A Love Affair: Japan and Curry
Curry rice is a very popular dish in Japan. The Japanese version differs greatly from the curry and rice that started on the Indian subcontinent, spread throughout South Asia, and then moved to other parts of the world. To provide a meal that almost everybody in Japan will eat, curry rice may be the best option. The percentage of people in Japan who dislike curry rice is a small percentage.
Although curry leaves are from the curry tree, a tree native to India, not all curry contains curry leaves. When we hear rice and curry, or curry and rice, curry does not refer to the curry tree. Curry is thought to come from the Tamil word "kari," which refers to gravy or sauce, not spices. Curry uses a wide range of different spices that vary according to the dish and the region.
We visited the Curry Spices Department at Wally's Delicatessen and found the following spices listed: bay leaves, cardamom pods, cayenne pepper, chilli powder, cinammon sticks, coriander powder, cumin powder, curry powder, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, garam masala, paprika, black peppercorns, turmeric, curry leaves, star aniseed, coconut milk, tamarind paste, vegetable ghee. The British spellings are because Wally's is in England.
Curry in Japan is served in a number of ways including curry rice, curry udon, curry bread, curry buns, katsu curry, and dry curry. Curry rice is simply curry served partly over and partly next to rice in the same shallow bowl. Curry udon is curry served over udon, which are thick wheat noodles. Curry bread is bread with curry inside. The last one, curry buns, are just like the pork buns you can find in Chinese dim sum and other restaurants. Instead of pork inside, the buns have curry inside. Katsu curry is usually a deep fried pork cutlet on rice with curry poured on top of it and next to it. The word "katsu" comes from cutlet. Dry curry is simply curry without all the sauce. Dry curry is served over rice too.
Returning to the difference between curry rice served in Japan and the rice and curry from the Indian subcontinent, curry rice can almost be thought of as a sweet curry flavored stew. The sweetness comes from fruit. House Foods Corporation is the largest curry company in Japan. One of their most popular brands, Vermont Curry, was launched in 1963.
S&B Foods, Inc. is another major Japanese curry company. We turned to their home page to find what they call the Japanese curry story. According to S&B, the first Japanese to eat curry and rice was Kenjiro Yamakawa when he was served curry and rice on a ship while traveling to the United States in 1871. Yet, the Japanese curry story tells us that he only ate the rice. We are not sure who actually was the first Japanese to partake of curry. The S&B story continues, telling us that a curry recipe was introduced to Japan in 1872.
The Japanese viewed curry as Western since the British introduced it to Japan, not the Indians or other Asians. Now curry is an economical dish and most curry restaurants are economical too. In 1870s Japan, however, curry and rice was expensive. The S&B narrative tells us that the cost for curry rice was 800% more than a bowl of plain noodles.
After 1872, curry became increasingly popular in Japan. Japanese chefs altered the recipe, creating the curry that we eat today in Japan. If you live in the United States and would like to try Japanese-style curry, you could either find packaged Japanese curry or you could look for a Japanese curry restaurant. The Japanese curry packages are sold in many Asian grocery stores. Preparing and cooking the curry is just like preparing and cooking stew. For Japanese curry restaurants, check the Internet for one near you. If you are in California, you could try one of the 11 Curry House restaurants in California, a restaurant chain owned by House Foods America Corporation. We can't guarantee you will like the curry, but having Japanese curry may be a pleasant experience.
Visit Aaron Language Services at http://www.aaronlanguage.com for translation from Japanese to English and more. If you can't read Japanese, you can always reach us via our personnel page.