What is life without good food? Inspired by home cooking and travel, I create easy recipes for the everyday.
What Is Japanese Curry?
While sushi and miso soup are what most in the West associate with Japanese cuisine, Japanese curry is considered a national dish in its homeland. Legend has it that curry came to Japan from the Indian subcontinent via a shipwrecked British sailor—at least, according to this article in Vice. What numerous sources agree on is that curry paste and curry powders were first introduced to Japan by the British sometime during the Meiji era (1868-1912). The British themselves had first experienced what they called curry during their occupation of India.
Since its introduction, Japanese curry has evolved from its Indian roots into something uniquely Japanese. Today, it is considered a national dish in Japan, popular at home and in restaurants alike. You can read more about the history of curry in Japan in this fascinating article from the Japan Times.
From India to Japan via the British, and then back to Britain, Japanese curry has become a national favourite in the UK. It is sold primarily as 'katsu curry', where the curry sauce is drizzled over a chicken cutlet. To the frustration of many, there is widespread confusion over the name. The 'katsu' in katsu curry refers to the breaded cutlet that the curry sauce is drizzled over. But these days, 'katsu curry' in the UK can refer to any Japanese-style curry, whether it includes a breaded cutlet or not.
What's So Great About This Curry Recipe?
- It uses ingredients from your pantry.
- It goes well with vegan, vegetarian and meat cutlets, so it is a great option if you have different dietary requirements at the table.
- This sauce is very quick easy to make but looks and tastes impressive.
- It is low in fat, full of hidden vegetables, but gives you the satisfaction of a takeaway.
- It takes the same time to cook a shop-bought vegan/vegetarian or meat cutlet.
How I Came Up With This Recipe
My version of the curry sauce is not an authentic Japanese recipe. Instead, it is a paired down British version of Japanese curry. Because Japanese curry roux is hard to come by in the UK, I also cook mine from scratch.
I often make katsu curry (with a breaded cutlet, of course) when friends and family visit, using Nadiya Hussain's recipe from her book Nadiya's British Food Adventure. Her version is delicious and certainly worth the effort for a party. But I wanted something I could knock up quickly on a Friday or Saturday night while holding a beer. I bought a jarred sauce from a supermarket, but it was far too sweet for me. The flavour of the coconut in the sauce was also overwhelming. That was when I decided to create a quick version I could make myself from scratch.
My recipe does not have many ingredients. Most of them are found in a British pantry, or easily picked up in a supermarket. But the main difference between mine and Nadiya's recipe is that I use canned carrots instead of fresh. Nadiya's takes longer because you need to wait for the carrots to soften before blending the sauce. Canned carrots, on the other hand, are already soft when they come out of the tin. Using canned does not affect the flavour of the sauce but speeds up the cooking time with minimal nutritional compromise.
|Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
- 1 (300 gram / 10 oz) can sliced carrots
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder, or fresh equivalent
- 1 onion, finely chopped, or 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon cornflour or cornstarch
- 400 milliliters vegetable stock
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, or to taste
- Generous pinch salt
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional, for a spicy kick)
- To speed up the sauce, use onion powder instead of onion. This will slightly bring down the nutritional value of the sauce but will also cut the cooking time by around 5 minutes.
- To make a perfectly smooth sauce, pass it through a sieve to remove lumps.
- This sauce can be cooked ahead of time and frozen, making it even more convenient.
- Add the water from your can of carrots into your stock. It will enrich the flavour of the sauce slightly, while maximising the nutritional value of the canned carrots.
- Heat oil in a pan on medium heat.
- Meanwhile, finely chop your onion.
- Add onion to oil along with a generous pinch of salt and cook for around 5 minutes until the onion is soft.
- Add carrots, spices, garlic powder and sugar and cook for around 5 minutes.
- Add the cornflour and stir into the existing mixture.
- Add your hot vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes, or until carrots are very soft.
- Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, or to taste.
- Using a stick blender, blend the sauce until smooth.
I like to serve this sauce over tofu cutlets. While I would recommend using Japanese rice if you can get it, it also tastes great with my easy fluffy basmati rice. My guilty pleasure is to dribble it over fries for slightly more sophisticated and healthier 'chips and curry sauce'—a British chip shop classic.
© 2020 Kathryn Worthington
Kathryn Worthington (author) from Oxford, UK on April 28, 2020:
Thanks Liza! It's so versatile and can be used with meat and plant-based recipes. I hope that you enjoy it!
Liza from USA on April 27, 2020:
I'm not a vegan but, I love plant-based food. My husband and I have tried a variety of plant-based food as an alternative for a healthy choice. This vegan Japanese-style curry sauce looks absolutely delicious! I will try to make for sure. Thanks for sharing!