I've been working to perfect making Japanese curry from scratch, as I'll soon be leading a workshop entitled "Comfort Food All-Stars: Curry, Tonkatsu, Gyoza" at the fantastic Brooklyn Kitchen (on April 19th, click here for details). I love Japanese curry, but I don't love those ubiquitous packages of Japanese curry mixes, which are highly processed with junk ingredients. I recall tasting a top-notch curry at a tiny shop in Tokyo that had nothing processed about it, and watching a chef in Fukuoka conjure up from scratch an amazing Japanese curry with shako (a monstrous shrimp-like crustacean). So I know it can be done. But how? Well, remember Nobuko from the rice washing video? I reached out to her on Skype at her home in Chiba Prefecture (where she's stoically staying put, by the way, despite all the uncertainties, fears, rolling blackouts, etc, because, as she said, it wouldn't be right to leave her neighbors and community -- the woman is a rock), and over the course of two hours, she walked me through her curry technique, with me showing her things to check out over Skype video (hilarious), and during the interludes, our baby Gen making cameo cooing appearances; he's three months old now and unbelievably cute.
By the way, when I made this curry, I also cooked up a batch from a packaged curry mix, so I could compare the taste. My wife and a friend from Tokyo joined me for this little experiment. It amazed us all how much better the scratch version tasted, so delicious. And the scratch curry looked so much more appealing, sans thickeners and stabilizers. So I urge you to cook curry from scratch yourself!! (Make a monster batch and freeze the leftovers, they reheat well.) Here's Nobuko's recipe:
Note about the recipe: I'm using metric weight measurements, instead of volume; so much easier. I highly recommend you buy a digital scale, which always has metric (this one rocks). Every home cook should own a decent scale.
300 grams beef (brisket is great, but you can also try short ribs or other cuts), cut into bite-sized cubes
Salt and pepper for the beef
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
400 grams onions, sliced as thin as possible
10 grams ginger, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into wedges, rangiri style
1 large apple, peeled and coarsely grated
5 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon salt
300 grams new potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1. Season the beef with salt and pepper.
2. Melt the butter in a stockpot large enough to hold 5 quarts of liquid, over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger, garlic, carrots and beef. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes until the onions become translucent and the beef browned. Add the apple, beef stock and salt, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile make the roux. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour. Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir until the butter and flour fuse and swell. Don't stop stirring, or the roux will burn! After about 20 minutes or so, the roux will become the "color of a fox," as the say in Japan, a deep tan color. At this point, add the curry and garam masala, and cook and stir for 30 seconds, until the spices release their aroma. Turn off the heat. Add a ladleful or two of cooking liquid from the stock and mix into a paste.
4. Add the roux paste into the stockpot, and stir to combine. Add the potatoes. Simmer uncovered on low heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 1 hour, or until the beef becomes tender and the curry thick. Serve the curry with Japanese short grained rice on the side. Enjoy.
Let me know in the comments how this recipe comes out for you!