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Japanese Curry

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  • hkl Sep 20, 2002 11:00 AM
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I have been spoiled with the awesome curry I ate in Japan. I'm now looking for a place that has good authentic curry, specifically katsu curry, in SF or the surrounding area. I've tried many places in Japantown and the financial district and for some reason that I can't really explain, it's just not the same. Any suggestions?

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  1. b
    Bryan Harrell

    Well, authentic "Japanese" curry is a matter of definition which has a regional skew to it. For example, the typical dish is called "Curry Rice" in Tokyo, but in Osaka it is "Rice Curry" so go figure.
    What I mean is, you need to define which style of curry rice (or? gyaku) you had in Japan, then seek reasonable replications in the SF area. The easiest thing I can imagine (since this dish in Japan is the equivalent of mixing up a batch of Kraft macaroni & cheese) would be to go to Maruwa Super in Japantown and buy a number of Curry Rice mixes, then make up a batch of Japanese-style rice (Tamaki-mai) and serve it with the curry you make from the mixes, adding the requisite pickle condiments which are also available at Maruwa. If you want to be really authentic, you will add tiny diced cubes of cheese ( use processed cheese to be authentically Japanese) and tiny diced cubes of dill pickles (Jeez, don't ask me why -- it's the way things are) and you're done. Typical Japanese curry. For more questions about this dish, write me directly if you don't want to talk on the board.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Bryan Harrell

      Oh, *please* talk on the board! This is fascinating! All the recipes I could find online for Japanese curries seem to call for cooking meat and vegetables in the curry sauce. Is that not what people actually do?

      1. re: Bryan Harrell

        While you are correct that the popularity of curry rice in japan has made it widely available and bastardized by many recent additions, I think you misunderstand the seriousness of curry rice within the context of yoshoku cuisine (japanese cuisine with a foreign influence). At its best, curry rice is a serious dish and is about serious technique. Your mac n' cheese analogy is apt. While there's the kraft supermarket variety, you can also find a serious version at soul food joints all over the US (or serious steakhouses -- see the thread on the mac n' cheese at Michael Jordan's steakhouse on the NYC board). The original poster asked about places in the bay area for some serious curry rice, not the "typcial" stuff from a mix you can get at any little curry joint. With some help, I found a serious place in NYC (see link). As a former bay area resident, I'm interested in knowing if there's some out there as well.

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. re: Eric Eto
          b
          Bryan Harrell

          Thanks, Eric, for such a great treatise and description of the real, high-end curry which was rather rare in Japan, say 20 years ago, and is almost extinct now with chain restaurants and what have you.
          I did not misunderstand the seriousness of this curry; it just never occured to me to mention it on the Bay Area board. This is, of course, different than what is made in homes with the packaged roux blocks. In some cases, cooks actually blend their own curry powder, and the resulting flavor is distinctively Japanese in the sense that it does not resemble any Indian (or other) style curry I've had. It is interesting that someone in NYC is carrying on this style of curry. Sort of like finding a Northern Mexican Tamale shop in Paris. Most of the old-line "we make our own curry places" I have known in the Shibuya and Shinjuku areas of Tokyo (oddly enough, always close to jazz coffee shops, which have also become practically extinct) have gone out of business in the past 10 years. One in Shibuya, however, is still miraculously open, in its original building which must be about 70 years old now.

          1. re: Bryan Harrell

            It might surprise you, but many Japanese chefs know how to make a mean curry, but it is time and somewhat labor intensive, and mostly not cost effective to serve in a restaurant, if not using a quick version. When I cooked in a south bay area japanese restaurant about 16 years ago, the chef would prepare curry for staff meals, using up the fatty or gristly ends of beef or pork and/or seafood that needed to be used. That would be simmering for hours, and I was always told not to touch it. But it was some of the best japanese curry I've ever had. Wish I can sample that stuff again.

            1. re: Eric Eto
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              Bryan Harrell

              Thanks for the interesting description of Curry in the Kitchen. It is definitely modern Japanese soul food, so for cooks it makes sense. Gristly cuts of meat (sune-niku) are simmered for hours to get that certain gelatinous vibe going in the stock. Plus the tough meat really falls apart into the curry.

              Can I ask, did they have the requisite "yakumi" on the side? These include those red pickles (fujinzuke), rakkyo (sort of like pickled onion bulbs, but different), diced cheese, diced dill pickles (go figure!), raisins, roasted shredded coconut, etc. If dried onion strips were mixed into the rice, it would be full-on 1970's authentic.
              You can still find this dish in Tokyo, but you really have to look. Serious curry eaters now go for the many Northern India curries being offered in the many Indian restaurants now in Tokyo, operated by Indian people.

      2. I think it's difficult to find any Japanese food that tastes just like Japan here in the Bay Area (and probably most other cuisines too!) but such is life.
        :-) Anyway, my husband (Osaka born) enjoys the curry at Izumiya in the SF Japan Center (near the Kinokuniya bookstore). I also occasionally buy the House brand mix and make curry with yellow onions and chicken breast meat; it turns out pretty well and it's easy. And, yes, we use Tamaki mai rice.

        1. p
          Peter Hertzmann

          Gombei in Menlo Park has a very good katsu curry. If you go at dinner, it's not listed on the menu, but they will served it if you ask for it without hesitation.