Although it is only a relative newcomer to the cuisine of Japan, curry and rice can be bought in any town across the country from a huge range of restaurant chains. Karē is based upon a British Raj style curry, so has more in common with Victorian English cookery than it does true Indian cuisine, and although traditional Northern Indian style curries have recently found their way into Japan’s diet, Japanese karē remains one of the country’s most popular dishes.
Instant karē sauces are readily available from convenience stores and supermarkets in roux form, and they’re all delicious, but we’ve chosen to make our own from scratch. Straying slightly from the path of tradition we’ve gone for a chunkier version of karē with more vegetables and meat, but we still have the smooth, silky, sweet sauce that everyone loves. If you leave out the vegetables and meat from our recipe you’ll have an excellent sauce for katsu-karē or a base for curry udon soup.
Curry roux ingredients.
- 750g onions
- 8 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 75g plain flour
- 3 rounded tablespoons curry powder (Japanese curry powder will give a more authentic flavour due to the blend of spices, or use any mild curry powder)
- 600ml vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
- 15g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon Yuzusco sauce (a hot sauce made from yuzu, you can substitute with 1 tablespoon each of hot sauce and yuzu/lemon juice)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons ginger, grated
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- Cut the onions in half lengthways, then slice into thin half moons approximately 2mm wide. Heat up 2 tablespoons of your oil in a frying pan and add your onions, cook them gently on a medium to low heat for around 40 minutes until they are deeply caramelised, sticky and reduced in mass to just 200g. These dark, sweet onions are a key part of the flavour profile of the karē, so don’t be tempted to skip this stage or cook them faster. Set the onions aside. While the onions are cooking, get your stock heating up in a saucepan ready for the next stage.
- Heat up the remaining oil in a saucepan, and when warm add your flour and cook over a medium heat for a minute or two. Once the flour has cooked out and you start to see white foam developing at the edges, you can add the curry powder and cook for a further minute.
- A ladleful at a time, add the stock, stirring well after each addition with a whisk. Once all the stock has been incorporated and the sauce is smooth and thick, add all the remaining ingredients and the caramelised onions. Continue to cook the sauce for another ten minutes, stirring constantly. Using an immersion blender, process this sauce to finish your roux, then allow to cool completely.
This recipe makes enough roux to serve 8 people, it keeps in the fridge for a week or so and freezes well. The following recipe only uses half of the roux, but that means you have some roux available to make instant karē at another time.
- Half a quantity of the above karē roux
- 350g thinly sliced beef
- 200g kabocha
- 200g carrot
- 300g potato
- 400-600ml stock
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- Prepare the vegetables by peeling and cutting into even bitesized pieces. Par-cook these in a steamer until they’re nearly cooked through but retain a slightly firm centre.
- Using the oil, fry the beef in a pan until any liquid has evaporated and the fat has browned slightly. Mix in your karē roux and slowly add the stock bit by bit, stirring constantly to create a smooth sauce. This isn’t an exact quantity as each person’s preference for looseness varies quite a lot- we tend to use 500ml.
- Gently fold the part-cooked vegetables into the sauce and simmer for another 7-8 minutes, allowing the flavours to combine and the vegetables to finish cooking. You can add some more liquid at this point if you like, or simmer for a bit longer if the sauce needs thickening. Serve with Japanese rice.
Serves 4-6 people.