Written by Hilary Keyes
Japanese Curry And Rice - What's It Like, And Where Can I Try It?
While curry is definitely one of India's most famous dishes, the Japanese take on curry is one that many people can't seem to live without! Japanese curry and rice comes in many forms - why not find your favorite during your trip to Japan?
Japanese Curry - a National Dish
Curry, "kare" in Japanese, is one of Japan's most beloved Western dishes. The average Japanese family has curry and rice for dinner at least once a week; curry buns, a fried bun filled with curry, can be found at any convenience store or bakery, and any Japanese family restaurant or casual dining place is sure to have at least one curry dish on its menu.
Home-cooking style katsu curry and side dishes
Japanese curry is essentially a mild curry made with onions, carrots, and potatoes, and a meat, usually beef or pork. There are many different variations on this dish however, which include chicken, other vegetables or even fruit, and plenty of ways it is served too. Some of the most popular are katsu curry (curry with a breaded pork cutlet), dry curry (rice with a thick minced meat curry sauce), curry udon (curry sauce and vegetables served on udon noodles), and soup curry (a soup-like curry sauce with larger cut vegetables and chunks of meat or whole chicken legs).
Curry was brought to Japan by the British during the Meiji period, and quickly became a popular dish with the masses. It first became commercially available in the 1920s, and is now easily made from instant curry roux, or even pre-packaged in retort pouches, meaning that anyone can quickly prepare a decent meal of Japanese curry almost anywhere. These packages even make for some pretty tasty and unique souvenirs too!
Where Can I Eat Japanese Curry?
While you can find curry and rice on the menu at most casual dining places, there are some restaurants that you just have to check out if you want an authentic dish of this Japanese classic. Here are some of the best places in Tokyo to find curry rice.
Home of Katsu Curry - Ginza Swiss
Ginza Swiss in Ginza is just a three minute walk away from the A9 exit of Ginza Station, and has been in business since 1947. They were the first to pair a breaded pork cutlet with their curry, and have been known for this dish ever since. Their curry rice is known for its original recipe of a thick, fruit-based sauce and for its perfectly cooked katsu cutlet. For more about this shop, take a look at Savor Ginza Swiss' Original Katsu Curry - Since 1947.
A Harajuku Landmark - Onden Curry Restaurant
A three minute walk from Exit 5 of Meiji-Jingumae Station will bring you to Onden Curry Restaurant, a shop that has specialized in curry since 1960. Onden, which is a cozy little restaurant of just 20 seats, has plenty of delicious curry dishes to choose from, but their croquette curry rice is one of their most recommended.
The croquette is filled with fluffy mashed potatoes and comes with a generous serving of curry on top, plus a side salad too. If you'd like to see their shop interior and prices, check out Just Like Mom's - Onden, Harajuku's Classic Curry Restaurant.
Modern Versions of the Classic - Curry & Bar Mokubaza
Originally a bar, Curry and Bar Mokubaza is one of the new pioneers of Japanese curry. A ten minute walk from Harajuku Station, initially their curries were designed to be part of the night menu, which meant that they had to be less spicy for late night stomachs, but the overall richness that they achieved made them popular enough to open a lunch service as well.
Their most popular dish is their cheese keema curry, which features a layer of mozzarella cheese on top of finely minced Japanese style keema curry, topped with a raw egg. They also have baked curries as well - see Curry and Bar Mokubaza: Enjoy Modern Japanese Curry In Harajuku for more on this Japanese curry innovator!
Vegetarian Japanese Curry - Trico Curry
An eight minute walk from either Nakano Station or Koenji Station on the JR Chuo Line will bring you to Trico Curry, a small restaurant with only 15 seats that specializes in curry. But not just any curry - here you will find one of the best vegetarian Japanese curries around. Their vegetable curry comes with 15 different seasonal vegetables which may include avocado, lotus root, pumpkin, tomatoes, and more. There's also a crisply fried hashed potato topping you can order too. To see more about this shop, read Trico Curry's Superb Vegetable Curry - Only In Nakano.
Instant Curry and a Buffet - The Curry Embassy
The Curry Embassy is a five minute walk from Kuramae Station near Asakusa, and sells various major and regional brands of retort package curries, and has its own amazing Japanese curry buffet. The lunch buffet costs just 1000 yen, and allows you to enjoy three types of curry (which change periodically), eight different vegetable toppings, drinks and salad as well. For more about this unusual restaurant and shop, look at Let’s Try Ready-Made Curry At The Curry Embassy In Kuramae!
Feeling Hungry Now? Head Out and Get Some Japanese Curry!
If the sight of all this delicious curry has whet your appetite, then by all means, please head to one (or all!) of these restaurants during your time in Japan. You're sure to enjoy these and other different takes on this imported new Japanese classic.