Japanese-style curry is built on a savory sauce that contains vegetables and a bit of sweetness from mirin and fruit. It differs from Indian curries primarily because it is based on mild curry powder — not the complex mixtures of toasted spices and chile heat used in traditional Indian dishes.
That’s good news in my kitchen. I’m fond of the flavor of curry powder and always have a jar or two on hand. Like all ground spices, the trick is freshness. The powder should have a rich color and deep aroma — if not, replace it. I like McCormick curry powder just fine, but for a real treat I order Madras curry powder online from spicewallabrand.com for its warm flavors of cinnamon, fenugreek, turmeric and cumin.
For convenience, Japanese markets sell boxes of concentrated golden curry mix in mild, medium and hot. The S&B brand is popular; the squares of dense paste (made from flour, oils, curry spices and additives) are meant to be dissolved in broth for the base of the dish.
But I much prefer to make a simple roux, then season it with curry powder for a fresh start to a dish.
That curry regularly factors into dinner at home. I make the sauce, packed with vegetables, in advance. For speedy weeknight cooking, the sauce is reheated to serve on its own over rice or noodles or a topping of firm tofu cubes. A fried egg on top works well to add protein. For Sunday dinner or special occasions, I serve it with tonkatsu, crisp pork cutlets.Accompany the meal with chilled sake or beer.
JAPANESE-STYLE CURRY WITH CARROTS AND APPLES
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- 3 skinny carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
- 1 piece (3-1/4 inches) ginger, peeled, thickly sliced
- 1 rib celery, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweetened rice wine), dry sherry or white wine
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 small apple, peeled, cored, diced
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce or to taste
Put broth, mushroom slices, carrots, ginger, celery and mirin into a medium saucepan. Simmer over low heat about 20 minutes. (May be kept refrigerated several days.)
Melt butter in separate medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until flour turns a pale oatmeal color, about 5 minutes.
Stir in onion, apple, curry powder and cayenne. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until onion softens, about 5 minutes.
Whisk broth mixture (with vegetables) into flour mixture. Cook and whisk until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to very low; simmer, partly covered, about 15 minutes. Season with soy sauce. Sauce can be refrigerated several days. Makes about 6 cups.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 146 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 16 g carbohydrates, 5 g sugar, 3 g protein, 138 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.
CURRY BOWLS WITH TOFU
- 3 to 4 cups cooked white or brown rice (or cooked quinoa, farro or small pasta)
- 1 (14-ounce) block extra-firm organic tofu, diced into 1-inch cubes
- 3 cups Japanese-style curry (recipe above)
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Divide rice among 4 deep serving bowls. Top each bowl with one quarter of the tofu. Spoon one quarter of curry sauce over each bowl. Microwave, covered, on high, until steamy hot, about 2 minutes per bowl. Garnish with green onions and cilantro. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 348 calories, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 47 g carbohydrates, 4 g sugar, 16 g protein, 110 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.