Curry Rice: A Spoonful of Japanese Comfort Food
You can find curry from around the world in a big city like Tokyo but, if you mention “curry” to a typical Japanese person, the first thing that will come to mind is curry rice.
Curry rice is Japanese style curry that was first introduced by British sailors around the time that Japan was opened to the west in the 19th century. It was thought to be a “western food” (洋食, yoshoku) even though it originated from India. Sweeter and less spicy than most other curries, Japanese curry can be found in conbini bento boxes and baked into buns called “curry-pan”, poured over udon noodles, and gyuu-don chains all over the country will have them on the menu.
Maybe those of you who can claim to have watched every single episode (even the filler arcs) remember when Sanji (One Piece) helped a Marine cook make the ultimate curry or the legendary “Curry of Life” from Naruto. Or maybe you saw all the different variations by Yukihira Soma (Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma)? There was even a manga series that ran from 2001 to 2012 named “Addicted to Curry”. There are probably thousands of other examples of instances where curry appeared in anime/manga but, these are just a few examples. Do you know which anime the image above is from?
Seiko Omori’s “Sacchan no Sexy Curry”, which was the ending theme song for the anime “Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma” and featuring an unforgettable performance by gravure model Mai Tsukamoto in it. Old school fans of J-pop might even recall Sonim’s “Curry Rice no Onna”? SKE48’s Team E had a song “Seishun no Curry Rice” as well.
For affordable Japanese curry just about anywhere in Japan, there are 3 major gyuudon chains that have it on the menu for around 500 yen on average.
Matsuya has over 800 locations in Japan and they seem to be everywhere! Even the curry comes with miso soup and best of all, there’s a ticket machine so you don’t even have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to.
Sukiya, the Yokohama-based chain has locations in all 47 prefectures as well as China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, and Brazil. The curry is packed with chunks of vegetables and meat. Miso soup can be purchased separately.
The oldest gyuudon chain at over 100 years old, Yoshinoya’s curry has more chunks of vegetables and meat in them, making it more like a stew, and the restaurants tend to have a more upscale or old fashioned feel to them. Miso soup and a small container of vegetables is available separately for around 100 yen.
There are also several chains that specialize in Japanese curry like Go! Go! Curry or Curry House Coco Ichibanya.
Curry House Coco Ichibanya
This chain originating from Aichi prefecture is the largest chain of curry restaurants in Japan with stores located in the United States and all over Asia. With beef, pork, or vegetable curry accompanied by a large selection of toppings and options to upgrade size or spiciness, there should be something for just about everyone.
Go! Go! Curry
Go! Go! Curry, which is said to have been named after baseball player Hideki Matsui’s jersey number serves up stainless steel platters full of shredded cabbage, rice, and deep fried pork cutlets covered in dark, thick curry. One of the things Go! Go! Curry is known for is their large portions; their “World Champion Class Major Curry” weighs in at 2.5kg and is only made 5 times a day per location. In addition to Japan, there are also locations in New York and Brazil.
As with our article about ramen, this is just the beginning of the discussion of curry rice and the role it plays in Japan. Even though many people will think or sushi or tempura or something else “more Japanese”, curry rice can easily be considered one of the top 10 most popular or commonly eaten foods in Japan. There’s still more to mention like Sanrio’s pink and green curry or some of the other unusual curry varieties there are!
Perhaps we’ll be back with more at another time?
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