What is Japanese Curry Roux?

Why you should keep a box of Japanese curry roux in your pantry.

Published Nov. 16, 2021.

There are nights when cooking fatigue kicks in. Even turning on the stove feels like too much to ask. On those nights, I think of my dad’s Japanese curry and how he prepares the roux in batches, freezes it in ice cube trays, and uses the cubes at his leisure.

Though my dad makes killer curry rice from scratch, these days I don’t have the patience to hover over a pot of curry for hours for the stew to thicken. Fortunately, there’s a shelf-stable version that I can find at most grocery stores and online—and that’s been a life- and time-saver when it comes to quick and easy weeknight meals. Japanese curry roux is a staple of many Japanese households, and you should consider making it a staple in your home too.

What is Japanese Curry Roux?

Japanese curry roux is a solid brick that looks like a chocolate bar. This particular type of curry, mild and savory with a slight hint of sweetness, was introduced to Japan by British navy soldiers (via India) during the late 19th century

These days, Japanese-style curry rice (kare raisu) is one of the country’s most popular meals, partly due to its many applications: over a deep-fried pork cutlet (katsu kare), in omurice (omelette draped over fried rice), cooked with root vegetables and cuts of meat, even topped on Japanese fried chicken (karaage).

Japanese Fried Chicken (Karaage)

Karaage, the Japanese take on fried chicken, is beloved by young and old. Boneless stripes of chicken thighs are marinated, then deep fried crispy. It's delicious by itself, and a perfect accompaniment for Japanese curry. Get the recipe now.  

Which are the most popular brands of Japanese curry?

The two most likely brands of Japanese curry roux you'll find in American supermarkets also happen to be the two most popular brands in Japan. Look for Golden Curry and Vermont Curry. Increasingly, you'll find Japanese curry roux in Western grocers.

Does Japanese curry roux come in many flavors?

Most of the curry roux cubes differ in the level of spiciness. From “mild” being the least spicy to “extra hot” being the spiciest. Bear in mind that even the hottest version (at least the ones I’ve tried) is subdued in spiciness and isn’t nearly as spicy as some varieties of curries found in South Asian cooking. 

Sometimes, fruity flavors may be added to the roux, such as apple or pineapple, which are both great for this type of curry.

How to use Japanese curry?

Japanese curry roux is super customizable and one package makes at least eight to nine servings. The easiest way to use the curry roux is to dissolve the brick in a pot of boiling stock. Typically, people sauté chopped onions, sear some chicken, and then add the stock and curry cubes. Generally speaking, starchy vegetables and meat work pretty well. 

One secret ingredient I use is to add a spoonful of yogurt or heavy cream towards the end—not only does it thicken the stew, it also gives the final dish a richer and creamier texture.

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