For the uninitiated, Japanese curry and Indian curry may sound or even look just the same. But for curry lovers and connoisseurs, there is definitely more than meets the eye between these spicy dishes.
Definitely, the two cuisines share some similarities, but Indian curry has been around for far longer. The word “curry” itself is derived from the word “kari” of the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka, which means “sauce” or generally denotes vegetables and meat cooked with spices.
The spread of curry around the world
The rise of the Mughal Empire by the 16th century, as well as the establishment of a Portuguese trading port in Goa, gave rise to different varieties of curry. The latter, in particular, led to the introduction of chili peppers to India from the Americas.
In turn, the concept of adding spicy sauces to boiled and cooked meats began creeping into English cuisine by the 17th century. Curry was further introduced to other cultures around the world due to British colonization. For instance, Indian workers in the British sugar industry in the Caribbean began cooking and spreading the dish in the locale.
Eventually, curry was brought into Japanese culture around the Meiji period during the late 19th century, thanks to the British who were ruling India at that time. Naturally, the Japanese developed their own way of cooking and enjoying curry, and thus the difference.
Hot, hotter, hottest
Foodies say that, in general, Japanese curry is not as spicy as Indian curry. For one, Japanese curry uses curry powder with less spices whereas Indian curry uses a variety of bases such as cumin, paprika, turmeric, and many more. Indian curry is more vibrant and bursting with flavor, while Japanese curry is sumptuous and “umami” but in a more understated manner.
The ingredients that go into the dish also vary. Traditional Japanese pork “katsu” or breaded and sliced meat goes well with curry, along with vegetables such as onions, carrots, and potatoes. Other meats such as beef or chicken are also used. Indian curry, meanwhile, is more varied—creamy, spicy, or vegetarian. Due to religious practices, beef is not consumed. Rather, mutton is commonplace along with chicken. Lentils are also used when meat is scarce.
In general, one might describe Japanese curry as warmer and more comforting, while Indian curry is more loud and adventurous.
Rice or pita?
Japanese curry is almost always eaten with rice. The Japanese have also developed fast cuisine, such as katsu curry, which are very popular among the working lunch crowd. It has also become quite diverse, with some restaurants offering interesting versions of Japanese curry served with other traditional ingredients such as udon or ramen noodles.
While Indians being Asian also count rice as a staple, curry is most often enjoyed with local flat bread, such as roti. However, there are a wide variety of other flat breads in different regions.
Which is better?
It would obviously be unfair to say which is better between Japanese curry and Indian curry, as each has its own unique flavor and character. They are also cooked in their own different way. It would really all depend on the curry eater and their personal preference.
In a way, Japanese curry would be a good introduction to the wonderful world of curry, in a less intimidating way. Japanese curry has the basic flavors of traditional curry. But for a full-on authentic experience, Indian curry would be the one to try for its honest-to-goodness flavors and spices.
In the end, why choose one when you can try both and enjoy the whole wide world of wonderful curry!