Kanako's Kitchen

Japanese Curry

Posted in main dish, Recipe, rice by Kanako Noda on November 4, 2009

curryIt’s probably not the first thing you think of, but if you ask me Japan’s true national dish is curry. Japanese people are crazy for the stuff: it’s served constantly, both at home and in restaurants. I think it has a good claim to be Japan’s best-loved dish.

Of course, curry isn’t from Japan. As everybody knows, curry is originally Indian, but the dish came to Japan in the late 19th century through the colonial route, via Britain. This may explain why compared to Indian curry, Japanese curry is usually quite mild, sweet even, and certainly never very spicy.

I’ve met some Canadians who are really into Japanese culture, and they all complained that whenever Japanese people invited them for dinner, they made curry! It’s easy to understand why they run into it so often at parties: this dish scales up very well, so it’s ideal for big gatherings, parties, and the like. And since everyone in Japan loves the stuff, it’s very often served to guests. (In honor of this, the recipe below is for 20 people!)

I’ll admit it: Westerners sometimes fail to see the point of Japanese curry. I can see why. If you’re used to Indian food, our way of making it could strike you as a little unexciting. I’ve come to the conclusion this is one of those dishes that divides cultures more than it brings them together: almost everyone in Japan loves Japanese style curry but reactions abroad are more mixed.

Ingredients (serves 20)

ingredientsWhat you absolutely need for proper curry:

  • Beef (or chicken or pork) – 1 kg.
    Alternatively, you could make it with a seafood mix.
  • Onions – five medium ones. (Using lots of onions is the secret to great curry.)
  • Carrots – two-three medium
  • Tomatoes – five or six ripe ones (canned is ok)
  • Potatoes – three or four (If you like, you can use more)
  • Garlic – two cloves
  • Broth – two cubes
  • Cooking oil – 6 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • curry sauce mixYour favorite Japanese brand of curry sauce mix – 1.5 entire packs
    In Japan, most families mix different brands, to their taste! You can keep the sauce mix in the frige for a long time, so even if you need less than one pack, it’s ok to open two packs.

For this dinner, we also added:

  • Pumpkin – one small one
  • Bell peppers – three
  • Mushrooms – one pack

It’s also popular to add

  • Aubergines
  • Ground Meat
  • Spinach

To enrich the taste, Japanese people have been known to put in a little bit of:

  • Honey (a popular choice)
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Chocolate (yes, really!)
  • Apple
  • Hot dogs (some families’ curry recipes are out of control!)
  • Egg
  • Red wine (quite a common one)
  • Laurel leaves

Some toppings people have been known to add at the table

  • Fried Okra
  • Mayonnaise
  • Processed cheese (!)

All of which gets served over


  • Cube the meat
  • Chop the carrots into random, irregular chunks
  • Julienne the onions
  • Chop and crush the garlic
  • Peel the tomatoes (by boiling them for 60 seconds then pulling off the skin) and get rid of the seeds
  • Chop the rest of the vegetables into largish chunks

boil tomato peal tomato ingredients cut


  1. In a very big casserole, heat a little bit of oil and brown the garlic
  2. Brown the onions over medium heat, stirring until they become translucent
  3. Add the meat and brown it
    fry garlic stir fry onion translucent onion add meat
  4. Add the vegetables and the stock cubes, season with salt and papper
  5. Cover with water, bring to a boil
  6. Cook everything thoroughly for several hours, skimming off any scum that rises using a slotted spoon
    add all the vegetables season add water bring it to boil
  7. Separately, cook white rice.
  8. Add curry mix to the stewing pot
    Every Japanese family has its favorite mix of two or more brands of curry sauce: experiment until you find the one you like.
  9. Let curry cook for at least another half an hour. The longer you cook it, the better it tastes.
    add sauce mix curry finish

You could serve everything at this point, but, for best results

Let everything cool down and sit there for a couple of hours. Warm up again. Then serve.

The other night, we enjoyed curry as a family meal at my brother-in-law’s house. This recipe easily fed 11 people and there was quite a lot left over. Thankfully, Japanese curry freezes well.


8 Responses

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  1. speeding said, on August 11, 2011 at 5:43 am

    Would you mind enabling rss feeds, because this page is difficult to read on my phone. Don’t mean to be a complainer, but I figure if it would help me it would probably help others as well. Thanks 🙂

  2. kanako said, on October 5, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    have a look at the side bar on the right. I put rss feed both for posts and comments. I hope this will work for you…

  3. Sarah Dove said, on May 1, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    What type of broth do you recommend using for this recipe?

    • kanako said, on May 13, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Hi, Sarah,
      I use normal chicken broth such as Knorr chicken broth.
      It’s ok with vegetable broth, but not Japanese dashi type of broth.

  4. Jonny said, on March 7, 2014 at 9:45 am

    “our way of making it could strike you as a little unexciting”

    You hit the nail on the head! I feel this about every foreign food that’s been Japanised – it has all the excitement taken out.

    Worcester sauce, lovely and tangy becomes “sauce” in Japan, a sickly sweet abomination!

    Japanese mayonnaise – again, sickly sweet and too runny!

    Japanese curry – how could a curry be so boring!!!

    Sandwiches – all must have egg and ham, and the bread must be sweet. Yeuch!

    Please tell me why all food has to be so sweet and/or bland for the Japanese to appreciate it?

    Even beer, such as Asahi Super Dry (the nation’s favourite) is practically a tasteless beer-water.

    I can only conclude the Japanese fear favour!

    • Francisco Toro said, on May 22, 2014 at 7:31 am

      I blame the British navy for the boring curry: the dish didn’t reach Japan from India, where they know what they’re doing, it came in the 1880s after a bunch of British sailors showed it to Japanese navy officials, who realized it would be a good solution for shipboard catering! So the stuff you get now is the heir of Japanese people copying the 19th century British Navy way of curry! Is it any wonder it’s sorta bland?!??

  5. Mr smith said, on April 1, 2014 at 10:53 am

    How long will it last? I’ve been making curry for myself by meeting the curry block in a small sauce pan.

    However one day I did it for people and I melted better and more smooth.

    How long does the whole lot (once made) last for say in fridge and also freezer?

    Also. If I freeze it. What’s the best way of reheating? Eg defrost then heat in pan? Heat straight in pan. Microwave etc.


  6. nagatayakyoto said, on October 29, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    I’ll try to cook it today!

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