When I think of the dish curry my thoughts usually travel to India, as I imagine many people’s would- but it is actually also a huge dish throughout Japan. So popular, in fact, that it is regarded the second of their two national dishes- the other being Ramen of course! I find it so surprising that the Japanese love for curry is so strong that it puts it ahead of sushi! For the people of Japan, summertime and spicy food go hand and hand. And we can’t have hot and spicy without some curry powder!
Curry was most likely introduced to the Japanese by the Anglo-Indian officers of the British Empire. But like many nations do to imported dishes, they changed it and added ingredients to it to make their curry something special and uniquely Japanese.
Rice curry has been on the scene in Japan since the turn of the 20th century, but was originally a dish only the rich could afford. Like all Western food, it was a cuisine that was considered to be exotic and a luxury. Proper curry sauce would be carefully prepared and served by a professional chef using curry powder imported from England.
But since the mid-1900s, curry has become a dish that everyone in Japan can enjoy. Curry dishes can be found on menus ranging from the most inexpensive restaurants to the high end restaurants- and many places like to get creative with what they do with their curry. At some places you can find a dish known as kare udon, udon noodles in curry-flavored soup, or kare pan, dough stuffed with curry paste, breaded, and deep fried- yum!
But the most widespread love for curry in Japan came from the more recent invention- instant curry. We know how the Japanese love their Instant Noodles, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that after the creation of ready-to-eat curry dishes, the dish’s popularity exploded across the country.
Curry’s place within Japanese culture is a result of its delicious taste but also because of the role it has played as a staple of the Japanese armed forces and school lunches for hungry children. So it's not only a delicious summertime treat but also very useful!
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