How many of you have used a pre-made curry roux, such as Golden Curry or Vermont Curry? They come in a few sizes and different levels of spiciness (which I never really noticed as all that spicy), but they’re basically square slabs of dry roux that look like a weird shade of chocolate, and you mix them into your soup after your ingredients are tender, to form a curry. We’re still talking about Japanese curry, mind you. I often have used them to make curry; they’re so convenient and quick.
The other day I had a closer look at the ingredients of these curry roux, specifically the ingredients list for Vermont Curry, which I like. It had over 50 ingredients! That’s pretty crazy for one little roux cube! It also had MSG, which I’m not personally offended by, but I’m sure many people in the U.S. avoid. Anyway, some of the ingredients sounded interesting to me, so I wondered if I could use some of them in my curry. Therefore I decided to try making my own from scratch, including making curry spice mix.
I find Japanese curry to be comfort food for me, especially if it’s mildly spiced. Of course if you like your curry spicy, just add more chili powder! The version I give you isn’t spicy at all.
Making the curry spice may seem daunting because of how many spices there are, but it doesn’t take all that long to toast and grind them. If you end up liking the curry, you can make the curry spice in a big batch and keep it in a jar to scoop from.
First, you want to gather all your spices. Group the first five ingredients together (coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, peppercorns, fennel seeds) and toast them in a pan over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally to turn them around. When they start smelling fragrant, pour them into a bowl or straight into your spice grinder. Next, do the same for the cardamom pods (if you’re not using cardamom pods, skip this step). You can roast the cardamom pods together with everything else, but you’d have to pick them out later. Once the cardamom pods smell fragrant, take them off the heat and cool before you open the pods and get the seeds out.*
*Tip: Use the flat side of a blade to press down gently on a pod or two so they crack open, then you can easily open them with your fingers the rest of the way to remove the seeds.
Put the rest of the whole spices with the ones you toasted in the grinder and turn everything into powder, then mix well with the rest of the powdered spices. Set aside for later.
Did you ever think you’d use a banana in curry? It makes for an interesting flavor which is not bad at all, I promise.
Dice the tomato, dates, and banana.
Heat your choice of oil over medium-low heat in a pot that’s at least 4-5qt, and throw in the tomato, dates and banana. Cook for 4-5 minutes until softened, and then add the honey, peanut butter, asafoetida, and tomato paste. If everything isn’t soft and paste-like, cook a little longer until it becomes a smooth paste.
While that cooks, peel the carrots and potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces. For the carrots, I like to cut them rangiri style (rotate the carrot by a quarter and cut diagonally every time).
When the paste is ready, pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, let simmer for a couple of minutes, and then add the potatoes, cocoa (or cacao) powder, and apple sauce.
I used apple sauce and flax seeds because they have thickening properties, and I love my curry to be thick. If you just wanted to add apple and don’t have apple sauce, I’m sure you could grate an apple to add in instead.
While that’s cooking, start working on your roux (if multitasking isn’t your specialty, just make the roux before you start on the curry and set it aside like in the recipe below). Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan and throw in the flour when it bubbles. Stir well and constantly so it doesn’t scorch, and keep stirring as it cooks until the roux turns a nutty brown.
Add three tablespoons of the curry powder you made to the roux and cook for another minute. Set it aside if your vegetables aren’t tender yet.
When the potatoes and carrots are tender to your liking, throw in your frozen peas and stir in the curry roux and a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds. I got mine whole and toasted from Trader Joes and then ground a little bit to throw in, but you can also find flaxseeds ready ground.
Stir your curry until it thickens, and then take it off the heat and serve with rice. Or eat it with cheese toast or noodles!
Japanese Curry (from scratch)
IngredientsCurry Spice: (makes 8 Tbs)
- 2 Tbs (7g) whole coriander seeds
- 1 Tbs (6g) cumin seeds
- 1 Tbs (6g) fenugreek seeds
- 2 tsp (6g) whole peppercorns
- 1/2tsp (2g) fennel seeds
- (optional) 2 tsp (5g) cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp powder)
- 3 cloves
- 1/2 star anise pod
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- (optional) 1-2 strips dried orange peel
- 2 Tbs turmeric powder
- 1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
- 1 tsp ghee or canola oil
- 3 dried dates (not Chinese dates, which are actually jujubes) or 1 dried fig
- 1 banana
- 1 roma tomato
- 1/2 tsp asafoetida
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 Tbs peanut butter
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 8 cups vegetable stock
- 1 lb gold or red potatoes
- 4 medium carrots
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 tsp cacao/cocoa powder
- 4 Tbs apple sauce (or an apple, grated)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 Tbs curry spice
- 1 Tbs ground flaxseeds
- 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
DirectionsFor the curry spice:
- Toast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, whole peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a pan over medium heat until fragrant, shaking the pan often. Place in grinder.
- Toast cardamom over medium heat until fragrant, shaking the pan often. Use the flat side of a blade or other object to crack the cardamom pods open, and transfer the seeds to the grinder.
- Add the other whole spices (star anise, cloves, orange peel if using) to the grinder, and blend until powder.
- Mix with the rest of the powdered spices and keep aside.
For the curry soup:
- Make the roux: melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it bubbles, then throw in the flour. Stir or whisk constantly until it turns a nutty brown after about 5-7 minutes. Add 3 Tbs of the curry spice and cook another minute, then take off the heat, still stirring for another minute so it doesn’t scorch. Set aside for later.
- Dice the tomato, dates, and banana.
- Heat oil in a 4 or 5qt stock pot over medium-low heat, and add the tomato, dates and banana, stirring occasionally. Cook them for 5 minutes or until softened.
- Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes and carrots into bite-sized wedges. Carrots can be cut into rangiri.
- Add honey, peanut butter, asafoetida and tomato paste to the cooked fruits in the pot. Mix and cook for a couple more minutes if necessary, until it becomes a smooth paste.
- Pour in the vegetable stock, stir, and bring to a boil.
- Add the carrots and simmer with the pot partially covered for a couple of minutes.
- Add the potatoes, cocoa powder, and apple sauce, mix, and continue to simmer partially covered for another 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender to your liking.
- Pour a couple of ladles into the roux and mix it separately first, before adding it all back into the big curry pot. Add the frozen peas and ground flaxseed and mix well.
- Stir occasionally as the curry thickens and the peas get heated through, for roughly another 2-3 minutes.
- Serve hot with rice.
You can replace the dates with a similar dried fruit, like dried figs.
You can also replace the peanut butter with another kind of nut butter, or even sesame paste.
Cocoa/cacao powder: There’s a difference between the two. So far I’ve only used pure cocoa powder (by Wild Foods), but cacao powder gives more nutrition and antioxidants, as well as a few more calories. Use whatever you have access to or want to put in.