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All about Japanese curry

Much less well-known than its sushi, tempura and ramen compatriots, curry - or "kare raisu" - is nevertheless one of Japan's most popular dishes. The average Japanese eats it 78 times a year, which is more than one a week! It's equally popular with students, large families and gourmets. Less spicy than the Indian version, its thick, subtly sweet sauce makes it the perfect family comfort dish. There are as many recipes as there are cooks who prepare it. It's also a popular accompaniment to one of Japan's favorite foods: rice! It's not eaten with chopsticks, but with a spoon. As curry is a serious business, a "G3 Summit" was held in Paris in 2022, bringing together professionals and amateurs from France, the UK and Japan.

Curry Japonais

The fabulous history of Japanese curry

Curry originated in India, but was introduced to Japan in the mid-19th century by English sailors. It differs from Indian curry in that its taste is milder and sweeter, and its texture thicker. It was after the Second World War that curry became accessible to all, and was served in restaurants and sold in supermarkets in the form of dehydrated cubes. The most popular Japanese brand is S&B. Curry is also present in neighboring South Korea, where it was introduced during Japanese rule.

It can be bought as a ready-to-dilute stock cube, known as "curry roux", but to give the impression of cooking, the Japanese like to add their own little touch in the form of a "secret ingredient" that they pass on to their loved ones. Indeed, every family has its own recipe and favorite ingredient: soy sauce, grated apple for sweetness, vinegar or yoghurt for acidity, and even chocolate or instant coffee! It's an everyday dish that can be adapted to suit all tastes. The more motivated prepare their own mix (made from flour, butter and the following spices: coriander, mustard seeds, pepper, turmeric, cumin, celery, cardamom, red pepper, ginger and meti). It's suitable for all diets, as you can add whatever you like: meat (beef, chicken or pork) or vegetables.

What are the different Japanese curry dishes?

Durai kare

This "dry curry" consists of beef and pork steamed with spices, vegetables and a little broth. It is served with rice and fried or hard-boiled eggs.

Ishiyaki curry

Ishiyaki" is a traditional stone grill on which curry is cooked in a stone bowl.

Kare pan

This small bun is filled with thick curry and then deep-fried. It is very popular as a snack at any time of day.

Katsu curry

In this version, the curry is accompanied by breaded and fried pork.

Kuro curry

This recipe contains no turmeric, but chocolate, seaweed and squid ink. The result is a dark sauce full of flavor.

Curry udon

Udon are thick noodles made from wheat flour. In this recipe, the noodles are cooked in a curry broth.

Yaki curry

This recipe, originally from southern Japan, consists of a dish of curried rice baked in the oven and coated with egg, sometimes topped with cheese.

Curry soup

In Hokkaido, one of the specialties is "soup curry", which is actually a soup with a spicier, hotter taste than classic curry rice.

Nos currys japonais

Japanese curry recipe

Preparing it at home is almost as easy as making miso soup! Here's the most classic recipe, with chicken, potatoes and carrots:

INGREDIENTS Serves 4:

    • 3 carrots
    • 3 potatoes
    • 2 onions
    • 2 chicken breasts (or meat of your choice)
    • 4 squares of curry roux tablet (if you wish to make your own powder, mix coriander, mustard seeds, pepper, turmeric, cumin, celery, cardamom, red pepper, ginger and meti)
    • Water
    • Sesame oil

INSTRUCTIONS

    • Cut the carrots, onions, potatoes and chicken into equal-sized pieces.
    • Heat a little sesame oil in a pot and brown the chicken pieces.
    • When the chicken pieces are white but not yet browned, you can add the vegetables. Sauté, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
    • Add water to the level of the vegetables and bring to the boil.
    • Cover and simmer over medium heat for at least 30 minutes.
    • Check that the potatoes and carrots are cooked.
    • Add 4 squares of curry powder and mix well.
    • Reduce over medium heat until a slightly thick, pasty texture is obtained. Normally, you don't need to add salt, as the ready-made tablets contain it. If you need more, add a little soy sauce.
    • Enjoy with white rice, by the spoonful!

RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE CURRY ROUX

The roux thickens the preparation and forms the smooth, creamy sauce characteristic of curry.

INGREDIENTS

    • Butter
    • Wheat flour
    • Japanese curry powder
    • Garam masala

INSTRUCTIONS

    • Mix the butter and flour in a saucepan over low heat.
    • Add all the spices and cook for about 25 minutes (depending on the quantities used), stirring constantly. Now it's ready!

Once cooled, the roux will solidify. You can store it for up to a month in the fridge, or up to 3 months in the freezer.

There are so many recipes to choose from, feel free to get creative and add your favorite ingredients! You can also prepare large quantities and then divide them into several curries with different seasonings to vary the pleasures and flavors! One with pepper and chilli to spice it up, another with chocolate or apple... Anything is possible in your kitchen! If you prefer to use curry powder, simply mix it with butter or oil and flour. If you've got leftovers, curry can be frozen or cooked as a gratin, with a layer of curry, a layer of rice and then Emmental cheese, all baked in the oven.

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