten with a spoon, and garnished with a pickle known as "fukujinzuke" (福神漬), a mixed pickle of 7 vegetables, which gets its name from the Seven Gods of Fortune.  

My recipe is a combination of my Mom's method, as well as the instructions from multiple boxes of premade curry base. 

Japanese curry is often known as "curry rice" (karē raisu), as it's always served with sticky, short-grained Japanese rice. Though you CAN make a homemade curry roux base, most people prefer to purchase pre-made roux bases, which are sold in blocks that kind of look like chocolate bars. I've never made curry from scratch; always preferring to use the premade "bricks". The key is to break the block into smaller pieces so they will melt faster, and to add the curry towards the end of cooking with the pot off of the heat; if you stew the curry for a long time after the curry base has been added, the flavors will weaken. 

The different brands of curry roux range from bland to sweet to spicy; Serious Eats posted a great taste test article on the different brandsVermont Curry, in Medium-Hot is my personal favorite; it's got the perfect blend of sweetness and spice, even the ingredients are baffling (Banana, cocoa & Gouda??). If you REALLY want to get fun with it, mix up chunks of roux from different brands and create your own "custom" base. 

Japanese Curry Rice

1-2 Tbsp oil or butter
1 lb chuck, cut into chunks
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
5 1/2 cups of water or beef broth
1/2 Fuji apple, grated (optional - for added sweetness)
3 medium carrots, peeled & cut into rounds
3 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
1 box of premade Curry roux, broken into chunks.
Fukujinzuke for garnish

Heat 1/2 of the oil or butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the meat on all sides, then remove from pot and set aside. 

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining oil or butter. Saute the onion and celery until just tender and translucent. 

Add the water or broth. Bring to a boil and add the meat, grated apple, carrots and potatoes; simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. 

Be sure to skim off any foam that accumulates on the surface (I refer to this as "scunge"). 

Remove the pot from heat and gently mix in the chunks of curry roux. Return to LOW heat and stir until melted and thickened, about 15 minutes. 

Serve with rice and fukujinzuke. 


  1. I made this tonight without the apple and it was delicious! I had never even heard of ground chuck before but now I'm glad I know!

  2. B&F, I make it w/o apple all the time; it just depends on if I have one on hand or not :)

    So glad you enjoyed the curry!!