Japanese Beef Curry From Scratch

Japanese Beef Curry From Scratch


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

For the roux:
4 tablespoons butter
7 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons curry powder (I use Japanese S&B curry powder, but a Madras curry powder is fine, too)
2 tablespoons garam masala

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!

Posted by Harris Salat in Japanese curry | Permalink | Comments (22) | Email | Print

Comments (22)

Harris, you must extend our collective thanks to Nobuko-san for spending time with you in order that we might have this fantastic recipe. My god it looks good. I can't wait to make a huge batch so there's plenty in the freezer for when we return from vacation. Would've loved to have been a fly on the wall with the Skyping between the two of you. Lastly, kudos to Nobuko-san for staying put with her neighbors. Bravo!
awesome blog, keep it up. seriously.
Yum!! That's good Look and very tasty food. its my favorite recipes . thanks for nice posting and i just try make this food .
I'm delighted to get this recipe, and I can't wait to try it out. I'm guessing the apple is a big component. I love making beef curry but don't like relying on the packaged mixes. Thank you!
Thank you Harris. I make japanese curry at least once a month and my family loves it. I also wish I didn't have to use those packages as well and so I'm so grateful for this recipe. Many thanks!
I love japanese curries, Thanks you for sharing!
I searched the web for a genuine Japanese curry recipe and came to the conclusion that 99% of Japanese people use the curry mixes, since nobody had a decent alternative. I quite liked the mixes, but my friends all were less thrilled. I look forward to trying this, which looks good. If its not ungrateful to ask, what changes would you suggest if you were to use chicken thighs instead of beef? Thanks, IanG
Harris! I just made this curry tonight for some house guests and it was the best curry ever! What a fabulous recipe with fabulous results. And I doubled it. It worked like a charm. I followed the recipe to the letter as I was unfamiliar with the concept. Bravo. This is a keeper. I used brisket for this also for the first time, I usually use pork. Loved it, it just took a while to soften - about 1.5 hours I would say after the initial simmer. Thanks, Debra
Great to hear, Debra! Funny enough, I also cooked this curry again tonight. It came out amazing. I made a few tweaks to the recipe: 1) I started by sauteeing the onions on their own, until they were really browned and caramelized, then I added the beef, etc. 2) I doubled the apple quantity. 3) I cooked the roux until it was really nice and browned and toasty. 4) I added the carrot with the potato, after I added the roux. I still cooked it for 1 hour, but that's totally variable. Delicious.
Thank you so much for this recipe, I just made it and it is the uber in comfort-food. A lovely, savory more-ish meal also. Yum!
I can sympathize with @IanG, as I also had no success in finding a recipe for Japanese curry when I looked on-line a little while ago. I had just returned from Japan and had been amazed by the stacks and stacks of curry mixes in a store in Tokyo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/41084246@N00/5673040246/in/photostream), so I thought I'd try making my own at home. After not finding a recipe, I just used a packaged mix, with somewhat marginal results. This far more natural version looks promising!
Thank you for the recipe, it's really good. I followed it by using virgin coconut oil instead of butter.
Approximately how many servings does this make?
If I remember right, four servings -- but if you have leftovers, curry freezes well (we freeze it in portion sizes to defrost for a quick meal!)
Harris, Thanks for the recipe I will be trying it very soon. Did you use homemade beef stock or store bought? I ask because I'm most likely going to use store bought and I'm concerned it might make the dish too salty.
Hi Mark, I used store-bought stock but it wasn't too salty. Might depend on the brand of stock, definitely taste and adjust. Have fun cooking your curry! Harris
Harris, I made this recipe (doubled) with your tweaks on Wednesday night and served it for dinner on Thursday. It was excellent. I've been eating the packaged curry mixes my entire life, but I think this marks the end of an era. Scratch curry is the only way to go. Thanks for the recipe!
Where did you guys buy your garam masala & is there any brand in particular that you recommend?
Great recipe Harris. I made a double batch last night. Also shared the recipe with a friend and he made some yesterday too. I like my curry on the sweet side so I was thinking of adding some apple cider to punch up the apple and sweet flavors. I doubled the apple like you said but I want more sweet still. Also as we're vegetarian I left out the stock and just used water. I figured the spices in any veg broth would just confuse things. Next time I might use a portion of cider in place of the water. Also added kaboucha squash. @Jill if you are in NYC Kalustians in Murray Hill has every spice you could imagine. There's also a small Indian spice shop on 1st between 5th and 6th.
Harris, This recipe is a marvel. We can't get over how authentic it tastes. My boyfriend absolutely LOVED it. Just read your tweaks - will try those next time, which I'm sure will be very soon! Thank you for posting X
Hi Harris Just viewed your site after attempting a non-commercial roux Japanese beef curry today. I followed a similar recipe to yours and spent a long time caramelizing the onions which I thought would be key. However what I am looking for and did not achieve is a much, much darker, rich sauce which I have tasted in Japan and recently, here in London. This dark sauce has very small flakes of beef which have broken down from cooking for a very long cooking as well as regular, bite size pieces (added later?) Do you know what I'm getting at and if so how is the very dark (chocolate) brown sauce achieved?
typo for 2nd 'cooking' read 'time'

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