Karē came to Japan in the Meiji era (1868-1912) via Britain. Since Britain at the time was occupying India and stealing their spices, the British Navy introduced Japan to curry. That's why Japanese curry is more stew-like and sweeter than most curries as it's an adaptation of Britain's adaptation. Ironically, since it was introduced by the British, karē is considered "yoshoku," a western style dish despite it's eastern roots.
Now of course Japanese Americans have brought it here to America, where we tinker with further like we do all good hapa food. I called the title of my post "Uomoto Style Karē" because this is how my grandmother made it before my mother got a hold of it, and then of course, myself. The beauty of Japanese curry is that it is traditionally not made with any seasonal ingredients so you can make it at any time. Those traditional vegetables are potatoes, onions and carrots, but you can experiment with throwing in any sort of veggies you feel like, to give this recipe a seasonal spin.
One ingredient I always put in is frozen peas, which puzzled my coworker who is a Japanese food aficionado, so she had to inquire:
"Uhhh... I don't honestly know. When I think of homemade karē, I think of peas..."
I asked my mother, and she said the exact same thing as me, when she thinks about homemade curry rice she thinks of peas. Apparently my grandmother would always use peas, so my mom did, and so I do. Honestly I think she used peas because frozen peas are cheap, good quality for a frozen veggie and easy, no peeling or cutting necessary, and my grandmother is very resourceful like that (I like to think of myself resourceful rather than lazy). Regardless, I thought this was interesting enough to share: the way you cook lives on in your family.
Honestly, I rarely make it with potatoes, onions, or carrots. This is the type of recipe I make when there's nothing fresh left in the house and grocery shopping desperately needs to be done. This is the type of recipe I make when it's midnight and I've got five long workdays to go before I get another chance to cook. This is the type of recipe I make for work lunches as it reheats fabulously so it's a great way to fool people into thinking I've got my life together by bringing in a packed homecooked. Little do they know this recipe is so easy as it requires zero prep-work (remember, resourceful not lazy!).
|don't let this curry roux fool you, its not hot|
|what the block looks like|
Since ease and speed is the name of the game, I made my curry sauce from a premade roux block, like most Japanese do. However, you can make it from scratch, and that is definitely pretty tasty. But this curry is made the Uomoto-style: no chopping veggies, no sourcing ingredients, just clean out your cupboard and freezer.
Uomoto Style Karē
1/2 box curry roux block
1/2lbs of frozen peas (you don't have to thaw these)
1 can of sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2lbs of frozen cooked and shelled shrimp, tails off and thawed
3 cups water
shiso katsuo ninniku or other tsukemono to garnish
In the bottom of a smallish cooking pot, throw in the peas, shrimp (as you can see, I like the tiny shrimp but it's all down to your preference), and water chestnuts. Pour the water in, and turn heat to high.
|It will look soupy, but simmer it!|
This reheats amazingly well. I take out my bento boxes and tupperwares and use a cup of rice with this spooned over the top of it for karē-raisu, aka curry over rice. Curry rice is normally served with fukujin-zuke (福神漬), a type of Japanese pickles, but I happen to love shiso katsuo ninniku so that's what I paired with mine. Tsukemono just has a nice bite that helps cut through the richness of curry.
When I make this, I often throw in half a onion diced up as well if my fridge and pantry isn't completely empty. It wasn't until I was done cooking that I realized I didn't have any of the traditional ingredients (potato, carrot, onion) in my curry at all.
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