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Japanese curry- How to...up a notch?

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We've been eating Japanese curry for years now. Usually just the store bought rue like House or whatever. Some are better than others, but none of them are great. I realize there's probably nothing like making it all from scratch, but does anyone have any suggestions on how we can take our curry up a notch? Not looking to make it spicier. Just some techniques or ingredients that can give a deeper and richer taste. My wife picked up a tip of cooking it with some apple, which helps round out the taste.

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  1. Yes, adding pureed apple helps. Pureed carrots or ketchup can kick things up. Garlic is also good. A favorite addition with most folks I know is plain yogurt. It should help give you the depth/richnes you're looking for. Don't be afraid to experiment!

    4 Replies
    1. re: weebie

      I agree with garlic. also some like to put in cream for depth. grating the onions is another option... also it might be a little time consuming but if you ude chicken, you can use the drumsticks and saute that first, take the meat off set aside, and use the bones for the soup stock and use your usual rue..make sure to strain the bones! enjoy

      1. re: yum

        Try adding coconut milk instead of water.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          it wouldn't be japanese then if you add the coconut. plus I don't think it would go well with the rue.

          1. re: delishus

            It is not Japanese, but I don't believe in hard and fast rules for cooking. It actually goes very well with the roux, and lends an incredible richness and sweetness.

    2. I find that by cutting your veggies into small 1/4 inch pieces and also food process your onions will imporve the taste.

      If you want to try new ways of using curry you can add cooked hard boil eggs, clams, Chinese roast pork, sweet potatoes, onion rings and fries.

      2 Replies
      1. re: theSauce

        I forgot the mentioned add a-1 sauce.

        1. re: theSauce

          I second the suggestion for sweet potatoes. It adds a nice softness to the curry with the slight sweetness. But when I do it, I mix sweet potatoes with regular potatoes just so that it doesn't become sweet potato curry.

        2. Thanks for the tips everyone! There's some good ones and I'm looking forward to the next time we make it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Silverjay

            One of the first things that I would do is go after the rice. If you don't, try making it with stock instead of water. I use niko niko "smiley face" rice made with chicken stock.

            Although it's not Japanese, I like to add a dash of "The Spice Hunter" Tandori Blend to my rice pot, for great nose and color. Go easy.

            I started using the S&B "Hot" packaged bricks of curry sauce about 25 years ago. I believe this is type of thing you are using. I have found I like to use about a quarter less water than called for on the package.

            I think that some sauteed shiitake mushroom might be a nice addition to your end. I also like some fresh or lightly steamed snow peas as a garnish. This too should add contrast, texture, and color to your curry.

            I have never strived for an ethnic correct curry. I am more of a kitchen sink / what's leftover / what's fresh / approach. I regularly saute sweet onions, colorful peppers, and fresh shrooms as a starter for many dishes including curry. My curries often will have boiled potato, raisins, chunks of apple, and some form of meat.

            The lazy susan curries of my youth included many things to sprinkle on top of your curry. This may lead to some additional ideas for your curry. Roast some nuts, cut some green onions on the bias, toast some coconut, and sprinkle them on top. Again, this may not be Japanese, but I would be from the try the coconut milk school.

            Enjoy!

          2. One trick that most great yoshoku-ya's use to make curry is first to start with a lot of caramelized onion. I think some of the scratch recipes I've read have called for 20-30 onions for a full batch. But I think using 2-3 for using one full brick of roux would be good. But caramelizing means fully soft, dark brown onion. It takes a lot of time and stirring to get it to that stage, and you might not want to bother with it. Another yoshoku-ya trick is to brown whatever meat you're using, and then deglaze with red wine, a good couple cups, and reduce by at least a half or more. You can either throw in the stock on top of that, or reserve the wine reduction and add it toward the end, into the thickened stew. You can also add pureed fruit (banana, apple, mango) to sweeten it, or add some honey. I've also seen grated carrots in some recipes.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Eric Eto

              My Japanese ex-wife taught me the carmelized onion trick, it's the single biggest improvement that I won't skip no matter how tight on time I get. Chop up a large onion as finely as you can, place in olive or peanut oil over very low heat and stir until browned, then continue with the package directions. I add a hot curry powder about halfway through the browning and some sliced garlic towards the end.

              Browning your meat separately makes a big difference also, add curry powder during the browning to layer in more flavor and heat. I add mushrooms, green/red peppers, pearl onions to brown up also, and use water to deglaze.

              1. re: Larry

                agreed, you def want to atleast brown the meat seperetely first. for sure. the brown caramelized crust that forms on the meat will most def bring a whole nother layer of flavor. course, doing the same with onions first is also great.

                1. re: ben61820

                  i always saute the veggies (potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and fresh jalepenos) first in some vegetable oil and garlic for about 5 - 10 minutes and set aside. then i saute beef in sesame oil and garlic. when it just starts to brown, i add some soy sauce. then the veggies go back in and get stir-fried for another 5-10 min, where they soak in some of the beef/soy sauce flavor.

            2. I add plain yogurt along with grated Granny Smith apple.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tabetai yo

                I second the yogurt and apple combo-- some commercial brands even specially advertise this combo. (Ad the apple near the beginning so it completely dissolves, add a small bit of yogurt at the end after you take it off the heat) Recently more brands have curries marked as vegetarian, without the lard--for some reason, counterintuitively, they often seem to have better taste. (I think it's because they emphasize things like the yogurt and apple)

                I personally focus more on making the meal interesting by choosing different toppings. (Homemade croquette or pickles, some tenpura, egg, hamburg steak, etc.) Things that are fried, well browned, etc., are key :)