Foreign Foods in Japan –
Japanese Curry!

“It seems that everyone in Japan loves curry.” These words from Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat are certainly true.

Here at Zojirushi, we’d argue that everyone who loves Japanese food loves Japanese curry! Our foreign food this month is the much loved Japanese curry, in its glorious, savory wet form.

Curry is not native to Japan. It was imported to the country a mere two centuries ago. And not, as you’d assume, by South Asians from India, where curry, or “kari”, originated. Indian curry is a blend of fresh spices and aromatics that are blended into gravies using tomatoes, cow’s milk, coconut milk, and other liquids. Indian curries are generally spicy and hot, full of chilis and cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger and other spices. Families in India carefully guard their own curry blends and pass them down generation to generation. During the centuries of the spice trade by the Dutch, Portuguese and British, curry transformed into a dry powder that was able to be transported by ship to Southeast Asia and China, the Caribbean and South Pacific, Africa, Europe and Japan.

Rakkyo

Because dry curry powder was imported into Japan by the British, it was originally considered a European food! And as it was transported ship-to-ship, sailors were the first ones to fully adapt Britishized Indian curry powder to Japanese tastes.

Japanese curry is made of many fewer ingredients – and in a much less complex way – than Indian curry. The base is made with a roux, or mix of curry powder, chili pepper, garam masala, butter and flour. Often, curry roux can be found in specialty Asian grocery stores. This roux is mixed with water until it reaches the consistency of a gravy, and to the gravy are added vegetables, beef, chicken, apples and less commonly, seafood. The entire mixture is eaten with cooked Japanese white rice and condiments such as fukujinzuke, or pickled radishes, pickled rakkyo, or Japanese scallions, or raisins. The spiciness of Japanese curry is quite mild compared with Indian and Southeast Asian curries, but hot chili oil can be added to increase the heat. The result is the popular karēraisu.

Fukujinzuke

While Japanese curry is easily found in restaurants, it is home-style cooking prepared for lunch at schools and at home for families. It is considered easy food for dinner, and one of the first dishes Japanese children learn to make.

One of our favorite recipes is Japanese Beef Curry. Our own secret recipe includes a touch of Worcestershire sauce for some savoriness and honey for sweetness. Paired with white rice made in one of our rice cookers, and it’s a perfect meal!

Have you tried Japanese curry? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!

Passport to Yum – Zojirushi’s Favorite International Rice Recipes

takikomigohan

Have you made perfectly delicious rice yet? Now that you know all about rice, we want to share our favorite recipes for this versatile and nutritious grain… not just from Japan, but also from across the globe!

Rice is an ancient food, and many cultures have created sophisticated, comforting dishes using local ingredients to satisfy regional tastes. We start with rice dishes from Asia, including Japan, China, India and Pakistan.

Takikomi-Gohan (seen above) is a popular rice dish that emphasizes the classic Japanese culinary tradition of using seasonal ingredients. At Zojirushi, we’ve created a recipe full of flavorful vegetables, konnyaku, tofu, chicken and dashi. This preparation can easily be made in one of our rice cookers, and makes great leftovers—make a large batch and refrigerate for no-brainer lunches throughout the week.

chukagayu

Chinese rice porridge, or congee

China is famous for comforting rice dishes, too, including the classic rice porridge, also known as congee or okayu. Rice porridge is mild and filling, and is often had for breakfast or during an illness, as it is easily digested and soothing to the stomach. Japanese, Indian, Burmese, Korean and Indonesian cultures made a version of it, and we love this classic rice porridge recipe that you can make in our food jars.

India and Pakistan share a classic rice dish called biryani. Biryani is made by layering ingredients such as chicken, lamb and vegetables with long-grain basmati rice, and seasoning it with milk and a complex combination of spices like saffron, chili, cardamom, turmeric, ginger and garlic. The dish is slow, slow, slow cooked, until all of the ingredients are tender and have soaked up the seasonings. It’s not to be missed!

favabeanrisotto

Zojirushi’s Fava Bean Risotto

Europeans, both from the western and eastern parts of the continent, savor rice as well. The classic risotto is popular in Italy and around the world. The most basic risotto is made with medium-grain Arborio rice, slowly cooked in wine and broth until it becomes creamy. Popular variations add mushrooms and peas, and we love this recipe for Fava Bean Risotto. Italy’s neighbor Spain is famous for its paella, and we love this classic version with shrimp, mussels and clams.

Eastern European rice dishes are heavily influenced by the spices of Asia and the Middle East, and Uzbek plov is a prime example of the blending of these cultures. Plov is made using long-grain rice, mutton, carrots, onions, oil and water, mixed and cooked in an open cauldron for hours until the aroma of the dish is utterly mouth-watering. Plov is often served with chickpeas, raisins and eggs, depending on the time of day it is eaten. Plov also has an interesting history, and it is said to have been made for Alexander the Great and his army.

etouffee

Crawfish etouffee (photo by jeffreyw)

The Americas have their own special rice dishes which are consumed with as much gusto as their friends on other continents. Crawfish etoufee is an elaborate and spicy dish consisting of shellfish and spices “smothering” the rice and braised in a large sauté pan. Arroz de lisa is a distinctive Colombian dish prepared with mullet rice, cooked cassava melon, costeño cheese and a piquant sour cream sauce. The rice is served in a bijao leaf and often eaten as street food.

Rice as a whole grain isn’t the only way it’s eaten across the world. Rice in the form of noodles is incredibly popular, and some of our favorites are Singapore Noodles, redolent with curry, onions and bell peppers, along with spicy, coconut-infused laksa from Malaysia, pho from Vietnam and the ever-popular wok’d chow fun with Chinese broccoli.

Rice, rice noodles, rice paper, rice dumplings… the variety is endless! We hope you try some of these recipes… and as always, share your creations with us in the comments below.

Japanese Street Food:  Korokke!

korokke

Warning: korokke is addictive!

If you’ve never had this Japanese dish, you’re in for a treat! Korokke, or croquette in English, is a satisfying mixture of potatoes, meat and spices, coated with panko breadcrumbs, fried up into patties or balls and often eaten with piquant tonkatsu sauce. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

Butchers in Japan prepare korokke in their shops, where they have the ingredients needed to make these fried patties on hand. Children would buy one or two korokke patties on their way home from school or sports, and Japanese mothers would be famous for making their own family recipes as snacks and dinner favorites.

Korokke, at its most essential, is a fried patty made of simple, easy-to-find and inexpensive ingredients. Like American hamburgers, they’re ubiquitously available and can be found at many street festival or corner convenience store… even Seven Eleven! Korokke are generally made using cooked ground beef, smashed boiled potatoes, sautéed minced onions, salt and pepper, all mixed together. The mixture is formed into a palm-sized patty, coated with flour, eggs and panko breadcrumbs and then deep fried. Adventurous cooks add curry or cheese or make them vegetarian by replacing the beef with carrots and other vegetables! McDonald’s in Japan even introduced their own seasonal version of korokke and made a burger out of it, called the “Gracoro Burger”, although their recipe deviates quite a bit from traditional korokke.

korokkepan

Korokke patties are even better in sandwiches, called korokke pan. These sandwiches, made with a korokke patty stuffed into either a sesame seed bun or dinner roll along with finely shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce, can be found at bakeries and sandwich shops across Japan. Korokke pan are perfect for packing into a bag or taking on a trip, and are great when you’re on the go. Convenience stores sell them packaged and sometimes warmed, so even if you don’t make them at home or aren’t near a specialty shop, you can find them easily when traveling around Japan.

If you’re ready to try korokke, check out this recipe using rice on our website, or try out a patty or sandwich from your local Japanese grocery store.

Stay tuned for our continuing series about Japanese street food!