The history of Japanese curry

Japanese curry has become a global phenomenon available overseas in various forms. The history of Japanese curry goes back to the late 19th century when British ambassadors introduced the curry spice powders to Japan, and since then, it has developed into an art form of its own where chefs would experiment with ingredients, soup stock, spices, and many other aspects that constitutes the Japanese curry culture of today.

types of curry

We’ve seen many types of curry inspiring the Japanese diet, starting with the Indian curry boom in the late 80s where people finally got to taste the authentic Indian cuisine, and then came the soup curry boom in the early 2000s which originated in Hokkaido. We also saw the rise of a Thai curry boom at the same time which made many Japanese to realize that curry is not just an Indian cuisine, but a dish that could take various forms and has evolved in many places. In recent years, we saw the third movement of curry, a Kanazawa curry which is unique in that it originated from what we now know as “Japanese curry” but evolved in its own way to take on a truly original form.

By now you probably understand how curry is deeply rooted into the Japanese cuisine, but it seems that Japan is about to see yet another great boom on their curry plates.

Sotaro OMURA/ Flickr

Tokyo and Osaka curry

As Japan’s second biggest city, Osaka has always been one of the most competitive places for curry restaurants. People there pride themselves of their curry culture, along with many other local delicacies like takoyaki or kushi-katsu. For centuries, Osaka has been known for being very open to new foreign cultures and incorporating it in their own style.

The same goes with their curry. In contrast to the curry culture in Tokyo where they have kept things as it is, curry chefs in Osaka are not afraid to improvise them by introducing new techniques and influences. Beginning in the 70s, Osaka has realized that curry was not just a product of the British-Indian cuisine, but in fact a global food that has a long history in many other countries as well.

While ethnic restaurants in Tokyo have provided these types of authentic curries like the ones from Thai and distinguished itself from Indian or Japanese curry, chefs in Osaka incorporated these various styles into their curry to make a completely new dish. That is, the Osaka Spice Curry.

The origin of the name “Spice Curry”

The origin of the name “Spice Curry” is unknown as most curries have used spices, however, the common understanding is that curries in Osaka put more emphasis on the aromatic elements of the curry rather than the soup stock or the ingredients they put in. Another big characteristic of the Osaka Spice Curry is that its presentation is heavily inspired by Asian plates rather than a European “roux-based” curry.

nakashi/ Flickr

Today, these restaurants that started out by simply trying to improve their dishes individually have created a whole movement we call “Spice Curry”. If you’d like to get a head start to this new Japanese gourmet phenomenon, make sure to book a flight to Osaka!