When I was little, my mom made one of my favorite comfort foods of all time using Japanese curry (カレーライス – karei raisu), a pre-made curry mix easily acquired at the local grocery store. These instant curry mixes usually take the form of bricks that look a bit like bulbous chocolate bars and are loaded with saturated fat, MSG and preservatives. As much as I wanted to hate this junk food, every bite was irresistible to deny.

Japanese Curry (Karei Raisu)

I still miss it but not enough to consume the 🚫 saturated fat, 🚫MSG and 🚫 preservatives. This is why I’ve been working on my recipe for Japanese curry from scratch for the past few weeks. It may take a little more effort than using the pre-made packages, but it doesn’t require any extra time.

So what’s Japanese curry, you ask? It’s thicker and sweeter than most curries of the world and has a depth of flavor that’s unique, thanks to an ample dose of caramelized onions. With big chunks of tender meat (we’ll be opting out of this for a vegan-friendly dish), carrots and potatoes (we’ll also be substituting this with sweet potatoes), Japanese curry is unlike your typical curry. Think hearty stew.

INGREDIENTS

For the curry

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2-inch ginger, grated
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons curry powder (i.e. Japanese brand S&B)
  • 3 cups homemade vegetable stock
  • 1.5 cups carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1 small apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 2 tablespoons, Chunou sauce or The Wizard’s Vegan Worcestershire Sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 cup green peas or edamame

For the roux

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large wok, sauté grated garlic and ginger in the oil.
  2. Add the onions, and stir to coat with oil. Cover with a lid and allow it to cook for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove the lid and continue to cook the onions until caramelized (about 20-30 minutes).  Stir occasionally.
  4. When the onions are fully caramelized, add the curry powder and sauté briefly until fragrant.
  5. Add the stock, carrots, grated apple, chunou sauce (or vegan Worcestershire sauce), tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, cover and simmer until the carrots and potatoes are tender (about 15-20 minutes).
  6. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and flour. Use a spatula to store constantly until the roux is lightly brown.
  7. When the curry is ready, taste and adjust salt to taste. Finish the curry in the roux and add the green peas (or edamame); bring to boil to thicken the sauce.
  8. Serve with hot rice, or on top of a bowl of udon. For a healthier alternative, serve with brown rice and quinoa.

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