Curry Rice: 30 Days of Japanese Food

Everything you need to know about Curry Rice: the history, ingredients and varieties of the Japanese dish.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Day 7: Curry rice

It’s only been in the last one hundred years or so that curry rice has been so popular in Japan. On first appearances it doesn’t seem like a traditional Japanese dish – and that’s right.

It actually came from British influences in the late 1800s, back when Britain controlled India. But somehow it took hold in Japan and over the decades has become one of the most commonly eaten dishes in the country.

The sauce itself is quite different to the Indian styles and a lot of work was put into developing the particular curry recipe which is most used the most often.

It’s a special combination of spices that took the Japanese quite a while to perfect, after first discovering how useful curry rice could be to quickly and cheaply feed its military in the early part of the twentieth century.

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The meat which is served with curry rice in Japan varies a bit depending on the region but beef and pork are the most common. It’s also normally served with stewed vegetables like potato, carrot and onion.

The curry is poured over the rice or alongside it on a plate. The grains used are different to those that go with South Asian curries. In Japan the rice is shorter, rounder and stickier – like most of the rice used in traditional cooking.

This is an extremely popular dish to cook at home and supermarkets are full of ready-made curry packets. A lot of Japanese dishes can be quite hard to make so this is considered to be an easy but still tasty meal that can be prepared quickly at home.

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I actually think it’s a bit of a waste to eat curry rice in Japan, though, because it seems so meek compared to the other strong tastes and textures of the traditional cuisine. But it does make for a wholesome and filling snack if you’re short of time and just got to get something in your stomach.

Oh, and if you’re not comfortable with chopsticks, curry rice is a great option because it’s normally eaten with a spoon because of the runny sauce.

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This curry rice was from a fast food place I found when I was in a hurry somewhere near Ueno train station in Tokyo. It cost 350 yen (US$3.60), was tasty and filling.

4 thoughts on “Curry Rice: 30 Days of Japanese Food”

  1. LOVE Japanese curry rice! When I lived in Japan it was one of my favorite things to grab for a quick snack. My Japanese mama (I was an exchange student at the time) made the BEST. It’s something I learned to personalize and make at home, and I cook it fairly regularly in the winter. I love most curries…they vary so much from country to country…but the Japanese version is comfort food for me! Thanks for the post. We look forward to sharing more of your culinary adventures while you’re in Japan. Don’t forget to get some curry udon next time you’re in a curry mood.

    • I’ve had curry rice a couple of times now when I was in a rush and just needed something quick and filling. I love that it’s so cheap as well! I might put curry udon in the list of I can find it somewhere.

  2. This is one of my favorite curry, easy to cook and light compared to Thai or Indian curry. When I was there I would get sushi or any sweets at the grocery/convenience store and it taste good, not what you would expect to get from a grocery or convenience store!

    • The curry rice is definitely really light. And the convenience stores have some fantastic food. I got meals (or snacks) from there lots of times because it was just so easy when you were in a hurry.


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