What is Japanese Curry?
Japanese Beef Curry is probably one of the most beloved dishes cooked in Japanese homes- the kind of easy meal that moms make on a busy weeknight. It reheats and freezes beautifully. Perhaps when you hear curry you automatically think of a spicy Indian or Thai dish, but curry is very popular in Japan as well. Japanese curry is quite different from its spicy cousins though. It is more like a thick mildly spiced gravy.
The Secret…Curry Roux Blocks
It comes together easily with the help of Japanese curry roux, sold in packages at Asian grocers. While this curry simmers for over an hour, most of that is hands-off time. Truly, this is an easy, one pot meal; however, there are a few tips to insure success.
Keep it Easy
We’ve had Japanese curry on our menus before, where the curry roux was made from scratch, but I don’t know anyone who actually does that at home. Instead, what I sometimes do to add depth and a well rounded flavor is combine different styles. However, I find that most Japanese brands are reliably good and some are pretty hard to beat. House and Golden Curry are popular brands. They come in varying heat levels and a range of flavors with some geared more towards children (apples and honey) to others that appeal more to adults (java style-my favorite). Experiment and try a couple different ones to find your favorite.
Choose The Right Cut Of Beef
Let’s start with the beef. I never buy pre-cut “stew meat”, which is comprised of several different cuts of beef, the leftover odds and ends from all the other meat the butchers have cut. All these different parts of meat have different cooking times. This results in some bites being wonderfully tender and perfectly cooked, with others being tough and barely chewable. So I generally buy a chuck roast and cut it myself, trimming the fat and tough silver skin. You can select a whole chuck roast and bring it to the meat counter and have them cut it for you. Ask them to trim the fat, and cut it into generous two inch chunks. I like big hunks in my curry but if you prefer a more dainty size go for 1 1/2 inch pieces.
Searing The Meat
Once you have the meat cut, next we are going to sear the beef. This is the most important part! Above all, a nice brown crust on the meat creates great flavor and texture, as well as an appetizing color. No gray meat for us! In addition, a proper sear creates lovely little brown bits in the pan that incorporate into the sauce, adding incredible savory richness. This step takes a few minutes, but don’t rush it and take your time.
You want to start with a hot pan. The meat should sizzle the second you put it down. It’s important not to crowd the pan. You want air to circulate between the pieces, or the meat will be steaming instead of searing. Steaming will give it that unappealing gray color, and won’t create the deeply flavored crust we’re after.
Don’t Overcrowd Your Pan
Depending on the size of the dutch oven or skillet you are using, 3 pounds of meat will take at least two rounds of browning. Use tongs to place the meat in the hot pan; the oil can sputter and tongs will help protect your hands. Resist the temptation to move, flip, or otherwise fiddle with the meat for at least 2-3 minutes. This is how long it will take to create a seared crust. Properly seared meat should release easily from the pan. Once it does, you will continue to sear it on all sides. Remove the seared pieces of beef and keep in a bowl to collect all those yummy juices while you sear the rest.
Once all the beef is nicely browned, you will sauté the onions in the beef drippings. Then you will deglaze the pan with the stock, scraping up all those brown bits. Those crispy bits will add luscious depth of flavor to your curry.
After you add the bay leaves, garlic cloves, and chicken stock, you will be simmering the beef until it’s tender. This is a good time to clean up, finish prepping the vegetables which will be added later, and start steaming some rice to serve alongside. Make sure you have the lid covering the pot and the pot is simmering not boiling. Then, skim the surface occasionally to remove scum, oil, and impurities. When the beef is tender, you will add the vegetables and continue to simmer until the vegetables are soft and tender.
Adding The Roux And Adjusting Seasonings
Add the roux blocks and they will slowly melt into the liquid with the heat. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently stir the mixture as they break down. Once the pot comes up to a simmer, the curry will thicken and turn into a gravy like consistency. And continue to cook for several minutes and taste the curry. Since it will be served over rice, it should be a little more salty than a standard stew.
Finally, while my perfect fried eggs on top are optional, they are a really delicious topping. The yolk mixes with the curry sauce and the crispy edges add a nice texture to the tender beef and vegetables. It is traditional to serve Japanese curry over rice to soak up all the delicious sauce.
I hope you enjoy this traditional Japanese beef curry. If you make it, we want to know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag us in your photos, @funkyasiankitchen. Show us the goods!Print
Japan’s beloved beef curry. Comforting and feeds a crowd! Serve with rice to soak up the delicious gravy.
- 4 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat and sinew
- 3–4 Tablespoons neutral oil
- 2 large onions sliced ¼” thick
- 4 carrots
- 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, drained well and halve any large tomatoes
- 1 pound cremini mushrooms
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup whole garlic cloves
- 1 box curry roux blocks (House, Glico, or S&B)
- Salt and pepper to taste
6 fried eggs (optional)
Sear the beef:
- Cut the beef into large 2 inch pieces and lightly salt and pepper (3-4 of dashes/grinds).
- Heat a dutch oven or large heavy pot over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil and put half of the beef in the pan making sure there is room between the pieces. You are looking to get a nice crusty brown sear on the beef which will give your dish richness and flavor. Let the beef cook undisturbed for 1-2 mins and then flip it to another side and cook for another 1-2 mins. Do this once more and then put the cooked beef in a bowl and set aside.
- Repeat the same process with the more beef and oil. If your pan is small, you may need to split this into 3-4 sets. This step is the most important part of the dish so take some time, don’t rush or crowd the pan, and let’s pack some flavor into your curry!
- Once you’ve finished searing the beef, return the pan to the stove and add the last tablespoon of oil and the onions.
- Put the lid on the pan and turn off the heat and let it rest for a couple of mins. The moisture from the onions will soften the delicious browned juices on the bottom of the pan. I usually finish prepping the vegetables or clean up a bit as I wait.
Make the stew:
- Peel the carrots and cut them on the angle in large 3/4 inch pieces. Put them in a large bowl. Wipe the mushrooms and cut them in half. Add them to the carrots. Set aside.
- Take the lid off of the pot and stir to scrape all that brown goodness up off of the bottom of the pot. Turn the temperature to medium and sauté the onions until they are a soft and translucent mass about 8-10 min. Return the beef to the pot, add the chicken stock, the bay leaves, and the garlic. Raise the heat to high and bring the pot to a simmer.
- Lower the heat to medium, skim the surface for any scum and fat, cover with a lid (leave a small crack), and simmer for 90 mins., occasionally skimming the surface.
- Check the beef with a fork. It should be tender. If not, continue cooking for 15-30 mins until it is. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, and the carrots and cook for an additional 20-25 mins. The vegetables should be nice and soft but hold its shape.
Add the Curry Blocks:
- Stir in the curry roux blocks and let them soften in the hot liquid for a minute. Gently mix them into the curry. The curry will thicken and look gravy like within 5 mins.
- Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking for 5-10 mins. to meld the flavors.
Check for salt and pepper. This will be served over rice so it should be saltier than say a stew that you eat by itself. Some curry brands and chicken stocks are saltier than others. I usually wait until the end to see if I need to adjust the seasoning. But usually, I end up adding about ¼ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Serve on shallow plates next to hot rice. Topping the curry with soft fried eggs is optional but amazing.
* It’s important to use a brand of canned tomatoes that has sturdy tomatoes. If you use one with very soft tomatoes, they will disintegrate into the curry.
*This curry is on the loose side but it will thicken as it sits. If you find that you would like it to be thicker, you can always add a couple more blocks of curry roux to thicken it even more. Conversely, if you see that the curry is quite thick, you can add some water to thin it out. Any leftover curry will probably need a little water to loosen it up again. Like any stew, this curry reheats well and tastes better the second day.