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Japanese Curry from Scratch (you're not going to like it though...)

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Eric Eto Nov 21, 2004 02:38 AM

So I went to the Japanese book store and found a decent cookbook for Yoshoku cuisine (Japanese western style cuisine). While Yoshoku cuisine may be commonly perceived by many as a style of cooking western foods for Japanese tastes, I think it goes far beyond that as it requires so much rigorous attention to details and a focus on French technique. This recipe is adapted from a famous Tokyo restaurant. Also, please note that this recipe will take you several days to make properly. Yes, I said days. I hope this doesn't discourage those of you who are interested.

Ingredients: (sorry you'll have to do your own conversions)
ROUX
-25g Curry powder each S&B and C&B brands (I'm sure you can play with the curry spices to come up with your own mixture)
-100cc vegetable oil
-100g flour

NON-ROUX
-200g finely chopped onions
-vegetable oil for sauteeing
-1 tablespoon grated ginger
-1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
-1 apple (quartered)
-1 banana (quartered)
-1 tomato (seeded)
-1 tablespoon mango chutney
-1 tablespoon ketchup
-300cc brown veal stock (look up any French cookbook for this)
-1500 cc beef boullion (by this I believe they mean a standard dark beef stock, not the cube of beef bouillon we're accustomed to thinking about here)
-1 tablespoon ground cumin (preferably freshly roasted cumin seeds, and ground)
-rock salt (I think regular salt is fine)
-black pepper
-500g beef (sirloin) thinly sliced

1. Make the roux.
-Saute the flour with the vegetable oil over a medium heat. (I would prefer to use some butter at this point, though this recipe only calls for oil). Saute and mix well with a wooden spoon until the flour and oil are well incorporated.
-Add the curry powder mix and work into the roux until well incorporated.
-In a 120-130 C oven, roast the roux for about 2 hours. (This seems to be an important step to bring out the flavors of the spices.)
-After roasting the roux, cool it and work the mixture with a flat headed wooden spoon (or somesuch utensil) to smooth it out.
-Set aside

2. Prepare the other ingredients
-Saute the onions in oil until browned and well caramelized. Set aside.
-Saute the ginger, garlic until fragrant. Add the onion mixture.
-Add enough beef stock to the ginger/garlic/onion mixture to make a thin paste
-In a blender, add the apple, banana, tomato, mango chutney, ketchup, and the ginger/garlic/onion paste, and blend until smooth

3. Blend the roux
-Add the pureed mixture to the roux over medium heat. Keep mixing.
-Add the veal stock and stir into the roux mixture.
-As you keep stirring the curry sauce, add hot beef stock gradually until you get to a suitable thick sauce
-Simmer for at least an hour, making sure to keep mixing it so the bottom doesn't burn
-Add the cumin, mix, and simmer for another hour.

4. Allow the sauce to "mature"
-The instructions states to let the curry sauce rest for at least 4 days (yes, 4 days) to mature. I'm not sure if this means in the fridge or at room temperature. In my experience, it is left at a cool room temperature, and at some point each day, brought to a simmer for a little bit and allowed to cool down to room temperature again. Yes, four days of this. Perhaps this step is a bit obsessive, but some experts say it's crucial.

5. Prepare the beef and finish
-Saute the beef, salt and pepper, and some curry powder to taste
-When the beef is cooked to about medium, add it to the curry sauce.

6. Eat the damn thing. Over hot rice.

OK, so there it is. Japanese curry from scratch made by an overly obsessive Yoshoku chef. Remember, also that making a proper fond de veau (veal stock) can take 3 days to make, not to mention a proper beef stock. I'll probably use some shortcuts, like a store-bought demi glace sauce. So maybe you'll gain an appreciation of what went into making that plate of Japanese curry next time you eat at a fancy Yoshoku restaurant in Japan (I haven't found one in the US, so no need to ponder that here).

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  1. k
    kate RE: Eric Eto Nov 21, 2004 05:10 AM

    Interesting.

    As you said, this is an incredibly labour-intensive recipe, but no doubt delicious. But it always makes me wonder - is the enjoyment I'd get out of this fifty times more than the enjoyment I get out of my quick and easy cilantro yoghurt chicken curry recipe? Whilst it is difficult to measure something so ephemeral, I suspect not. Whilst I do occasionally make things that warrant a ridiculous amount of time and effort (oeufs a la neige come to mind), these never become mainstays of my kitchen.

    For me, recipes like this make great eye candy, but this is the sort of thing I would go to a Japanese restaurant for, because chances are even after following this recipe to a T, a Japanese chef would, with his immense experience, make this much better than me.

    But thanks for the eye candy! Sonds delicious...

    2 Replies
    1. re: kate
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      rudeboy RE: kate Nov 21, 2004 05:35 AM

      Whilst I often get better thai food at restaurants that I can ever prepare myself, I will never stop trying to prepare excruciating thai recipes in my own kitchen. The difference is that I love to cook.

      You may be confused in that this recipe takes a long time to mature - that doesn't mean that it is labor intensive. My gumbo recipe is similarly time intensive. And, in fact, labor intensive as well. So what?

      1. re: rudeboy
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        Yukari Pratt RE: rudeboy Nov 22, 2004 01:50 AM

        Eric, curious what the name of the cookbook series is. Everyday for lunch I eat at a quiet space located directly across the street from one of the most famous Yoshoku restaurants in Japan, Taimeiken. It is located at Nihonbashi, just a minute from the station. I am amazed and fascinated at the number of people standing in line. Especially on the weekends. Have not been, but can`t imagine it is as good as the outrageous prices they charge.

    2. p
      Professor Salt RE: Eric Eto Nov 21, 2004 11:28 PM

      I'm glad you posted this, since I've recently become obsessed with the incredibly delicious Japanese curry at a place in Costa Mesa, CA. They make theirs with the rich pork broth from their ramen soup.

      Interesting that this recipe calls for browning the roux in an oven, since most Japanese homes don't have ovens. Eric, is this a book for professional chefs that most home cooks aren't ever going to cook out of?

      4 Replies
      1. re: Professor Salt
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        Eric Eto RE: Professor Salt Nov 22, 2004 12:49 AM

        This Yoshoku book is based on a series called "Professional techniques" and the main title is called something like "How to become a famous Yoshoku Chef", with recipes from some of the more famous Yoshoku restaurants in Japan. By the way, there's also a book dedicated just to curry in this series. So, perhaps it's not for the novice home cook, but I wouldn't follow this recipe to the letter, as I don't with recipes from any cookbooks. IMO, recipes are for inspiration, but execution is up to individual judgment. I'll applaud anyone who will go through the process illustrated in my original post. It's unlikely that I'll go through all that, but at least I now know what the proper processes are, and what shortcuts I can and shouldn't take to make a reasonable facsimile of a serious japanese curry. Funny thing is that I never really knew about that "maturation" step, but after reading that I remembered how the chef at a Japanese restaurant where I once worked, used to make curry for staff meals, and I would find a vat of curry sitting in some odd corner from time to time. That was some of the very best curry I've had, and I'm beginning to understand how those chefs who are serious about their curry go about making it, and don't take shortcuts in their approach.

        I suppose I should reiterate again that I tend not to compare this style of curry to other southeast asian curry. It's quite a different animal and has more in common with etouffe or beouf bourgignon than to thai or indian style curry.

        1. re: Professor Salt
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          Eric Eto RE: Professor Salt Nov 22, 2004 12:10 PM

          I just reread your post and wanted to make a correction. The recipe doesn't call for browning the roux in the oven. It says to make a roux with oil and flour, and add the curry spices, then *roast* the roux mixture (not browning) in an oven. A toaster oven would work just as well for this procedure, which are fairly common in Japanese kitchens. I think one way to circumvent this step is to use your own spice mix from seeds, dry roast/toast them, and grind it before you add it to the roux. I believe because they are using a commercial pre-ground product for the curry spice, the roasting step is a way to bring out the flavors and aroma.

          1. re: Professor Salt
            eezerik RE: Professor Salt Oct 23, 2007 02:57 PM

            Do you mind naming the place?

            1. re: eezerik
              kare_raisu RE: eezerik Oct 23, 2007 04:20 PM

              This post goes down in the history of Chowhound as one of its finest - any rate thanks for ressurecting it.

              I'd be willing to bet the place professor salt refers to -is in the Mitsuwa food court.

          2. p
            PayOrPlay RE: Eric Eto Nov 22, 2004 02:59 PM

            This is a fascinating post, thank you, Eric. In past threads about curry mixes vs. made-from-scratch, the usual consensus has been that everyo home cook in Japan (and maybe a large portion of the restaurants there and here as well) uses the mixes, and I guess we can see why. At the end of the day, I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone who undertakes this project (or any other scratch Japanese curries) about the end results, and the extent to which taking all this time does (and doesn't) produce an improved result. I'd be interested in whether there may be some sort of "moderate" approach to this--using some short cuts but not others to get to an end product that has a fresher taste of spices than something like House brand, but with a maximally efficient expenditure of personal effort vs. letting the factory do the grunt work.

            1. y
              yimster RE: Eric Eto Nov 23, 2004 08:39 PM

              That is a lot of work. I sure it was worth it. But just how much better than a mix was it? Is it worth the work for a home cook that will not use curry that much?

              Thank you for the post if was very interesting.

              1. e
                Eric Eto RE: Eric Eto Nov 30, 2004 10:39 AM

                I was perusing an archive of a Japanese web-magazine and I found this recipe for Japanese curry. It's much less obsessive as the one I posted originally, and with helpful photos. As you can see, there are probably hundreds of variations on Japanese curry recipes. I'm learning as I read up more on it. On the linked recipe page, if you hit the "back" button at the bottom of the page, you'll find an article about Japanese curry.

                Link: http://web-japan.org/nipponia/nipponi...

                4 Replies
                1. re: Eric Eto
                  h
                  Helen F RE: Eric Eto Dec 1, 2004 01:30 PM

                  Hi Eric,

                  This recipe looks a lot saner than the first one you wrote about. That one was enough to send me back to the hydrogenated, fat-filled, break-apart bars.

                  I noticed the recipe calls for both garam masala and curry powder - I wonder what a Japanese home cook would understand this to be, and if it differs from the curry powder I would expect to find in the spice section of a typical American supermarket, or in an Asian supermarket here in NYC. Do you know? I sometimes look for curry powder in places like Pacific or HK supermarkets, hoping to find something I can use to do an end run around the fat bars, but I've never seen something that was simply labeled "curry powder." Can anyone clue me in?

                  1. re: Helen F
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                    Eric Eto RE: Helen F Dec 1, 2004 02:52 PM

                    The most popular Japanese brand of curry powder is S&B, which is in a bright yellow and red tin. I'm pretty certain I've seen it at Chinese markets (like Pacific or HK), but I can't remember if I've seen it in the Japanese food aisle or with the other spices.

                    Note that this recipe is strikingly different from most Japanese curries in that it doesn't start with a roux base. It seems like this chef is making a curry more similar to Indian curry. I would prefer to start with a roux and use beef and beef or veal stock, to achieve a darker, richer, and meatier sauce.

                    1. re: Eric Eto
                      h
                      Helen F RE: Eric Eto Dec 1, 2004 04:21 PM

                      Bright yellow and red -- how the heck did I miss it?

                      I was kind of surprised to see yogurt in the recipe. Your surmise that it's an Indian-inspired curry interpretation makes sense. Meanwhile, my head is spinning from trying to imagine how this recipe would result in anything like what you get from cubes. And it sounds too darn healthy, especially when compared to the older (i.e., lardy & suety) version of the cubes! But it does look tasty. I'll have to give it a try.

                      Thanks for reporting on this quest.

                      Helen

                  2. re: Eric Eto
                    m
                    Mein lo RE: Eric Eto Dec 1, 2004 08:14 PM

                    I think the article that precedes the curry is a little confusing, but if you read it all the way to the very end, it starts to talk about the growing popularity of thai and indian style curries. It then segues into the recipe by talking about this chef and how he learned to make curry from his indian son-in-law. It kind of makes it sound like this isn't the "traditional" japanes style (though it seems like it has been adapted to suit the japanese taste, so to speak)

                  3. w
                    willownt RE: Eric Eto Oct 23, 2007 05:11 PM

                    Wild. I have a soft spot in my heart for Japanese curry, particularly when it has corn in it. Even my Japanese friends think it's funny that I like it.

                    I don't think I'd bother going to all that work, though!

                    BTW There's an interesting discussion in Curry Cuisine with the story behind Japanese curry, as well as curries from around the world. A neat book.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: willownt
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                      isabelle94 RE: willownt Oct 5, 2008 11:47 AM

                      I haven't tried Eric's recipe (although I'm sure it's great) but have been using a recipe I found on Saveur's website. I searched high and low for a Japanese curry recipe from scratch and this one is very nice. It's also fast and easy to make.

                      http://www.saveur.com/food/new-recipe...

                      1. re: isabelle94
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                        Splendid Spatula RE: isabelle94 Apr 13, 2009 10:07 AM

                        I make this a couple of times every winter - it is DELICIOUS.

                      2. re: willownt
                        bigjeff RE: willownt Apr 12, 2009 07:20 PM

                        Willownt, just picked up a copy of that book Curry Cuisine, edited by Corinne Trang; this is the same book you are referring to? I found it to be an excellent book and I haven't even gone through half the book yet, just reading through it slowly.

                      3. d
                        dimitori RE: Eric Eto Nov 19, 2008 03:42 PM

                        Hi all,

                        I'm very happy I found this board and thanks to Eric for posting this recipe. I've been going to Japan for many years and every time my love for Kare Rice has grown bigger.

                        I've been always curious to figure out how it was done before the processed Curry Roux was invented.
                        And since I don't read japanese i couldn't get the info until I found this post.

                        So yes, I did try the posted recipe !
                        Twice !

                        Once with beef and once with pork. Of course I didn't follow every single detail, but I stayed pretty close, adapting to my taste, but indeed going through the 3 days maturing process (only once though...)

                        So here are my little comments:

                        To me, the most important element in the recipe is actually the one that is not detailed here: the brown veal stock, or fond de veau in traditional french cuisine.
                        It is something totally lost from most french restaurants unfortunately, replaced usually by processed/dehydrated products.
                        I believe this gives Japanese curry 50% or more of it's flavour and it is also where you can taste the difference between a processed roux based curry from a real one as the recipe depicts.

                        I've tried my hand at making such a stock a few times, and although it's a bit of a lengthy chore, it's totally worthwile as it can serve many different recipes and bring an unparalled taste and body to the dish.

                        I won't go into its recipe here, there are surely many to be found.

                        I do however suggest you getting the biggest stock pot that can fit your stove. The final reduction is typically less than 1/15 of the amount of liquid you're starting with. So the bigger your pot is, the more you get for the amount of hassle preparing it.
                        You can then do the classic but effective trick of freezing the stock in ice cube trays and using it when needed in portions that can be dissolved in hot liquid.

                        Another thing I noticed in the recipe worth commenting, is the meat preparation. Following the recipe's cooking direction with beef that's not of Japanese standards will surely yield bad results, in the form of pretty hard and tasteless meat pieces.
                        Japanese beef, even of the most basic quality is always much fatter and marbleized than the one found in western countries. There is so much fat laced in it that it is not red but pink, going to almost white for the most expensive cuts (in that style we usually know Kobe or Wagyu beef, but there are much more varieties in Japan)

                        So quickly frying japanese sirloin slices and throwing them in the curry sauce sounds indeed like a delicious idea. The fat will keep the meat tasty and moist until it's soon eaten. I would however suggest to avoid if you don't have that kind of meat at hand.

                        So what I did, is starting with the brown stock to which I added after a few hours of having the bones cooking, seared pieces of "stew" beef (I couldn't tell you which part of the animal it is)
                        This has the double advantage of adding taste to the stock while starting to cook the meat pieces that need a good 2 to 3 hours before being fully tender.

                        While this was going on the stove, I did the curry roux. I used the exact same powder brands and followed every step.

                        After the 2 hours of slow roasting, i didn't regret I did it.
                        The roux came out with a delicious fragrance of a curry cake. I believe the roasting not only brings out the flavor of the spices but more notably of the flour. The secret of achieving a good roux is on well roasting the flour. Doing this in the oven instead of the traditional frypan method is a great and quite foolproof idea.

                        Now the one thing that didn't quite come out well, was the taste of the curry roux. It was way to hot (spicy)
                        On my second attempt at the recipe I tried a less hot curry powder, but again too strong.

                        For those familar with the Japanese Curry houses degrees of hotness we were into "karakuchi" domain or 4 in a scale of 5.

                        I shall try only 25 grams instead of 50 of curry powder next time

                        After 2 hours of cooking the stock,I transferred some of it to another pot (use the quantity you want for your final curry sauce)

                        I didn't fry the ginger and garlic and blended with apple and banana.
                        I only a big piece of peeled ginger in the new pot, and an oven roasted head of garlic.

                        I added some canned sweetened apple puree (compote) but later towards the end, and I highly recommend that for extra body and sweetness

                        I also put two tablespoon of chutney, but a japanese "mixed fruit" variety from the Gaban brand that had a very molasses like texture and a slightly vinegary taste

                        In the new pot I put a blend of entire spices in a gaze bag tied with rope: black pepper, white peper, cardamon pods, cloves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and a cinnamon stick
                        This gives the stock a great curry spice flavor, without the hotness

                        I cooked this for another hour

                        In again another smaller pot I put the roasted roux and mixed in some of the new "curry stock"
                        When it was well blended I poured it back into the above stock.

                        I picked the cooked meat piece from the brown stock pot and added to the curry sauce.

                        I then finished the cooking of the meat another hour roughly, additionally seasoned with salt (no salt before !) and a little sugar

                        I left it on the stove at room temp, boiled the next 3 days, once in the morning and once before bedtime :)

                        Of course I tasted throughout the whole process

                        I did it again with pork, pretty much same scenario but started with a pork stock of which half went to a tonkotsu ramen dinner.

                        I didn't do the maturation the second time, it does taste fuller if you do it, but the difference isn't worth the extra work.

                        Now, the BIG question is: is it better than the processed roux Curries ?

                        Well, yes it is, BUT not enourmously different
                        There is much more body in the sauce, and the taste stays much longer in your mouth with a delicious aftertaste.

                        But it was too spicy hot and that really annoyed me. I believe getting the curry spices mix right is of the highest importance. Any info on the proportions is welcome

                        Since the other key element is the stock, I do more often a recipe where I start with a home made stock (beef, chicken or pork)
                        I follow the same steps, only that I use a factory made roux that i dissolve in the second "curry stock".
                        If you choose the right roux (not too MSG strong) you get an extremely rich and natural tasting curry.
                        (My favorite processed roux is House's Dinner Curry)

                        Now I have a question for the other the curry fans out there.
                        My actual favorite basic restaurant curry, is the Japanese Fransu Te one
                        They sell it also in pouches for the home and it taste almost exactly like the one in the restaurants.
                        However I was wondering if there was a processed roux that was tasting similar, I've tried quite a few but have yet to find it.
                        If anyone has, please let us know !

                        thanks to all

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: dimitori
                          The Dairy Queen RE: dimitori Nov 19, 2008 04:29 PM

                          Welcome to Chowhound and thank you for your terrific post, and, for reviving this post. I hadn't seen it before. I do hope someone answers your question!

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: dimitori
                            j
                            Joebob RE: dimitori Nov 19, 2008 09:30 PM

                            It might be easier to fly to Oahu and just buy a few boxes of genuine "Vermont Curry".

                          2. h
                            hankstramm RE: Eric Eto May 11, 2009 08:57 PM

                            OK, I'm trying this this weekend. I might minimalist the recipe--whatever that means...

                            1. k
                              KippyA RE: Eric Eto Apr 11, 2012 12:14 AM

                              When I lived in Tokyo in 1986 there was a place in Rippongi called the Key West Club and I first had curry there it was so good. When I came back to live in Sacramento, CA you could not get this curry at all I mean I tried it at a Chinese place and Indian place not the same now way totally different taste the Indian curry tastes more oily and spicy and the Chinese curry tastes very spicy but too spicy and watery. They had the SB when in the 90s when I was in my twenties and I was like oh that is it. It didn't have as much as a spicy kick as it did in Japan but it was closer to what I had in Japan. I was just curious is this the Key West Club recipe?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: KippyA
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                                GTM RE: KippyA Jul 11, 2012 01:14 PM

                                Reading through the posts above, a thought struck me and I set it down here to be critiqued. The need for veal/beef stock certainly adds richness to the dish but also acts as a limiting factor to most people who want to try the dish, unless they go to places like Demi-Glace Gold and purchase some expensive fond.

                                However, an artificial barrier has been created by the reluctance of the Japanese, and some Americans, to enjoy meat without bones. Some of the flavor issues could be avoided by purchasing mixed cuts of meat that has plenty of bones, e.g. lean oxtail [go to Chinese groceries], shoulder 7-bone roast, ribs from which meat has been removed, and shin/shank, along with a piece of veal breast [ often cheaply had]. Wash, dry and really brown these chunked pieces, along with pepper, very little sea salt, and a bit of the curry powder, as advised by Eric, after the meat has taken on some crust. Do not crowd. You may consider using some pork caul fat to brown the meat.

                                Now proceed to step 3 with a ceramic-lined dutch oven: SEAL the lid with a thick ring of dough made of flour. Bring to a strong simmer, you will be able to hear/sense/smell when this happens. Then place the whole thing in a hot 400-450F oven, and keep it there for 1/2 hour, reduce to 300F for 2 hours, and switch off the oven and let the container remain in the cooling oven without removing the dough ring.

                                3. Blend the roux
                                -Add the pureed mixture to the roux over medium heat. Keep mixing.
                                -Add the veal stock and stir into the roux mixture.
                                -As you keep stirring the curry sauce, add hot beef stock gradually until you get to a suitable thick sauce
                                -Simmer for at least an hour, making sure to keep mixing it so the bottom doesn't burn
                                -Add the cumin, mix, and simmer for another hour.

                                Every day you may wish to switch on the oven for a short while, and gently reheat the curry at 300F for a short while. You can do this for however many days you wish.

                                This process of cooking under "dum" preserves flavors so much better than all others, and is a method of braising and stewing combined, depending on how much water is used. Meat is best braised in fat, but cooking in water is OK too.

                                When you wish to eat, open the COLD dutch oven and remove the fat cap, replace lid, and reheat in the regular oven very, very gently. Of course, we have not spoken about adding potatoes or carrots yet. These can be gently sauteed in a non-stick pan, cooked to tender-firm in some light chicken broth [all of it should evaporate] and added to the curry as it reheats. They will not absorb all the deep flavors but still be tasty enough, and not mushy. Ditto, fresh corn.

                                Eat curry with fork and spoon or with your fingers, and relish the flavor afforded by bones. Then there is the tonkatsu, or even strips of meat breaded and fried for more crisp surface, to be added to the curry + rice, for the complete plate.

                                If you want to use a LARGE size Chinese SANDY POT, seal that and use it on the stove top, and keep it going for the 3-day interval, but cook with bones, and pieces like blanched and cubed beef tongue, in addition to cuts mentioned.

                              2. e
                                evansp60 RE: Eric Eto Jul 11, 2012 07:55 PM

                                Eric, it's not a scratch recipe when you get your curry powder pre-ground in a package.
                                You need to grind the spices for the curry yourself. If you cannot find the packaged product then you can't get the same flavor. Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine. See this post:

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/857471

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: evansp60
                                  g
                                  GTM RE: evansp60 Jul 12, 2012 01:46 AM

                                  For practical purposes, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to grind whole spices as fine as the Japanese SB tinned curry powder in a home coffee grinder. To get that level of fineness, or better, we would need to use the traditional wet grinding stone. Good quality stones are not easy to find in the USA, as I have discovered to my dismay. You cannot easily achieve a fine grind in a Thai-style mortar and pestle, because you need the coriander, turmeric ground down well below 80 microns, to 20 micron particles.

                                  The next practical barrier to your suggestion is that one does not know the precise proportions of the proprietary curry powder mixes that offer a known and loved flavor profile. Note that Eric has taken his cue from a professional manual which recommends using a mix of 2 specific brands of Japanese curry powder. I have used SB brand, and if you have used McCormicks, you will recognize its distinctive and unique flavor profile, as singularly its own as Old Bay is unique despite a heavy overlay of celery seed.

                                  The issue here is not making something from scratch as per your definition or peeves, but as per Eric's needs and that of those interested in creating a certain type of Japanese curry that mimics the ones produced in Yoshoku restaurants. The "scratch" here refers to not using the curry paste blocks but making the whole thing as the restaurant chefs do.

                                  You may be unpleasantly surprised at how peeved many expert Indian chefs might be at your own assumptions of expertise at cooking "Indian" dishes and could proceed to poke holes in your methods, techniques, spicing and so forth in a very public and insulting way as you have done to Eric, who has created a most excellent post.

                                  1. re: GTM
                                    e
                                    evansp60 RE: GTM Jul 12, 2012 06:44 AM

                                    Well GTM if your measuring your spice grind in microns you are well ot of my league and that's ok. As to insulting Eric, I don't believe I denigrated him in any way. It's quite an involved recipe with great detail and yet when you get to the flavor profile that's the one thing that isn't scratch. I suggest that that's the one thing that should be scratch. If you cannot find the right tinned product then it is not replicable in the manner it was meant to be. If that's how the pro's do it then shame on them. It's just my peeve and no offense meant to Eric or yourself. My vitriol is directed at the author's of the recipe.

                                    1. re: evansp60
                                      g
                                      GTM RE: evansp60 Aug 18, 2012 11:51 AM

                                      Hi Evansp60,

                                      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I do admire the effort Eric has put into his dream of unravelling the secret of Japanese curry for the home cook, and you will note Quimby's comment to the same effect.

                                      Let me offer a couple of thoughts to your points of tinned curry powder, and not making something from "scratch". Presumably, making something something from scratch in this case equates to freshness, in your mind, rather than authenticity, since we have established that the Japanese curry chefs are aiming for a particular flavor profile that the curry powder manufacturers are aware of and have been able to provide or closely duplicate.

                                      So, all that remains are the questions of

                                      1) teasing out the maximum flavor from available dry spices

                                      this is where the fine grind in specified microns we are rarely able to generate without burr grinders or WET stone grinding at home comes in!!

                                      2) acquiring the best quality spices:

                                      you will notice the very high quality of, say, McCormick spices & their components, compared to what you buy from Indian stores or even Penzeys. This is particularly noticeable to an Indian who has to admit to their exceptional turmeric quality, and freshness.

                                      3) this brings us to the next very important issue, FRESHNESS.

                                      Please let me explain how the spice business works, because I come from Bengal, which produces a very high quality variety of ginger, named NADIA, rich in oleoresins, yet the way in which it is handled and processed for drying and export in India makes it lose potency and pungency within a relatively short time. It is cut with rough handling and dried in the sun, and handled roughly at all subsequent stages. Now, the large spice houses like McCormicks get their materials very fresh and process very fast, having a large turnover. You & I, even when buying from a reputed company, and buying whole spices, get stuff that is AT LEAST 2 years from the field. Why? The US government, justifiably has very strict safe handling, quarantine and radiation procedures, and add in the long shipping, be it from India, Pakistan, Turkey, Guatemala, Indonesia, Grenada or wherever. We never get the choice turmeric, peppercorn, whole coriander, fennel, etc.

                                      Trust me on this, the spices I used growing up in India were so much better than the total garbage I now have to buy as whole seeds. The Guatemalan green cardamom, and the various cassia bark available in the US market is crap, if you will forgive my culinary French. In Bengal, we had our own Cassia tamala tree for cassia leaf, both fresh and sun-dried, and the fragrance was unbelievable. Ditto, Curry leaves, and specific cultivars of turmeric, e.g. Sinduri, and Ginger, and also Lime and Lemon.

                                      We used coriander & fennel seed of specific provenance, and these are still available in India, e.g. Indore, Lucknow, etc. Good Luck finding them in the USA. Go to any Indian market and just smell the fragrance wafting from the heaps of fresh dry chillies just days off the vine and open a packet of dry red chillies sold by Indian grocers here and try to discover any true fragrance save acridity!!

                                      I do understand your quest for freshness and authenticity, but do you get my point as well? Just as there are many instances when frozen fish can be better than the so-called "fresh" in a grocery case, so too in the case of spices, regrettably, the store-bought, in CERTAIN INSTANCES, becomes MORE AUTHENTIC or TASTIER than what may concoct at home from those things that are CONVENIENTLY at hand. Of course, one may spend a lot of time and expense trying to coordinate everything so that one gets everything exactly right, but that is not within the realm of an ordinary cook trying to have a pleasant experience with family and friends. West Indian Chicken Curry Powder is another one of these things best bought, not made, owing to its own peculiar traditions, and proportions. I do have the formula, but it never tastes right to the Caribbean folk, who all prefer a particular brand, they have been used to, much like Heinz ketchup. Vietnamese Curry and Ottogi Korean Curry are two more with distinct flavor profiles that the home cook cannot duplicate with ease, nor satisfy the discerning crowd!

                                      Since you are as earnest a seeker as any of us, I feel that you should have this long explanation of an alternative point of view. This is not trying to suggest that my ideas are more correct or more authoritative than yours, but that they simply represent one more aspect of a very complex picture. I do hope you will appreciate the complexity, and enjoy it, warts and all. Thank you for your forbearance, and hope to have many more interesting discussions regarding spices and curries with you.

                                      1. re: GTM
                                        g
                                        GTM RE: GTM Aug 18, 2012 01:09 PM

                                        Re: evansp60 quest to prepare a Japanese curry from scratch, here is what I discovered:

                                        http://1tess.wordpress.com/2011/02/16...

                                        "The main spice flavors in Japanese curry are turmeric, coriander, and cumin. The hot spices are black pepper and cayenne... there is a hint of cinnamon and fennel.
                                        Other spices might include allspice, anise, bay leaf, cardamom, oregano."

                                2. q
                                  quimbys RE: Eric Eto Aug 17, 2012 08:57 PM

                                  Yes.

                                  I have lived in Japan for 15 of the last 20 years and I have been investigating this topic for the last 2 years. This is the best English language recipe I have seen online. It compares favorably to Japanese ones. The problem is that while the basic techniques are mostly the same, no self-respecting (the good chefs) curry seller will ever give out their recipe. Outside of the Japanese chains, no curry shop every sells exactly the same curry. So you grow to know the differences and develop favorites. One chef in my neighborhood completely sympathizes with my quest to develop a good recipe, but he will never tell me his. Apparently he went through an investigation over several years to develop his own recipe and believe me it's incredible. This chef does offer me hints. He has pointed out books that he read to develop his recipe and I am trying to read them, but the going is slow because me Japanese is terrible. Here's a link to a similarly labor intensive recipe that was used by Shiseido Curry in Tokyo. Maybe you can run it through your Google translator and make something of it: http://oisiso.com/html/recipe/currysp...

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