When people think of curry, they probably don’t think of Japan. Instead, they probably think of India or Thailand, both well known for their wide variety of (delicious) curry. However, Japan has its own delectable version, and the dish is so popular that curry chain restaurants have sprung up all over Japan. I am a firm believer that the rich and hearty dish should not be missed (and in fact, curry is my always first meal when I go to Japan!). Here’s why.
Curry in Japan originated as early as 1872 and was introduced by Indian expats and the visiting British Royal Navy (who reportedly had curry as a regular feature on their menu). The Japanese later concocted their own version of curry, which is typically milder and sweeter (but no less flavorful), and while some of the spices are the same, the recipe is uniquely Japanese. The dish is typically made up of curry sauce (which contains flour, curry powder and oil), carrots, onions, potatoes and meat, and the most popular way to serve it is over rice with a side of tsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables).
Not only is Japanese curry uniquely delicious, their take on the popular dish has become a part of the Japanese food culture, making it a truly authentic experience. Curry dishes are also some of the cheapest meals you can buy with surprisingly enormous portions. (A win-win for anyone traveling on a budget!) In virtually every city, there are curry shops, like CoCo Curry House, where curry is the only item on the menu (though you can usually choose from various types of curry).
While I can possibly (ok, not really) see how someone could say curry in general looks unappetizing because it just looks like brown gravy, I challenge that naysayer to the taste test. With the exception of “Poo Curry” (yes, really) which is just a terrible idea all around as it is purposely made to look like poo (it’s not actually poo), Japanese curry is fabulous. The rich sauce has a surprising depth of flavor, and while the curry sauce base is made from store-bought cubes, the unique additions are what really gives Japanese curry its distinctive flavor.
In fact, on a recent episode of NHK’s Lunch On! tv show, a chef added overripe apples to enhance the sweetness and texture of the curry sauce. Who would have thought? Everybody makes it differently, but next time you bite into that delectable sauce, see if you can pick up the subtle notes of the flavor symphony on your tongue. Oishii!
If you’re feeling really adventurous and want to try and make your own Japanese curry, there are many recipes available online (even the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has posted their own recipe for the popular dish), and Japanese curry cubes are readily available in grocery stores that carry international foods.
But, if for some (crazy) reason you’re not a fan of the cultural phenomenon that is Japanese curry, don’t worry, there are plenty of other delicious dishes Japan is well known for.
Source: The Japan Times