Japanese Curry is neither. It’s not really Japanese and it’s definitely not a curry. Even the curry powder used is an English interpretation of curry powder. It’s all really rather weird; No person in ANY curry cooking country would ever make curry like that. And yet it is so delicious you can’t stop eating it. It’s like McDonald’s after a heavy night of boozing. It’s like KFC; you will love it secretly, but never admit to anyone that you do.
Making it is dead easy and I promise it will be better than any you can eat in a restaurant that would serve Japanese Curry Udon, because no talented Japanese chef would ever put it on the menu. And I’ll let you in on another little secret: I made dashi for this curry, but I swear it would have made absolutely no difference if I’d used stock cubes, or even water flavoured with a little soy and oyster sauce.
I was going to start by making my own, homemade udon, but then I ran out of time and energy and opted for my standard go-to. Yup, a packet of these. I use them for everything, from laksa, to claypot loh shi fun (without loh shi fun). I’m not promoting this brand, or even claiming it to be particularly good, it’s just what I keep in the chiller because it has a hell of a long shelf life. The packets I have in the chiller now on the 28 July 2020 say they will expire end of August 2021. It’s probably passed through the Fukushima reactor, but hey!
Treat this recipe with absolutely no respect whatsoever. Just make the curry roux as I’m telling you. For the rest you can pretty much do whatever you like. Use any vegetables you have in the chiller, if you don’t eat or like, or feel like pork, use chicken or beef, or fish or seafood, or crabstick (maybe not). Any leftover roast or piece of steak will do and the half wilted cabbage that’s been in the chiller for two weeks will be just fine.
Japanese Curry Udon
enough for 2 greedy people
For the Japanese Curry Roux:
- 50g butter
- 40g flour
- 1 Tbsp/10g Madras curry powder
- 1Tbsp/10g garam masala powder
- ½ tsp chilli powder (more if you like)
You know this one, we’ve made it before (didn’t pay attention did you?). It’s easy and can’t really go wrong, as long as you keep stirring like a fool and don’t turn your heat too high. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Fry at medium heat until the mix is a light brown. Turn off the heat and add the curry, garam masala and chilli powders. Keep stirring until the mix has cooled down.
A word on Madras curry powder:
Said to originate from Chennai, the former Madras, it isn’t an Indian spice mix at all, but was formulated for the Colonial masters who could not stomach the heat of a real curry, but liked the exotic flavours. It’s very light on heat, but great on tangy zestiness and it is the thing you need to make Japanese curry. Don’t replace it with any of the local Malaysian or Indian curry powders. It’s not going to work. And if you can’t get the famous Watch Brand Madras Curry Powder, look for the yellowest curry powder you can find.
For the Curry Noodles:
- 2 packets, 400g udon noodles
- 800ml dashi or stock (or flavoured water; see Tips below)
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- 1 big spring onion
- 75g roast pork belly
- 100g uncooked pork loin
- 1 Tbsp mirin or sake
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- all the curry roux from above
- 2 Tbsp oil for frying
Peel and slice the carrots into medium rounds. Slice on the bias to get a nicer looking carrot. Cut the top and bottom off the onion, slice it in half from top to bottom, then cut each half into 6 wedges. Cut about a third of the spring onion into rounds to garnish the dish and chop the rest. Slice the roast pork belly into thin slices and do the same with the pork loin.
Cook the udon following the instructions on the packet. They should be fully cooked before you add them to the curry. The ones I am using just need to be softened in a bit of hot water. In fact. You could just drop them into the curry, but I find it better to wash off whatever the manufacturer has put on top. Least thing to do is place them in a colander and pour a kettle of hot water over them.
Heat the oil in a donabe or clay pot, or really any other flat pot that will hold the noodles and all the sauce. Fry the chopped spring onion for 30 seconds, then add the uncooked pork loin and stir until it is cooked through. You do not need to brown the meat, it won’t hurt, but it is not necessary. Now add the carrot and onion and stir for a minute. Add the roast pork belly and just heat through. Pour in the dashi and bring to a boil. Dissolve the roux in a little hot water, so it’s easier to mix in and mix it all in. Season with the mirin and soy, adjust the seasoning, sprinkle the spring onion rounds over and serve.
For the Dashi (makes about 1 litre):
- 18g konbu, Japanese kelp
- 25g katsuboshi, shaved bonito flakes
- 1.5 litre water
Cut the konbu to size, so it fits into your pot. Pour the water over and turn the heat to medium. You want the water to heat slowly, so the konbu is steeped very gently. Do not let the water boil, or your stock can become slimy and bitter, so go slow. Once the water is just below boiling and you see the first little fizz rise along the side of the pot, turn off the heat and leave the konbu to steep for another 20 minutes. Remove the konbu and bring the stock to a simmer. Add the katsuboshi and bring back to the boil, then turn off the heat. Leave to infuse for ten minutes and then strain through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth.
Hausfrauen Ratschlag – Tips
If you don’t have any stock at home and don’t want to use stock cubes, flavour a litre of water with with 1 Tbsp oyster sauce, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine and ¼ tsp Maggi seasoning. It won’t replace a good stock, but it’s better than plain water and it will do very well in your Japanese Curry Udon.