If you visit Japan, you are bound to find signs of curry shops in every locality, sometimes two right next to each other. Curry originated from India, where lentils, vegetables, meat are cooked with a blend of spices ranging from liquid light hearted everyday curry eaten with rice to thick curry eaten with rotis and naan. Japanese curry is different, it is a thick, dark stew with vegetables, meat or sea food, eaten with rice, pickles, raw egg or cheese.
Born in India, the curry was taken by the British to England, nurtured and changed to suit their tastes, which turned the spicy Indian curry to a more subtle sweet stew, this was bought to Japan in the 19th century, during the world wars. The Japanese navy was modeling the British navy at the time and serving curry on board was a staple. In the early decades of the 20th century, curry spread from the navy to the public. It was a trend of eating western dishes that slowly became popular. Indian curry comparatively is difficult to prepare without knowing how to balance the spices which are put in separately. . Companies tried to make it as easy and convenient to cook as possible and hence the emergence of curry cube roux and instant curry pouches. 1950’s saw the debut of this instant curry roux which allowed households to make curry at home. Easy to use and versatile, it was hit among Japanese. Now it is the easiest thing to make.
- Cut your vegetables (onions, potato, carrots are a must) and choice of meat.
- Take a deep bottomed pan – add oil – add the vegetables and meat, sautee it for 10 minutes
- Add water and let the vegetables and meat boil on medium flame
- Add cubes of the roux to make the vegetables and meat. Let it simmer for 30 minutes. ( the amount of roux can be more or less according to preference)
- Serve with hot rice.
The roux was invented in japan. It consists of all the ingredients like spices, flour, vegetable stock an flavorings needed for the curry in the form of cubed blocks, which can be found anywhere in Japan. Every house has its own customized version of curry where they can add condiments like ketchup, chocolate, cream etc. It is also topped with fried cuts of meat and fish.
I tried making curry and added my own twist by adding honey and chilli powder. Sometimes I add vegetables like beans, peas and surprisingly, it all complements the curry.
The curry varies from region to region in Japan and there are special curries specific to the particular region like a pink colored cherry based curry from Yamagata prefecture famous for its cherry orchids, white sauce curry with scallops from Hakodate. Not only rice but curry have made its way to Curry udon, curry pan bread, and curry flavored snacks.
Japanese style curry has even gone to space. Mamoru Mohri took sachets of instant curry to space, it was popular among other astronauts who were bored with bland food. These days curry is a recognized space food.
The Japanese have always imported western cultures, put their own twist on them and made it their own. This sometimes works and sometimes may not but the Japanese curry can be given a two thumbs up for its innovation and versatility with confidence.