Ever wondered how to make Japanese style curry rice from scratch? Well look no further! Curry Rice is a staple in Japanese homes. It's warm, comforting and not too spicy, it's loved by children and adults alike! It's easy to make Japanese style curry rice using boxed roux cubes, but why not try making it from scratch with this delicious recipe?
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A Brief History of Japanese Curry
Japanese curry rice has an interesting history.
As everyone probably knows, curry originated from India, the land of spice. It then traveled to U.K and then made its way from the U.K to Japan!
Food history is always fascinating isn't it?
Japanese Curry Rice (カレーライス) is a lot less spicy than its Indian counterparts, it's also quite sweet and thick like gravy or stew. It's safe to say that curry and rice is now one of the most popular dishes in Japan. It is eaten and enjoyed at home, restaurants, diners and takeaways.
Although we usually use pre-made curry cubes (even lots of diners and restaurants do too), I'm going to introduce how to make Japanese curry and rice from scratch without using pre-made curry roux. (If you want tips on how to use boxed curry roux, check out my other post here. It includes lots of secret ingredients!)
I realised that pre-made Japanese curry cubes are not so accessible in local supermarkets in some countries or they can be expensive, so I thought this is a useful recipe to share!
What to put in a Japanese Curry
Japanese curry and rice usually uses:
- Meat (Beef, Pork, Chicken or Seafood)
Beef, Pork, Chicken and Seafood curries are equally popular I'd say.
Even though today's recipe uses beef, you can always replace it with any meat you'd like. If you want to make it vegetarian you can omit the meat and make substitutions such as using coconut oil instead of beef fat etc. I'll be working on a vegetarian summer curry in the near future!
This recipe makes about 4-5 portions and I always recommend to make a big batch so that you can store the leftovers in your freezer for some other time! You can use leftovers to make things like curry pan (bread filled with curry) or katsu curry.
Whether making curry from scratch or using the roux cubes, most Japanese people add unusual ingredients to their curry to add depth of flavour. This way everyone can have their own secret ingredient that makes their curry different to everyone else.
We'll be using some of these ingredients, but here's a few extra if you want to experiment.
- Apple (Jam, juice, sauce! Some people use grated apple but make sure to peel the skin first, otherwise it can become grainy.)
- Coffee (Adds depth and a touch of bitterness)
- Cocoa / Chocolate powder (Softens spice and adds complexity)
- Worcestershire Sauce (Adds a touch of sourness)
- Miso paste (Adds umami, make sure to add it at the end after turning off the heat so it doesn't lose flavour)
- Wine (Compliments the meat and gives it a gravy like taste)
- Chocolate (Adds a touch of sweetness and smooths out the spiciness)
There are even some crazy ones like Calpis (a strange milky soda you can buy in Japan) and matcha powder! The possibilities are endless.
Day 2 Curry is better? (Myth?)
What is that all about?
What every Japanese family knows about curry is, second day curry is the best curry! Meaning Japanese curry tastes better next day than on the day of cooking.
As a Japanese person, I personally think that is true. That's why I recommend to refrigerate the homemade roux overnight too.
Well, I did a bit of research and found a scientific reason for why curry always tastes better the next day.
Why is it better?
Over night, the ingredients (vegetables and meat) in curry start to give out "umami" (Glutamic acid)" as well as fructose, starch, fibre...etc
So it generally builds up depth of flavour and thickness over night. It also becomes richer and more complex. So, that's why it's better to eat it the next day if you can wait! Or eat it twice in two days and compare the difference...
Watch our video for how to make Japanese curry from scratch
Making Japanese curry from scratch takes some time and commitment (which is why so many people just use the roux) but it's so worth it and you can really make it your own! If you want to know how to make the ultimate Japanese Curry Rice using roux cubes, check out my post here. There's lots of secret tips and ingredients to help you make your curry the best it can be!
You can also level up this dish by making it into a Katsu Curry! See my post on how to make crispy and delicious pork cutlet to place on top! You won't regret it!Print
Japanese Style Curry Rice from Scratch (カレーライス)
- Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
- Yield: 4-5 Portions
How to make your own delicious and complex Japanese Beef Curry using homemade roux, made from scratch! (Serves 5-6)
- 3 ½ tsp curry powder (I used S&B Japanese curry powder)
- 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)
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 3 tbsp marmalade
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- 2 tsp ginger powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp butter
- 250g (½ lb) beef shoulder chopped into bitesize pieces
- 1 carrot peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
- 2 potatoes peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
- 600ml black tea
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tbsp honey
- ½ tbsp apple jam (apple sauce or apple juice also okay)
- ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp coffee powder
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 2 tbsp red wine
- chili powder to taste
- 4-5 Bowls of Cooked white rice (See our post on how to cook Japanese style rice here)
- 3 Tbsp Fukujinzuke pickles (optional)
Making the Roux
- 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.
- 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.)
Making the Curry
- Cut your meat into bitesize pieces and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Heat a pot on medium and add 1 tbsp butter.
- Once melted, add your beef and fry until the surfaces are sealed.
- Next add your carrot and potato. (Cut them into small cubes so they cook faster. You can also switch these out for your preferred vegetables.)
- Add 1 tbsp of soy sauce and stir everything around, allow to cook for a few minutes.
- Add the curry roux and gradually pour in 600ml of black tea. Mix them together until combined.
- Now you can add your secret ingredients, I added ½ tbsp honey, ½ tbsp apple jam, ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce, ½ tsp garam masala, ½ tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp coffee powder and 2 tbsp red wine. (You can add more and less depending on your tastes and what's available to you.)
- You can also add chili powder to increase the spiciness.
- Mix and simmer until it reaches your desired thickness. (About 10- 20 mins)
- Enjoy with Japanese white rice and some crunchy fukujinzuke pickles!
Cooking time doesn't include the time the roux is rested in the fridge. It's not an essential step but it tastes better the next day.
The curry roux is a paste and can't be made into blocks (unless you try freezing it). If you want to store it, you can keep it in the fridge for 1 week or freeze it for 1 month.
I recommend dividing the roux into portions before freezing, this recipe is for 4-5 portions.
You can also freeze the curry after it's been made. Transfer to a glass container (to prevent staining) and remove any potato in the curry (it doesn't freeze well.) It can be frozen for 1 month. Microwave to reheat.
If you want a spicier curry, you can add more chilli powder. If you want it to be sweeter add more honey and if you want it to be saltier add more soy sauce or salt. You can make it perfect for your tastes!
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 4 hours
- Category: Meat
- Method: Boiling
- Cuisine: Japanese
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Frequently Asked Questions
What does Japanese curry taste like?
Compared to Indian curry, I would say Japanese curry is less spicy but thicker and sweeter. It's a well loved dish by children and adults in Japan!
How do you make Japanese curry thicker?
The best way to thicken curry is to cook it for longer, it intensifies the flavour too.
he curry roux already contains flour so I don't recommend adding thickening agents such as corn starch here... unfortunately patience is key with curry!
Is Japanese curry spicy?
In general Japanese curry is not spicy. Most Japanese people aren't so good with spicy food, but that isn't to say that spicy Japanese curry doesn't exist!
There are three main types of Japanese curry:
• Sweet - Suitable for kids and kinda like stew with some curry flavour
• Medium - Mildly spicy, a good middle ground
• Hot - Quite hot but still not as spicy as curry from countries like India or Thailand.
What is Japanese curry called?
It's either カレーライス (Curry rice) or just カレー (Curry).
How can I improve my Japanese curry?
Whether you're using premade box curry roux or making your own homemade roux, you can always improve your curry by using secret ingredients. I've listed quite a few in this recipe, and you can always check out my secret tips for improving curry roux on this post here.
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