Nifty knife-work and flavourful noodle soups are more Japanese than, say, a curry. But much like tempura – which landed in Japan via Portuguese hands –curries are now a mainstay in many Japanese kitchens, fast food joints, and even high-end restaurants. Introduced by the British navy during the 19th century, back when Britain ruled India, Japan’s curries are milder and thicker than their Indian counterparts, with many home cooks turning to pre-bought curry mixes that come packaged as solid blocks, or ‘bricks’.
And with rice and noodles the staple carb in many Japanese dishes, we’re not surprised that they’ve taken off: what better vessels to mop up all those warm, spicy notes?
So fervent is their love of curries that one Japanese wig-maker has carried out a survey linking the country’s careful blend of spices with a lower incidence of baldness.
Yoshiko Nakagawa is the Japanese nutritionist behind the bold claim published by Japan Today, which sees turmeric, saffron, capsicum and nutmeg exalted to beauty wonder ingredient status: they reportedly stimulate blood circulation and increase the body’s metabolic rate, leading to more luscious locks.
In Nakagawa’s survey, Japan came in at number 14 in a list of countries with the highest percentage of male baldness. According to his findings, the USA had double Japan’s baldness rate, and – despite their mutual love of curries – India didn’t even crack the top 20.
If you’re after a break from your red, green or vindaloo go-tos, and a follicle boost at the same time, here are four of our Japanese curry picks to try out:
This Hokkaido udon bowl is the island’s answer to extreme drops in temperature come winter. Garlic, ginger and curry powder join forces with shichimi togarashi (Japanese five-spice) to create soup curry magic. Plus, you’ll get a good hit of vitamins thanks to no less than seven vegetables. Recipe here.
Peanut butter and apple are the unlikely heroes in this thick, sweet, nutty curry. If you really want to throw a flavour bomb, make it the night ahead and refrigerate in an airtight container. Recipe here
Generally speaking, Japanese curry is mild in terms of flavour and is prepared using a pre-bought mix that comes in the form of a solid block, often referred to as “curry roux”. This bowl of pork curry udon noodles calls on roux to ramp up the flavour and gives you a slurping bowl in an hour! Get the recipe here.
On top of rice
Japanese curry mixes are sold at most Asian grocers in varying heats. Don't feel bad for opting to buy one - in Japan, it's the norm! Often, they're bowled up with extra veg, hardboiled eggs and rice.
This is about as close to a curry doughnut you'll ever get; Japan's kare pan is a dough-encased curry that's battered and deep-fried. The star protein is often beef, chicken or lamb that's cooked down in a mild curry sauce. The bready delights are found in bakeries throughout Japan, with Tokyo their capital.