Sukanya Momsen, MJIL Managing Editor:
There are many things to love about the Japanese culture, and food is definitely one of those things. One of my favorite Japanese foods is Japanese curry. My mom was born in India, and I have grown up loving traditional Indian curry, but when I first tried Japanese curry in Japan, I was shocked. Japanese curry is extremely different from Indian curry. Interested in the reasons for the existence of such different “curries,” I looked into the history of how curry came to Japan, why Japanese curry is so different from Indian curry, and the current popularity of curry in Japan.
In the Meiji Era, while the British were still occupying India, certain British sailors brought curry to Japan. Because the British brought curry to Japan, the introduction of curry to Japan had a greater British influence – rather than Indian. The most notable British influence is that Japanese curry is made from “roux” (blocks that dissolve in water to make the curry sauce) whereas Indian curry is not. It is more convenient for the British sailors to make while at sea, and this convenience became practice for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. Over time, curry gained popularity in Japan, and in 1960 supermarkets and restaurants began to sell curry blocks.
Japanese and Indian curries are completely different. Japanese curry tends to be sweet, while Indian curry is spicy. Additionally, most Japanese curry is served with beef, which is not the norm for Indian curry due to the influence of religion on consumption of beef. Another general difference is that Indian curry can usually be eaten pretty soon after it is made, whereas in Japan, it is actually better to wait a few days before eating the curry.
Other than these general differences, there are also differences in how the curries themselves are made. Japanese curry is typically made from the roux (ルー), and the other ingredients in the dish are usually onions, carrots, and potatoes, as well as a meat, which as mentioned before is usually beef. apanese curry is typically served with red pickles (福神漬) and Chinese onions (辣韮). Many families in Japan have different variations of Japanese curry. I have eaten the dish with apples, and even with chocolate. These additions attest to the fact that Japanese curry is typically sweet. J
Indian curry, on the other hand, is definitely on the spicy side – depending on one’s taste. “Indian curry” refers to a wide variety of different curries. Here, I refer to Indian curry generally and not one specific variation. Indians are generally vegetarian, so there are a lot of vegetarian curry dishes, but if meat is to be added the most typical meat used is chicken. Indian curry is also usually hand-made, without a roux, which requires the addition of things like curry powder and yogurt. In the end a final major difference is that Indian curry is served typically with basmati rice, which is a long grain, while Japanese curry is served with short-grain rice.
There are many curry shops in Japan. One of the most famous is called CoCo Curry House (カレーハウスCoCo壱番屋), which has many locations across the country. The popularization of curry in Japan has led it to its inclusion in many traditional Japanese dishes. Two common examples of this are Curry Udon (カレーうどん・Japanese noodles) or Curry Pan (カレーパン・Japanese bread). Additionally, curry is typically a favorite food of many children in Japan. This could be because of the sweetness. You are very likely to see curry as the main dish at a Japanese child’s birthday party. This is extremely different from Minnesota, where many American children I know wouldn’t even touch curry.
While both Japanese and Indian curries are extremely different, I love them both in their own ways. When I am looking for something creamy and slightly sweet, as well as something that can conveniently be made at home, I enjoy Japanese curry. And when I want to stick to my roots and eat traditional Indian curry, I either visit a local restaurant, or hope that my mom has some at home. When I am looking for something creamy and slightly sweet, as well as something that can conveniently be made at home, I enjoy Japanese curry. And when I want to stick to my roots and eat traditional Indian curry, I either visit a local restaurant, or hope that my mom has some at home.