NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Japanese curry is a relative new dish to the country – it was introduced by the British in the 19th century, who in turn picked it up from India. Today, curry houses are everywhere in Japan, and for good reason; the irresistible sauce is mild and slightly sweet compared to other curries found worldwide, and is often served with any combination of stewed or fried meats which keep this dish surprisingly versatile.
I remember the first time I went to a local Asian grocery store shortly after deciding to go mostly-grain-free last year, and my utter disappointment when looking at the ingredients list of those handy Japanese curry blocks. You see, one of the pivotal ingredients in all of those blocks is wheat – which makes sense given the thick and creamy consistency that’s unique to Japanese curry. But fear not, dear reader, because I’ve been working on a gluten-free Japanese curry for the past year and I think I’ve got it figured out.
The key ingredient to making this curry truly taste Japanese is to use a Japanese curry powder, and S&B curry powder does the trick perfectly (see the note at the end for ingredients list). It makes sense considering that S&B holds a 25% market share of curry blocks in Japan. My only hesitation is that this powder (although it’s not mentioned anywhere on its packaging) is fairly spicy. It’s not outrageously hot or anything, but you definitely don’t want to add any additional spiciness until you’ve tried it yourself.
You’ll Need (feeds six):
6 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp coconut oil
4 cups each water and chicken broth
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks (or 20 baby carrots)
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp S&B curry powder
4 tbsp rice flour
1/2 onion (blended)
1 tsp salt (add more to taste)
2 tbsp honey
1 apple (blended)
2 tbsp heavy cream
To begin, you’ll want to get your meat and veggies ready. In a stock pot or dutch oven, heat the coconut oil on medium-high heat for a couple minutes. Add the chicken pieces and brown them on each side. Next, add the water and broth. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Next, add the carrots and potatoes, and simmer for another 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.
While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare the second step, which is the curry roux/base. Mix together the curry powder and rice flour. Next, melt the butter on med/low heat, and slowly stir in the curry/flour mixture with a whisk. Continue to slowly whisk the mixture until it becomes slightly aromatic, about five minutes. Stir in the blended onion, and saute for another minute or two.
Remove the roux from the heat and set aside. This is essentially your “curry block.”
Once your meat and veggies are ready, stir in your curry roux. Next, gently stir in the salt, honey, blended apple, and cream until it is well mixed. Let it simmer for a few minutes and it should be good to go. If it gets too thick, add a little water until it’s at the right consistency.
For this recipe I used about 2 lbs of stewed chicken thighs, but you could totally use beef with this same technique. I have yet to tackle my favorite variation of this dish, chicken katsu curry (especially tricky to do without wheat), but I’ll post it as soon as I have mastered it.
S&B curry powder ingredients: turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, red pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, cloves, cardamon, fennel, nutmeg, laurel leaves, allspice, garlic.