Curry Diary 5/31/2013: Basic Japanese Curry

Let’s be brutally honest here: there is no “one Japanese curry recipe.” There’s historical recipes. There’s common recipes. There’s also the fact that everyone who is a fancier, every restaurant, every region of Japan, has their own recipe or recipes. Curry is a phenomena there, one comprable to mania for chili or barbecue in America.

The very basic japanese curry is a fat or oil, flour, and curry powder mixed into a roux, at times with some other things. Then broth is added (often from vegetables and meat being prepared at the same time). The roux is mixed into the broth, and oftentimes returned to the pot the other ingredients are in so it cooks together.

Now as my goal is to make a curry sauce that can be made and used any time (without preparing other ingredients),  and make it low-fat/low sodium, my quest was a bit different. With some digging and comparing, I was able to make a “composite” basic Japanese curry recipe below.

Basic Japanese Curry

Makes 3 servings

  • 4 Tbsp butter substitute (you can use butter or indeed any oil, but thats going to jack the fat up a lot)
  • 1/4 cup flour (of any kind)
  • 2 Tbsp Curry Powder (preferably S&B)
  • 1 Tbsp katsup or tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp Katsu sauce, Worschesthire sauce, or soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper (optionally, less)
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or other broth or substitute (see below)

Vegetable Broth Substitute (this is a bit mild, so you may want to jazz it up a bit)

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • 1/4 tsp marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp thyme, ground
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dill weed, ground


  1. Melt the butter over low heat in a pot of your choice.
  2. When the butter is melted, stir in the flour and curry powder. Mix thoroughly – it’ll form a kind of loose “cake.” This is the start of the roux.
  3. Mix the catsup/tomato sauce and katsu/worscheshire/soy sauce into the roux. Again mix thoroughly; I mash, fold, and mix until the color is consistent.
  4. Add the red and black pepper to the roux, mix thoroughly.
  5. Turn the heat to medium-low.
  6. Now, you want to brown the roux, and there’s a bit of an art to it. What I do is let it cook like a pancake, about 20-45 second until one side browns, then mix it up, fold it into a “pancake” and let it cool again. You may have to play with the heat, but the goal is to basically brown it/fry it slowly. This is needed to develop the flavors.
  7. Eventually it will get crumbly and crack – and you’ll see it visibly brown when it’s let to sit. At that point, it’s time to add the vegetable broth.
  8. Add the vegetable broth to the roux.  Turn the heat up so the mixture boils mildly.
  9. With a wisk, mix the broth and roux. It also helps to use a spatula to crush chunks of roux against the side of the pan.  This can take a bit of effort.  In general while mixing, I moderate the heat to get the mild boil.
  10. Stir regularly so it doesn’t adhere/burn.
  11. I wait until the sauce thickets – it reduces by about a fifth. The key I use is when it’s not “boiling” but has the bubbly “bloops” of a thicker sauce.  This can take awhile.
  12. Serve or put in freezer containers.

Taste-wise, this recipe is kind mediocre to be honest – but that’s the point, it’s very basic. If you want to make sure it’s jazzy, use catsup and katsu sauce – I tend to use tomato paste and soy sauce as it gives me more control over the taste.

Now this being said, as noted there are variants on Japanese curry that are as varied as the cooks who make it. So the next question is – just what do people put in their curry to improve it? Trust me, it’s given me a lot of food for thought, so to speak . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at