This Japanese Beef Curry requires only 15 minutes of preparation time and your slow cooker handles the rest. Rich, thick, and not as spicy as its Indian counterpart, it’s a perfect comforting meal your family will love!
Have you ever heard of Japanese curry? I certainly hadn’t until this last year. I discovered it on our trip to Taiwan of all places. Apparently, there is a very strong Japanese influence on food in Taiwan. But when we were looking for things to feed the baby during our trip, Japanese curry was frequently recommended.
Japanese curry is a rich, thick curry, with meat and root vegetables. While there are options to make it spicier, it is typically milder and sweeter than most Asian curries. So, if you are not a huge fan of spicy curries, this is the perfect one for you!
It is typically served over rice, udon noodles, or inside deep-fried breads. I never got to try it in bread, but that does sound delicious, doesn’t it? If you want something light and fresh to serve alongside your Japanese curry, I recommend sunomono or Japanese cucumber salad. A great palate cleanser to go with your rich, fragrant curry.
How is Japanese curry different than other curries?
Curry did not migrate to Japan directly from other Asian countries where curries are prevalent, it came through colonialism and the British navy! So, take an Indian curry, filter it through the flavor palate of the British, and put some Japanese umami flair on it, there you have it! Karē raisu. Even the name for curry and rice sounds like English.
Japanese curry is much thicker than the Indian and Thai curries that most westerners are familiar with. The base is made from a roux of oil (sometimes butter) and flour, which is why a boxed version sold in Japan is frequently referred to as “curry roux”.
This thicker curry is much better to pair with the stickier, short-grain rice typically used in Japanese cooking. When you add a thin curry to a sticky rice, it separates the grains, changing the consistency of the dish. But, if you can’t find Japanese rice, the second-best choice would be jasmine rice. Basmati rice is going to be a little bit odd with such a thick curry.
Making Japanese curry at home
I had trouble finding the classic blocks or powder base that most Japanese use to make the curry at home. Being in Lithuania means I don’t have access to a lot of specific ethnic ingredients. But that means I’m good at finding the best way to make these authentic dishes without anything fancy. Which means you won’t have much trouble finding the ingredients either. However, I really want to find a block of curry roux next time, to make it exactly as I remember, but this version is delicious just the same.
The typical vegetables for a Japanese curry are onions, potatoes, and carrots – very like a stew. There are several options for meat: chicken, beef, or pork. Theoretically, you can make it will many other types of vegetables, but I like the classic version. It’s like a rich, comforting stew, but with an exotic twist.
One of the disadvantages of thick curries or stews is that they take a long time to cook. And who has that much uninterrupted time? Fortunately, this curry lends itself perfectly to a slow cooker. Prep the ingredients, leave them in the cooker for several hours while you’re trying to get everything else done, then come back and thicken it with the roux. Bonus points for ease if you have a rice cooker too.
Slow Cooker Japanese Beef Curry
- 3 medium potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
- 3-4 medium carrots cut into rounds
- 1/4 cup oil divided
- 1 lb. beef stew meat (450g) cut into cubes and blotted dry
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 cups water
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- cooked white rice for serving
- Place the potatoes into the slow cooker. Layer the carrots on top.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet. Add the meat and brown on all sides. Do it in batches, if needed, do not overcrowd the pan. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker.
- Heat another tablespoon of the oil in the skillet. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the salt and black pepper and cook 2-3 minutes more. Transfer to the cooker.
- Pour the beef broth into the skillet and bring to a boil. Scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the water. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-7 hours. The meat should be tender and the vegetables cooked through.
- In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the flour and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes, until it begins to brown. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat.
- Switch the slow cooker to HIGH. Scoop out 12 cups of the cooking liquid and mix it with the flour mixture, until smooth. Stir into the stew a little bit at a time. Stir carefully to not break up the potatoes and the carrots. Finally, add the frozen peas.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for about 20-30 minutes, until the sauce thickens and the peas are heated. Serve the curry with white rice.