Curry (カレー)

Curry (Curry in English) is a dish in which vegetables and meat are cooked with several spices. It was originally a dish that was cooked in India and surrounding Asian countries, but after the 20th century, it became one of the most popular dishes in the world. It was introduced to Japan via the United Kingdom during the Meiji period and the dish developed independently into curry and rice, which became so popular as to be called "a national dish." In Japan, when people say "curry" it often means "curry and rice."

Curry powder

Curry powder is composed of mixed spices. It did not originate in India but was developed in Britain during the late 18th century, and around the same time, Crosse & Blackwell (C&B) commercialized it for the first time.

At present, more than one manufacturer sells various kinds of curry powder, but they are basically modeled on the C&B product. Its taste comes from cumin and coriander, with chili, pepper, garlic and ginger adding to its spiciness, and the color is produced by turmeric, saffron and paprika, while clove, cinnamon cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, caraway and fennel give aroma to the dish. The spices are mixed and are matured for several weeks, producing its characteristic flavor.

The original form of curry powder is said to be the Indian mixed spice, masala. However, in India, masala is not just for 'curry' but a seasoning used in all kinds of dishes, like soy sauce or miso (soybean paste) in Japan.

At present, 'curry powder' is available at supermarkets in India and the country's consumption of curry powder is the world's number one (Japan ranks second). Although they are used in a similar way as instant food, it is more common for people to grind various kinds of spices every time they cook.

Curry in India

As using a lot of spices is characteristic of Indian cuisine, many Indian dishes look like 'curry' to foreigners. However, since each Indian dish has its own name, they are not called curry. As British people whose country was India's former colonial power called those dishes 'curry,' however, many tourist restaurants in India call them curry on their menu.

The word 'curry' does not exist in India's native languages.
However, in Tamil, (also in Kannada,) there is a word 'kari' meaning vegetables, meat, meals and dishes, which became the English term 'curry.'

For Indians, the word 'curry' is a word of foreign origin. Refer to Indian Cuisine for a proper understanding.

Staple foods differ in regions: in northern India, it is bread such as nan, chapatti, and dosa while in southern India, it is rice. Even rice is different in localities in terms of kind and the way of cooking it.

Curry in Britain

Although Indian 'curry' became famous with the introduction to Britain, it was very difficult for ordinary British people to learn how to use the variety of spices.
For this very reason, C&B devised 'curry powder' in which spices are readily mixed and the company sold it as 'C&B Curry Powder.'
This contributed to the steady spread of curry as home cooking in Britain, which resulted in 'curry powder' appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1810.

While Indian 'curry' uses a range of ingredients such as vegetables and beans, the most known curry in Britain is cooked with beef. This came from a middle-class and above tradition in British households where people roasted a large piece of beef on Sundays. They ate this large piece of meat all week and curry was introduced as one of the sauces for the meat. However, now that the tradition of roasting beef on Sundays is lost, curry as a home-cooked meal has mostly died out, only appearing at restaurants as the special of the day.

In addition, the fact that there are many authentic Indian restaurants in Britain contributes to the decline of curry as home cuisine.

Curry in Japan

Other than curry and rice, the following curry-related dishes (or food) which are unique to Japan can be found.

Curry nanban (noodles and pieces of beef or pork in a curry-flavored soup) (curry soba noodles)

Curry udon or udon curry (thick Japanese wheat noodles with curry soup) and curry kishimen (flat wheat noodles with curry soup)

Curry bowl (Curry on rice in a bowl, in which curry is usually thinned with soup stock.)

Curry ramen (curry flavored Chinese noodle soup)

Indian Spaghetti (curry-flavored pasta)

Dry curry

Curry-flavored omelet

Mabo curry (curry-flavored Sichuan style bean curd)

Yaki Curry (baked curry)

Curry flavored croquette

Curry bread (a deep-fried bread with thickened curry inside)

Chinese steamed bun

Curry zoni (curry flavored soup containing rice cakes)

In addition to these, there are curry flavored snacks produced by many companies. Also, there are local curry variations, such as soup curry from Sapporo City, Hokkaido, omuraisu white curry (stir-fried rice wrapped in an omelet covered with white colored cream curry) from Furano City, Hokkaido, Kanazawa curry from Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture and Yokosuka Navy Curry from Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture.

At soba restaurants, one of the regular dishes is Japanese style curry in which curry powder is mixed in bonito broth and thickened with starch.

Curry in Southeast Asia

Other than Indian dishes, similar dishes from Southeast Asian countries are called by the name of 'curry' in Japan such as 'Thai curry' or 'Java curry.'
However, as there is a large difference in the way of using spices, they taste different from what is made with common 'curry powder.'

For example, in the Kingdom of Thailand, the mainstream is to use chili pepper and coconut milk as a base and shrimp and chicken as a main ingredient and they are categorized as red curry, green curry and yellow curry, depending on the spices (herbs) used. Many of them have a mild and rich taste which comes from coconut milk. Among a variety of soups called Kaeng (Gaeng), which is a traditional Thai dish, foreigners call those rich in spice Thai curry for the sake of convenience. Originally, these have no direct connection with curry dishes from areas centering on India.

On the other hand, what is called 'curry' in Thailand is 'curry and rice' made with ingredients which are common in Japan. It is a dish which came from Japan and it has already become common in the country.

Also, there are dishes which are considered curry when Japanese people eat them, although they are not actually called curry. One example is 'Portuguese chicken' (Cantonese: Pou Gwok Gai, Portuguese Chicken), a kind of chicken curry with the taste of cream, the surface of which is baked in the oven, and the dish is usually served with rice or bread.

Other regions

It is confirmed that curry culture is rooted in every corner of the world, such as Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa and Oceania. While these are dishes which took a curry-like form by adding spices and a South Asian or Southeast Asian taste to traditional dishes of the regions, we should not overlook the fact that many restaurants as well as cooks made an effort to teach and spread these dishes. Also, recipes in which dishes from a range of countries are adapted for curry can often be found on the Internet.

East Asia

Curry and Rice in Korea


Italian Curry, Currywurst (Germany)

Middle East

Iranian Curry, Saudi Arabian Curry


Wet (Ethiopian Food) (Ethiopia), Sauce arachide (Cote d'lvoire)


New Caledonian Curry

[Original Japanese]