Alongside sushi and teriyaki, karé (Japanese curry) is one of the most popular dishes in Japanese cuisine. It’s so popular that the book Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat has an entire chapter dedicated to its history and culinary significance among the Japanese culture. The Wall Street Journal recounts the story of this dish and points out that much has changed since the British first introduced curry to Japan more than a hundred years ago.
Frequently made with beef, Japanese curry also comes in pork, lamb, fish and straight-up vegetable versions. Regional examples showcase local produce; recipes invented by naval chefs have even been known to include Cheddar cheese or coffee. Mr. Ono developed a miso curry for his cookbook. It has the red wine and beef of a French stew combined with Japanese items like burdock root, daikon and two types of miso paste, which give it a marvelous, savory intensity and saltiness.
Predictably, karé has also made its way to U.S. menus. Japanese restaurants in Roseville, CA like Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar have since given their own spin on the dish. While curry can be served at any time of the year, diners should be more eager to eat karé during the fall months, as this season provides an opportunity for chefs to finally get their hands on fresh batches of carrots, onions, and other vegetables. Mikuni Sushi’s own beef curry recipe, for instance, follows tradition by including these seasonal vegetables, plus an optional serving of breaded pork cutlets (tonkatsu).
Arguably the biggest reason why karé is so popular among the Japanese and the British is that it’s quite a versatile dish. It is said that most Japanese families have their own version of karé, and each recipe uses varying combinations of fruits, vegetables, meat, and sauce. In addition, combining the dish with another food staple is bound to produce great results. For instance, topping karé with tonkatsu results in a tasty katsu-kare, while adding noodles into the mix creates kare-udon or kare-ramen.
Nowadays, even amateur cooks can make their own karé, thanks to curry roux blocks sold in many markets and Japanese grocery stores. Karé is also much easier to cook, as Ono and Salat are quick to point out, since it does not rely on ground nuts and pureed vegetables for thickening. However, the best Japanese restaurants in Roseville can create the most authentic, great tasting karé, given their years of experience and consistent use of seasonal vegetables and spices.
(Source: Comforting Japanese Curry Recipes for Fall, The Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2014)