If you're already a connoisseur of savory, spicy Indian curries and sweet hot Thai curries, it's time to tackle something new, team! Let's take on a delicious, authentic Japanese shrimp curry recipe.
The impact of Japanese cuisine in Portugal can't be overstated. Centuries-old trading routes brought Asian spices and cooking techniques to Portugal, and vice versa. Nearly every corner in Lisbon houses a Japanese restaurant or sushi stall, and ngiri is just as easy to find as the famed pastel de nata.
Since moving here, my sushi game has grown dramatically. So it was time to expand my Japanese food knowledge to curry. We have a lovely Japanese grocery store within walking distance of our apartment, so several months ago we took a long tour of the place and had a great conversation with the owner, who was proud to share her ingredients and knowledge.
Let's start with the basics. Traditional Japanese curry flavor has a sweeter, smoother flavor than than Indian curries, even though many of the spices are the same. This flavor often comes from Japanese curry blocks which can be found in most Asian grocery stores. Here's what you're looking for:
S&B brand is a popular maker of curry roux mixes. Like any roux, these Japanese curry powder roux squares are a mixture of fat, flour and ground spices. Popular brands of curry roux offer various levels of spice - I like the medium hot level, because I prefer to add a little bit more chili peppers or chili crisp to my delicious curry, so I want to be able to control the heat level.
This curry rice dish is one of the most popular dishes in Japan - year after year it ranks as the favorite dish in the country. Once you try it, you'll get it. The curry roux and broth mix to create a savory, thick curry sauce that has comfort food written all over it. The curry roux cubes create a luscious, thick demi glace gravy - and with the potatoes, onion and carrot, it's like your grandmother's pot roast crossed with the earthy flavors of an Indian curry with shrimp.
It's delicious, ridiculously simple, and offers endless opportunities for customizing your curry to create your own version of this classic dish. This one's a game changer, friends. Let's make it!
What you'll need to make Japanese curry rice:
- medium or large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
- yellow onion
- frozen peas
- garlic cloves
- fresh ginger
- neutral oil
- low sodium vegetable stock
- instant curry roux, such as S&B Golden Curry
- fresh lemon juice
Step by step instructions for making Japanese Shrimp Curry with S&B Curry Roux
First heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Then add the shrimp and a pinch of salt to the pan and stir fry quickly for 2-3 minutes. Afterwards transfer the shrimp to a bowl and set aside.
Return the pan to the heat and add the second tablespoon of oil to the pan. Then add the onions, carrots, potatoes, minced garlic and ginger and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add veggie stock and bring the stew to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover, letting the stew cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
Next break the curry cubes into pieces and add them to the skillet, one at a time.
I have found that adding 1 square at a time and stirring until dissolved before adding the next square is the best method. Stir until the roux is completely dissolved and curry is thickened, about 3-4 minutes. (I start testing the curry gravy after the third square has dissolved, to ensure I don't use too much roux and leave my sauce overly-seasoned. I often cut the final square in half, using a total of 3 ½ squares of roux for this recipe.)
Once our curry gravy has reached a thicker consistency, add the shrimp and frozen peas into the pan and stir.
Allow the seafood and peas to heat through. Then add 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Finally serve hot with rice. Garnish with more lemon, cilantro and red chili peppers.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
Part of the fun of exploring a dish like Japanese curry is learning how to customize it to your own liking. I'm told that most Japanese households have created their own secret ingredients that they add - either to their own curry roux or to further flavor a store-bought instant curry roux. The basic ingredients of this curry are protein + carrot + potato + onion + roux. That's it. I've added ginger and garlic (because, obvi), along with fresh lemon juice. Then I garnish with cilantro and chilis and serve it with chili crisp (again, obvi).
Here are a few suggestions and options to get you started on your own secret ingredient journey:
- ½ grated apple (similar to the sweetening effect in Korean braised short ribs)
- a fresh, diced tomato
- a tablespoon or two of apricot jam
- a teaspoon or two of mirin
- soy sauce
- oyster sauce
- worcestershire sauce
- bay leaves
- black pepper
- cayenne pepper
- garam masala
- caramelized onion (instead of sauteed)
- a teaspoon of instant coffee
The first time I made this curry, I followed the basic recipe closely. Once I had a better idea of the flavor profile of the curry roux combined with the vegetables and shrimp, I customized the recipe with ingredients that deepened the savory flavors (ginger and garlic), introduced acid (lemon juice), added freshness (peas and cilantro) and heat (serving with chilis).
Shrimp is my pescatarian protein of choice in Japanese curry. If you're cooking for non-pescatarians, tender pieces of chicken (especially thighs) make a lovely Japanese chicken curry, using all the same ingredients as above (less shrimp). In this scenario, using low sodium chicken stock instead of vegetable stock. If using chicken or beef, stir-fry meat with the raw vegetables and leave them in the pan when you add the broth, to ensure everything is tender and succulent.
Potatoes, carrots and onions are the go-to veggies, but you have many additional options. I added green peas to add an extra pop of color and texture. I've also make it using 1-inch pieces of fresh haricot verts green beans and they added a similar layer of freshness and flavor. Sweet potatoes could be substituted for the white potatoes and would add a beautiful richness and sweetness to the curry. Other root vegetables like parsnips, rutabaga and celeriac would all work well in this dish.
Miso soup would be a lovely starter for a dinner of Japanese curry. You really can't serve this dish without rice - a simple steamed long grain rice with a little salt is perfect. The curry gravy is also delicious over udon noodles - if using, I recommend tossing the noodles into the gravy (much like you would toss pasta into sauce) to be sure the noodles are well coated, then serving the noodles with a serving of shrimp and vegetables over the top. It will also be great with some stir fried vegetables.
To store, transfer the curry to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Curry freezes well, but potatoes do not. So if you want to freeze the curry, remove all the potatoes and store in the freezer in an airtight container for up to a month.
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