I discovered Japanese curry as a teenager after moving to Hawaii in the early 90s and have craved it ever since. One of the greatest days had to be when I was introduced to Curry House, a Japanese curry restaurant chain which opened in Hawaii. After moving away I learned to my dismay that Curry House had not made it to my new home state so I resorted myself to making curry using the packaged cubes many of us know. Frankly they’re not that bad and make for a quick and easy curry. Trying out different brands other than simply sticking to S&B the way I used to introduced me to other flavors of curry which I have come to prefer. I had wanted to learn how to make Japanese curry from scratch for may years but never got around to learning how. Part of it was because, though I am half Asian, I am not familiar with cooking with the spices involved when making curry (Japanese or otherwise).
One day I learned that my blood pressure was on the rise and I had to make the decision to watch my salt intake. Knowing how much sodium is in prepackaged ramen we took a look at a package of curry cubes and saw that the sodium content in one of those packages is very high too. So I did what any self-respecting foodie with a craving would do and began browsing through cookbooks and web sites. Not being one to simply follow any recipe I took bits and pieces of several recipes and came up with my own. Round one was a chicken curry which was good but I regretted not using beef as I prefer it. While nothing was wrong with the curry itself, and everyone liked it, that it was chicken instead of beef was unusual for me and as it didn’t have a richer flavor.
Well the craving for Japanese curry came again today and this time we are in a period of eating gluten-free to test whether one or more members of our family might be sensitive to gluten. So I made curry again, this time with beef and gluten-free. Inspiration as before came from several recipes, though quite a bit came from the recipe posted by Aya Tanaka on the Serious Eats web site. The recipe I made today serves 4.
1 lb beef, cubed
2 onions, sliced thin
2 Tbsp butter
2 carrots, cut into pretty large pieces
4 potatoes, cut into large cubes
4 cups beef broth (32 ounces)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
For the roux:
3 Tbps butter
1/4 cup all purpose gluten-free flour mix (such as Better Batter or other rice and tapioca flour mix)
1 1/2 Tbsp S&B curry powder (comes in a can)
1/2 Tbsp Garam Masala
splash of Worcesteshere sauce
Start by slowly caramelizing the onions in a large pot on low heat. This is a long and slow process which can take half an hour or more. Turning up the heat too high will brown the onions which is not what you want. When done remove from pot into a bowl, turn up the heat to medium-high (6 on my stove) and brown the beef cubes in some vegetable oil for a few minutes until they are browned on all sides. Make sure you wait for the pan to heat up enough first so you don’t end up with boiled grey meat instead of browned meat. Add the carrots, the caramelized onions, and the beef broth and bring to a boil. Once it has come to a boil turn it down to simmer (3-4 on my stove) and skim off the impurities off the top. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, checking on it every 15 minutes or so and giving it a stir. When the meat is beginning to feel tender (like it will break easily after another 30 minutes of cooking) add the potatoes and simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Note that if you don’t like very soft carrots you can hold off on adding them after the meat is browned and add them with the potatoes. When the potatoes are done (before they begin to fall apart and disintegrate) scoop out some liquid and dissolve the roux, then add it all back into the pot and let it thicken for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and serve.
To make the roux:
Melt the butter in a small pot or pan. Add the gluten-free flour mix, garam masala, black pepper, a splash of Worcesteshere sauce, and a small squeeze of ketchup (1-2 tsp). Whisk it all together quickly until it thickens into a paste. When done take it off the heat and set aside until the stew is done and you are ready to use it. You can add some Ichimi Togarashi to your plate if you want it spicier.