Vegan Japanese curry is a thick, stew-like dish with chunky vegetables and slightly sweet undertones. It’s incredibly easy to make and immensely satisfying, especially on a chilly autumn or winter evening. Making Japanese curry from scratch is not complicated at all and allows you full control over the spiciness and flavour profile of your finished dish.
I love curries of all sorts, from creamy Thai coconut curries to spicy Indian curries. Who knew that Japanese cuisine had its own curries too? (The Japan Times has an interesting article about the history of Japanese curry if you’re interested).
I had an inkling that such a thing existed after seeing the boxes of Japanese instant curry mix at my favorite place on earth (or at least my favorite place in Barcelona) – Dong Fang Asian Supermarket. However, the picture on the package looked so meaty and gross that I never thought to investigate further - until now.
Turns out that it’s really easy to make Japanese curry sauce from scratch and it doesn’t need to have any meat in it at all! You simply need to simmer your vegetables in water or vegetable stock and make a quick roux with oil, flour and curry powder.
Add the roux to the vegetables to thicken the curry and you’ve got a deliciously hearty, satisfyingly thick and wonderfully spiced vegan Japanese curry.
What I found most interesting about the recipes I saw online was the inclusion of finely grated apple. This is why Japanese curry is sweet and popular with kids.
It’s also less spicy than other Asian curries, also making it good for kids and wimps alike. Even my husband ate it without complaining! And of course when you make curry from scratch you can adjust the level of spiciness to your taste.
I served my vegan Japanese curry with some pickled vegetables, they were a good contrast to the sweet apple and spices. I didn’t bother going to Dong Fang to get some special Japanese pickled vegetables but rather quick pickled some radishes and ginger while the curry was cooking.
For the pickled radishes simply cover them with a mixture of two parts vinegar to one part sugar and a pinch of salt. Set aside to pickle.
For the pickled ginger, first boil thinly sliced ginger for 5 minutes to remove some of the bite, drain and cover with them with the same vinegar-sugar-salt mixture. I also added a couple drops of natural beet food colouring for the typical pink colour of pickled ginger.
For the vegan Japanese curry
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cups (1 litre) of water or vegetable stock
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 large potatoes, chopped into chunks
- 1 apple, peeled and grated finely (I used a fuji)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ cup (75 grams) frozen peas or edamame
- Rice, to serve
- 2 green onions, sliced
- Sesame seeds
For the roux
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon garam masala*
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil and onions. Fry until beginning to brown. Add the water or vegetable stock, carrots, potatoes, apple, salt and garam masala. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
- Meanwhile prepare the roux by heating the oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add the flour, garam masala and curry powder and mix well. Then add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring continuously, until the roux sticks together in a ball and starts to crumble apart. Remove from heat.
- When the vegetables are ready, ladle some of the liquid into the pot with the roux and mix well to dissolve all the flour. Add into the curry and mix until the curry is thick. Add the frozen peas.
- Serve the curry with rice and pickled vegetables on the side, if desired. Sprinkle with sliced green onion and sesame seeds.
*I mix my own garam masala and curry powder and I don’t use any chili. Commercial spice mixes are often spicy so you may want to omit the cayenne pepper if that’s the case.
Adapted and veganized from Serious Eats
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 487Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1047mgCarbohydrates: 71gFiber: 10gSugar: 12gProtein: 12g