Picture if you will a typical Japanese meal… Got it? Chances are you conjured to mind sushi, sashimi, and miso. Or maybeyakitori. Or maybe it was noodles – udon, soba, ramen. While all of those delectable dishes are staples of washoku(Japanese cuisine), curry is arguably the most common dish in Japan. Some estimates put average individual consumption at 84 times per year – roughly once every 4 days. To put that into perspective, the average American consumes 46 slices of pizza per year – or less than half of the Japanese curry appetite!
How did this spicy south Asian stew become a Japanese staple? Curry entered Japan after the sakoku policy of isolationism was lifted at the beginning of the Meiji era. Introduced by British sailors, curry was initially too expensive for common Japanese. But in the early 1900’s the Japanese military forces began serving it and the popularity has since exploded.
Like many other imports, Japan has modified its curry into something distinctive. It combines the spices of Indian curries – most notably garam marsala – with a Western style roux and vegetables. A typical Japanese curry contains meat (usually beef or chicken), onions, carrots, and potatoes, but there are plenty of other variations (mmmm, pumpkin curry). The effect is a sweet, spicy, and savory stew most often served over rice.
Later this week, we’ll spend some time learning about different iterations of curry and even give you a recipe to make some at home. In the meantime, if you need a curry fix, I recommend Maido or Terakawa Ramen for an authentic taste.