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Japanese cooking for the kanji-illiterate: Curry

December 28th, 2009

There are few foods as versatile as japanese curry. In Tokyo we saw it served on or with just about everything, but katsu-curry (breaded pork fillet with cury) and curry rice (yes, that's just curry with rice) are staples of good-but-cheap food. If you want to make your own here in the UK, there are three options.

Of course, you can make it from scratch. This would provide both curry and an air of smug satisfaction, but it requires both a recipe and some skill. I have neither. If you're in the same situation you can buy it ready-made in a packet that must then be boiled or microwaved. I've tried these, and they're OK, but there's a definite air of Vesta about the whole business, plus they're very expensive.

There is, fortunately, a third option – and here it is:

This is ready-made curry roux. and you can buy it from just about anywhere that stocks Japanese food. It's cheaper than ready-made, plus you get to choose exactly what goes in the curry, and there's a certain degree of smug satisfaction to gain from doing some of the work yourself. So, what's the downside? Well, er:

Yes, that's the recipe. If you don't speak Japanese, or like me you speak a bit but know hardly any kanji, you're in for a world of translation-related fun. What you need, in fact, is a curry dictionary – and so, courtesy of the ten minutes I spent wrangling with my pocket kenkyusha, here's one I made earlier:

I've pasted this in as an image so it should show on any computer rather than relying on Japanese display fonts. Note that this may not be perfectly correct – I'm guessing that "sarada oil" is vegetable oil, but it seemed to work for me. Any corrections gratefully accepted. And so, on to the recipe.

Armed with that vocabulary and a packet of roux it should be easy to make out the necessary ingredients. For five servings, using Golden Curry roux, the recipe asks for the following:

  • 200g meat
  • 300g onion
  • 100g carrot
  • 200g potato
  • 1 spoon vegetable oil
  • 700ml water
  • one packet of roux

Double these for the full ten servings. I had no meat, so I just added more carrots and potato – it's not an exact science. Chop the whole lot, add the oil to a pan, and cook the meat followed by the vegetables (or just chuck the veg in for a bit, in my case):

I cooked it until the onions were softening up nicely, which took a few minutes over a low heat. Next, add the water. The packet calls for 700ml, or 1300 for 10 servings:

The packet, if I'm reading it correctly, says to simmer for 10 minutes, or 20 if making ten servings. I found that about 15 minutes were needed to cook the potato chunks. Anyhow, after ten to fifteen minutes, it's time to break out the curry. Here's what's in the box:

If making ten servings we'd use both, but for five only one is needed. Open it up and chuck the incredibly attractive contents into the pan:

Obviously it's less than a feast for the eyes at this stage. Stir gently for a few minutes, though, and as if by magic:

Curry! Stir it for a few mintues more (be warned, it'll stick and burn given the chance), then serve on rice, katsu, or just about anything else:

Brown, glutinous, chunky, probably packed with MSG and yet strangely delicious. Enjoy.