Ditch the pre-made curry cubes and try making your own Japanese style curry roux from scratch at home! This curry roux paste is rich in flavour and can be made ahead of time for an easy curry during the week. It's also highly customisable, so let's get started!
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What is Curry Roux?
Curry roux is a block containing fat, flour and spices, it looks kinda like a thick chocolate bar. The fat holds it together, the flour helps thicken the curry and the spices are for the flavour. In short, curry roux is used to make curries with ease. My recipe will be a curry roux paste rather than a block.
Making a complex and tasty curry roux can be quite time consuming, which is why so many people use the premade boxed curry roux by brands such as golden curry, vermont and java. In fact, even Japanese curry restaurants use them!
If you want to learn more about Japanese boxed curry roux, including details about each brand and their different features, check out my curry roux post here.
History of Curry Roux
Roux is a French technique of mixing flour and fat together on a heat and then using it to thicken sauces and add a richer taste. When curry travelled from the U.K to Japan, it started as a roux mixed with curry powder, something we came to call “curry roux”.
Originally, the term "curry roux" was used by chefs and it referred to the simple base of the curry; butter, flour and curry powder. Over time, more ingredients were added to curry roux and it become more complex with essence of meat and vegetables.
Essentially, curry roux become a concentrated curry and now, the Japanese loan word “curry roux” (kare ru or カレールー) is used by everyday people and restaurants to mean the curry sauce itself. So if someone in Japan offers you more "roux", they're not offering to give you a free box of curry cubes, they're asking if you'd like more curry on your plate!
Benefits of making your own curry roux
You might wonder why not just buy the curry roux cubes and save all the time and effort, right? But actually, there are benefits to making it yourself!
- It's highly customisable, meaning you can leave out the spices you don't like and add ones you love! You can make the perfect curry for you!
- Spices are easier to find than Japanese curry roux, so it's more accessible.
- The initial cost of buying all the spices might be expensive, but actually it works out cheaper than the premade roux in the long run. The spices will make countless batches of curry roux and you can use them in other dishes too.
- No added preservatives or chemicals.
- Japanese curry roux is not usually vegetarian/vegan. Vegetarians can swap beef fat for butter and vegans can use coconut butter or vegan butter in my recipe. Bouillon can be replaced with vegetable stock too.
Tips for making curry roux
Here are a few tips for making your curry roux the best it can be!
Toasting the spices
Heating the spices in a dry frying pan helps release the flavours in your spices, especially if the spices have been hanging around in the back of your cupboard for a while.
The purpose of the curry roux is to be a concentrated block of flavour, so we want the spices to reach their full potential.
In my recipe, I toast the spices I want to stand out, and then add the spices that I want to be more subtle later on without toasting. But essentially, you can toast all the spices together.
You might think that adding caramelised onion to the roux is a bit strange, I mean, why not do that when you make the curry?
Well, my main reason is to save time when I make the actual curry. Caramelising onion takes about 30 minutes, and the roux needs about 2 hours to simmer. I prefer to do all the time-consuming parts in one go. When it's time to make the curry, it's only gonna take 20 minutes.
The caramelised onion also adds some sweetness to the roux.
Because of the onion, this roux should be kept refrigerated and used within one week. (It can also be frozen for up to one month.)
My homemade curry roux doesn't include any salt, and you also don't need to add any salt when you make your curry either. Instead, I use bouillon, which is like a stock with added salt often used to make gravy.
I used 2 maggi bouillon cubes mixed with 900ml of boiling water. I dissolve the cubes in the water before pouring it to my curry roux and then simmer it down for 2 hours without a lid. The long simmer helps the paste become nice and smooth, but if you want to speed things up, you can add the same number of bouillon cubes to less water. (It might not be as smooth though.)
If you want to use your own homemade stock, make sure to add salt accordingly.
You can use beef, chicken or vegetable bouillon, I personally used beef.
How to use homemade Curry Roux
You can use this homemade curry roux just like you use the premade boxed versions! I'll break it down in steps.
- Seal the meat to lock in the flavour and juices by frying it first. (Just fry until the outside is cooked, it doesn't need to be cooked all the way through.)
- Add your vegetables. If you're using onions, add them first and then fry for a few minutes before adding the other veg.
- Add your homemade roux and 600-700ml of liquid. (This can be water but I like to use tea or dashi. Something with flavour but no added salt.) Note: don't use a salty stock for the liquid because there's already concentrated bouillon in the roux.
- Simmer and thicken for 10-20 mins.
- Serve with rice!
What is Japanese curry roux made of?
It's basically a blend of fat, flour and spices. All brands have different ratios and types of spices. Many boxed curry rouxs contain preservatives and MSG.
Which is the best Japanese curry roux?
Well there's no answer for this question because it depends on preference! That's why making your own is the best, you can make it to suit your own tastes. If I have to choose a brand of roux, I'd pick Java though.
What's in Japanese curry powder?
I use S&B curry powder which contains turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, black pepper, cayenne pepper and dried citrus peel. Japanese curry is usually made with garam masala too.
Is Japanese curry spicy?
Typically Japanese curry is not too spicy. It's considered a family dish in Japan and enjoyed by children and adults. Of course, you can add chili to make it spicier.
How is Japanese curry different to Indian curry?
Japanese curry is thicker and more like gravy/stew.
Step by step recipe
Homemade Japanese Curry Roux (カレールー)
- Total Time: 2 hours 40 mins
- Yield: 4-5 Portions 1x
Ditch the pre-made curry cubes and try making your own Japanese style curry roux from scratch at home! This curry roux paste is rich in flavour and can be made ahead of time for an easy curry during the week. (Roux makes enough curry for 4-5 portions)
- 3 ½ tsp curry powder (I used S&B)
- 2 ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp beef fat (or lard)
- 3 garlic cloves finely minced
- 15g fresh ginger finely minced
- 1 whole white onion thinly sliced
- 50ml water
- 3 tbsp flour
- 900ml of beef bouillon liquid stock (see note)
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 3 tbsp marmalade
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- 2 tsp ginger powder
- 1 bay leaf
- Start by adding 3 ½ tsp curry powder and 2 ½ tsp cumin to a pan (dry, no oil) and heat on medium. Mix them together and heat them until the flavour is release and the colour has darkened slightly.
- Take a new pan and heat on medium. Once it's hot, add 1 tbsp of beef fat. (You can use oil or butter instead.)
- Once the fat has melted a little, add 3 crushed garlic cloves and 15g fresh ginger to the pan, fry until fragrant.
- Remove any excess beef fat and add 1 thinly sliced white onion.
- Fry the onion until caramelized for approximately 30 minutes (the onions will become dark brown in colour and soft). Stir occasionally and add 50ml of water half way through to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan and help make it into a paste.
- Once the liquid has reduced to nothing and the onions resemble a thick paste, add 3 tbsp of flour and mix thoroughly.
- Next add the toasted curry powder and cumin from earlier, mix well.
- Add a small amount of bouillon liquid stock and mix until more or less smooth (no big lumps of flour etc).
- Add the rest of the bouillon gradually, mixing well each time. You might want to switch to a whisk to help make it smooth.
- Add 3 tbsp marmalade, 2 tsp coriander powder, ½ tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp cardamom powder and 2 tsp of ginger powder to the mixture and mix/whisk until incorporated.
- Add a bay leaf and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and removing any foam from the top using a mesh spoon.
- Once thickened to a paste texture, transfer to a container and allow to cool.
- Store in the fridge until use. (Preferably overnight.)
- To use, fry your meat (to seal the surfaces), add your vegetables, homemade curry roux and approx 600-700ml of water. Mix well and simmer until thickened. It takes about 10-20 minutes.
For the bouillon in the curry paste, I add 2 beef flavour maggi bouillon cubes to 900ml of water. Actually, you can speed up the cooking time by dissolving the cubes in less water but the shorter cooking time might result in the paste not being as smooth.
See my full recipe on how to make beef curry here. (Includes secret tips and ingredients)
Keep refrigerated and use within one week. (Freeze for up to one month.)
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
- Category: From scratch
- Method: Simmering
- Cuisine: Japanese
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