Japanese Retro Beef Curry

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This style of curry is very popular in Japan and was one of the standard lunches at the American School in Japan.  Ben liked it so much that when he was the grubmaster for a Venture crew trip to the Weminuche Wilderness in southern Colorado in 2000, he picked it to be one of the dinners on the trail.  (I recall that the boys thought it was pretty tasty, but not like anything they had ever had before.)

The key thing about Japanese curry is approaching it on its own terms and not thinking about it in Indian terms.  The photograph shows the standard Japanese way to serve it – beside the rice, not on the rice.  This recipe is adapted from Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat’s book Japanese Soul Cooking, which includes 6 curry recipes, including one served every Friday on the naval patrol ship Hachijo.

I made this with the standard Japanese brand of curry powder, S&B, which was available at New Grand Mart.  If Japanese curry powder is unavailable, it can be made with any standard curry powder.

This will make 4 generous servings


1 lb. beef stew meat

2 tsp. salt, divided

¼ tsp. black pepper

6 Tbs. butter, divided

1 lb. medium onions (about 3), peeled and roughly chopped

8 oz. carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 Tbs. grated or chopped ginger

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large apple (about 8 oz.) peeled, cored and grated

5 cups reduced-sodium beef stock

3 Tbs. flour

2 Tbs. curry powder

2 Tbs. garam masala (or more curry powder)

¾ lb. potatoes (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into ½ inch dice

Steamed rice for serving

Dry the beef stew meat with paper towels and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of salt and the black pepper.  Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in a Dutch oven.  Saute the beef until well browned.  Add the onions, and cook for about 5 minutes, until translucent.  Add the carrots, ginger, and garlic, and cook for another two minutes.  Add the grated apple, the remaining 1 tsp. of salt, and the stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover.  Simmer for about an hour.

In a small saucepan, make a roux.  Begin by melting the remaining 4 Tbs. of butter.  Stir in the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes.  Stir in the curry powder and garam masala and cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.  Put aside.

After the stew has cooked for an hour, take out some of the liquid with a ladle and mix it with the roux to make a paste.  Add the paste and the potatoes and cook another 30 minutes until all the vegetables and the beef are tender.  If the curry is too dry, add some water.  If too soupy, remove the cover.

Serve with steamed Japanese rice.


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