Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Food Blogging: Japanese Style Curry Rice

Curry Rice

Type: Japanese
Difficulty: Easy
Non-Standard Ingredients: Japanese style curry roux
Grade: C+

It's easy to see why curry rice is one of the most popular foods in Japan.  It is one of the quintessential Japanese comfort foods, a dish eaten both in restaurants and made at home, it can be made with expensive ingredients turned into a gourmet treat, or bought pre-made in a pouch for a dollar and poured over some rice by broke college students, or it can be anything in between.  No matter how you eat it, where it comes from, or how much it costs, curry rice is always good.

This is one of the very few recipes where I'll advocate using something pre-prepared as the critical part of a main dish.  Normally I'm all about making things from scratch but trying to make your own Japanese style curry sauce that tastes right is an exercise in futility; so use a curry roux from the store.  I listed it as a non-standard ingredient, but I've found Japanese style curry roux for sale in Wal-Mart so it isn't exactly rare or hard to find.

There are two major brands in Japan, House is the most popular, followed by S&B.  I prefer S&B, but House is perfectly fine too.

As a comfort food, it's hard to beat.  Warm, filling, spicy, savory, filled with onions and carrots, it warms you on a cold night, and tastes just fine on a muggy summer night, it's great for nights alone or nights with the family.  There's never a bad time to eat a plate of curry rice.   Eat it with your family along with a conversation, or eat it watching Netflix by yourself.  It's also delicious put in the fridge and nuked for lunch the next day.  Hell, I've eaten it for breakfast from time to time.

Curry's introduction to Japan shows how secluded Japan had kept itself during the Edo Period.  India isn't exactly right next door to Japan, but it isn't that far away.  Yet curry didn't come to Japan until it was brought by British sailors in the 1870's.  

Which is why Japanese style curry has a distinctly British aspect and doesn't much resemble any any of the Indian curries, or Thai curries, or really any other curry.  Basically it's sort of like beef stew with some fancy spices served over rice.

Japanese recipes always call for potatoes, but I find that redundant since it's served over rice and so I usually leave potatoes out.  Also, if I leave the potatoes out all I have to wash is the pot I make the curry in and the rice pot.

Below is a "recipe", but really it's just my take on following the directions on the box of curry roux. This isn't just an easy recipe, it's the sort of thing a person can do if they've never cooked before in their lives.

1 Package curry roux
1.5 pounds thin sliced beef
1 pound crinkle cut frozen carrots (or fresh if you're super fancy)
1.5 pounds thin sliced onion
1 serving rice per person (short grain rice or sushi rice is best)

Following the instructions for your rice cooker, get the rice going.  It should be finished by about the time you're done with the curry.  If you don't have a rice cooker, I'm very sorry for you and highly recommend you get one, but in the meantime you can make your rice in a pot (don't stir it!).

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a very large skillet or a pot.  Slice the onions into long thin strips, and saute them over high heat until slightly browned.  While that's happening cut the beef into bite sized chunks, slice the curry roux into small pieces for quicker integration, and nuke the carrots for a few minutes to get thawed.

Don't brown the meat, normally you'd want to but for thin sliced beef and this sort of dish it'll get tough if you do.

Reduce heat to medium, add carrots, beef, the amount of water called for by the curry roux, and the cut up curry roux.   Stir until it begins bubbling, then reduce heat to low and lid.  Allow to simmer until the rice is done.

I find that the normal S&B is a bit less currylike than I prefer, so I always add a bit of black pepper and some extra curry powder.  Taste it and decide for yourself if you want to add extra spices or not.

Dish up some rice, pour the curry on top, grab a fork, and dig in, life will be better with curry.

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