It may not look like the most appetizing, most beautiful dish among Japanese cuisine, and Curry Rice is one of those foods you never really hear about outside of Japan, but almost every kid here holds it dear. When I was studying Japanese culture, I heard about sushi, miso, and teriyaki… but never about curry. Curry really isn’t a native Japanese food, having roots in India, but like many aspects of Japanese culture, its been adopted, changed and Japanized. Curry Rice has become almost a kind of soul food. Kids in Japanese school look forward to variations of curry rice, and its often served as a last meal. Its like Japanese mac and cheese. On those days nearly every plate is scrapped clean, one of the days where hashi [chopsticks] are replaced with a spoon. Here’s my version of Curry Rice using the rue (sauce) base available in nearly every store in Japan.
- rue/sauce base
- 2 onions
- 3 small carrots (2 large)
- 3 small potatoes (2 large)
- 1 packet mushrooms (I use bunashimeji)
- 3 small piman (bell peppers)
- 2 chicken breasts or other meat (about 300g)
- 1 can tuna in oil
- splash of olive oil
- 1 small can 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 4.5 cups water
- cooked rice
Boil about 5-6 cups water with seasoning (pepper, garlic, and a touch of salt). Peel and roughly cut the potatoes and carrots. They should be about the same size so they cook at the same pace. Prep onions, mushrooms, peppers. These can also be cut roughly. Th larger the size the more ‘chunky’ the stew will be, cut finer for a smoother curry.
Put the potatoes and carrots in the boiling water. In a large skillet above medium heat, add the tuna, optionally, you can just use the oil from the can and use the fish meat elsewhere. Add a splash of olive oil, about 1 tbsp. Add the onions and peppers, stirring occasionally. Let them cook about five minutes, then add diced chicken and mushrooms.
Check the potatoes with a fork. If the break apart, take the mixture off and strain out the potatoes. I use a strainer over a pot to retain the water for later. Return the strained vegetables to the pot and add the items from the skillet. Mix together. Add 3/4 cup coconut milk (this is optional) and 4.5 cups water, preferably saved from the water in which you cooked the vegetables. This will return more flavor to the rue.
Mix together well over medium heat. Open a the rue packets and add them to a ladle. Dissolve the rue cubes in the ladle using the water from the stew mixture, this will prevent it from clumping with the vegetables. Once all the rue is mixed in, let it cook for about 5 minutes on low heat. Serve.
Makes about 8 large servings.
More on Curry Rice
Curry Rice comes in many forms, and there are many brands of curry seasoning available. Each brand will have different ratios of water to rue cube, so be sure to follow the instructions on the packet. Curry also varies in heat, usually on a scale 1-5. Even 5 is generally pretty eatable when bought from a store. I usually choose 3, or mid range.
In addition to the type of curry used in the sauce, there are other ways to make Curry Rice unique. Just about any meat can be added, though usually its between chicken or pork since they wont alter the flavor profile of the rue as much as beef. In Okinawa, SPAM is the meat of common choice due to its low-cost. Often a fried pork cutlet, called katsu, is added on top for extra protein. In the video below, you’ll see I added a chicken katsu on top I got from a local grocery store.