Easy Weeknight Japanese Curry Rice

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Craving a soul-warming, flavorful meal that’s both easy to prepare and endlessly customizable? Look no further than Japanese curry! This versatile dish transcends the realm of cafeteria mystery meat and watery gravy, offering a symphony of savory, sweet, and umami notes that will leave you wanting more.

This guide dives deep into the wonderful world of Japanese curry, exploring its origins, variations, and of course, a delicious homemade recipe that’s perfect for busy weeknights.

Authentic Vegan Japanese Curry
Authentic Vegan Japanese Curry

A Brief History of Japanese Curry

While the exact origin story remains shrouded in some mystery, Japanese curry is believed to have emerged in the late 19th century. The dish draws inspiration from European-style stews introduced by the British during the Meiji Restoration. The Japanese palate adapted the concept, incorporating readily available ingredients like roux blocks (a pre-made thickening agent) and fusing them with Asian flavors like soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), and dashi (a flavorful broth).

Today, Japanese curry is a national comfort food, enjoyed by people of all ages. From comforting homestyle versions to regional specialties with unique ingredients, the beauty of Japanese curry lies in its adaptability.

The All-Important Roux Block

The heart and soul of Japanese curry lies in the roux block, a brick of pre-cooked flour and fat flavored with spices like curry powder and turmeric. These blocks come in a variety of spice levels, from mild to hot, allowing you to customize the heat to your preference. Popular brands include S&B Golden Curry and House Foods Curry roux blocks, readily available in most Asian grocery stores or the international aisle of larger supermarkets.

Stock Up on Savory Staples

Japanese curry relies on a core set of pantry staples to build its rich flavor profile. Here’s what you’ll need to have on hand:

Vegetables: Potatoes, carrots, onions, and bell peppers are classic additions, but feel free to experiment with other options like broccoli, cauliflower, or eggplant.

  • Protein: Chicken, pork, or even seafood like shrimp or tofu can be incorporated into your curry.
  • Aromatics: Garlic and ginger add depth and complexity to the base flavor.
  • Dashi: This traditional Japanese broth forms the foundation of many savory dishes. You can use pre-made dashi powder or kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) to create your own.
  • Soy Sauce: A splash of soy sauce adds essential umami to the dish.
  • Mirin: This sweet rice wine balances the savory and spicy elements.
  • Honey or Sugar: A touch of sweetness helps to round out the flavor profile.

  • The Ultimate Weeknight Japanese Curry Recipe (Serves 4)

    This recipe offers a basic framework for a delicious and comforting Japanese curry. Feel free to adjust the vegetables, protein, and spice level to suit your preferences.

    # Ingredients:

    2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 medium potato, diced
  • 1 bell pepper (any color), diced (optional)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (or substitute with your preferred protein)
  • 4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
  • 1 Japanese curry roux block (medium spice level)
  • Cooked rice, for serving

  • # Instructions:

    1. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger, cook for an additional minute until fragrant.
    2. Add carrots, potatoes, and bell pepper (if using) to the pot. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften.
    3. Add chicken (or your chosen protein) to the pot and cook until browned on all sides.
    4. Pour in chicken broth, water, soy sauce, mirin, and honey (or sugar). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
    5. Reduce heat to low and add the roux block. Using a whisk or spoon, break up the block and stir it into the curry until fully melted and sauce is thickened.
    6. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. You may want to add additional soy sauce for saltiness or a touch of honey for sweetness.
    7. Serve hot over cooked rice. Enjoy!