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Japanese curry (カレー, karē) is a dish that is hugely popular in Japan. It is readily available at various restaurants, and many households cook it at home too. As the curry is usually served with rice, you would hear the term "curry rice" (カレーライス, karē raisu) mentioned often.

After importing curry from India, the Europeans invented curry powder so that the layman could cook curry without having to master the intricacies about spices. This form of curry was introduced to Japan during the Meji Period (1868-1912), from which the Japanese adapted the dish to suit their tastes.

What is it?

The usual ingredients added in Japanese curry include potatoes, carrots, onions and meat. The sauce itself is usually made from curry powder or roux, which is a of a blend of basic Indian spices. The typical Japanese curry is thicker in texture and tastes sweeter but less spicy than its Indian counterpart.

The meat of choice is more often pork or beef, differing from Indian curry in which chicken or mutton is usually used. It has been observed that pork is the most popular meat for curry in eastern Japan while beef is more common in western Japan.

Popular variations

A very common variation of Japanese curry is katsu kare (カツカレー), which is a dish of regular Japanese curry rice plus a piece of tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet) put on top.

Katsu kare

Where to find it?

Establishments serving Japanese curry are ubiquitous all over Japan. There are specialized curry restaurants, often found around train stations and business districts. Family restaurants, tourist cafeterias and shokudo (Japanese restaurants serving a wide variety of dishes) also typically have Japanese curry on their menus.

How to eat it?

Japanese curry is usually eaten with a large Western style spoon. It is often accompanied with a garnish of fukujinzuke (a slightly sweet mix of pickles) or rakkyo (pickled Japanese scallion).

Preparing it at home

The popularity of Japanese curry extends to private homes. Instant roux and retort packages offer convenient and economical ways to quickly prepare delicious curry meals at home.

When preparing curry with instant roux, vegetables and meat are first cooked in water, after which solid chunks of roux are added to the broth. In contrast, retort packages are pre-made curry stew that already contain the vegetable and meat; all one has to do is to heat the entire package in hot water for a few minutes, and the curry will be ready to be served over rice.

Instant roux package
Retort package
Page last updated: February 18, 2012