Glossy, thick Japanese curry is ubiquitous in Japan, served in restaurants and cooked in homes – it’s easy, endlessly adaptable and entirely satisfying.
Curry arrived in Japan in the 19th century, via the British who in turn found it in India. But curry in Japan is unlike anything else: it showcases the wonderful Japanese ability to absorb foods from other cultures and turn them into novel new cuisines.
Japanese curry is based on a roux (a cooked mixture of flour and butter or oil) that is mixed with spices and usually stored in block form. In fact, most Japanese households will have a readymade curry in the pantry.
In this recipe, we make the curry cubes from scratch so you can have homemade Japanese curry ready to go. It’s a flavourful instant meal that I just love to have on hand because you can put just about anything in it – it’s a fabulous way to use up little bits of this and that.
Don’t be alarmed by the long list of ingredients. You can minimise or swap the spices according to what you’ve got and what you like. The key flavours are turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom and pepper. Beyond that, have fun and experiment!
Makes: enough curry cubes for 8 curries
Time: curry cubes 30 minutes, curry meal a further 30 minutes
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken
- 1 bay leaf
- 10 curry leaves, fresh or dried
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp fenugreek
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 6 cloves
- 4 cardamom pods, seeds only
- 1 dried mandarin or orange zest, torn (see Tips)
- 1 dried shiitake mushroom
- 1 piece kombu, optional (see Tips)
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp salt flakes
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp hot chilli powder, or to taste
- 300 grams (10.6 oz) unsalted butter, cubed
- 300 grams (10.6 oz) plain flour
- 50 grams (1.8 oz) vegetable oil
- 1/2 red onion, thickly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, smashed with flat side of large knife
- 3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, then cut in 1 cm / 0.5 in slices
- handful broccoli florets or peas (frozen is fine)
- 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 corn cob, kernels only (frozen corn is fine)
1. Place cinnamon, bay leaf, curry leaves, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, fennel, cloves and cardamom seeds in mixing bowl. Toast 7 min/Varoma/speed 1, MC off.
2. Add zest, mushroom, kombu, ginger, turmeric, salt, pepper, paprika and chilli. Insert MC and blitz 45 sec/speed 10.
3. Set aside, scraping bowl out well, though there’s no need to wash it. Add butter and melt 3 min/100°C (212°F)/speed 1.
4. Add flour and cook 12 min/120°C (250°F) (Varoma in TM31)/speed 1 to make a roux.
5. Add reserved curry powder and mix 30 sec/speed 3. Transfer mixture to lined container, such as a brownie tin or plastic tub. Place in refrigerator to set. When set, cut mixture into cubes and store in refrigerator or freezer (see Tips).
6. If desired, cook rice in Thermomix first. Place oil, onion, carrot, and one bashed garlic clove in mixing bowl. Cook 5 min/Varoma/speed 1. Add 700 grams (25 oz) water, broccoli or peas, and potato. Cook 15 min/100°C (212°F)/Rev/speed soft.
7. Add 90 grams (3.2 oz) curry cubes, or to taste. Cook 12 min /100°C (212°F)/Rev/speed 1, MC off.
Serve with rice or noodles.
- Mandarin or orange zest can be dried in an oven at 140°C/ 280°F for 1 hour, or until crisp.
- Kombu is a Japanese seaweed that you can find in health food stores and Japanese grocers.
- Cubes keep for at least 2 months in refrigerator and 6 months in freezer.
- I usually cook sushi rice in a saucepan while the curry is cooking but you can also do it beforehand in your Thermomix.
- You can change the spices to your taste or what you have in the pantry. The key flavours are turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom and pepper. Beyond that, have fun and experiment!
- Add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the curry cubes, or to your final curry, if desired.
- The curry ingredients can be endlessly varied: beef cubes, chicken pieces, firm tofu, green beans and eggplant are some ideas.
- The curry sauce can also be served over udon noodles.
- You can experiment with the thickness of the sauce by adding more or less water, and with the intensity of the curry flavours by adding more or less of the curry cubes.
More about this recipe
- I have plenty of delicious Japanese recipes on my site. In fact, I’ve put them all together for you right here.
- Want more healthy, simple, veg-focused meals for the whole family? Check out my list over here and while you’re there, watch my interview with cooking legend Stephanie Alexander and chef Curtis Stone.