Japanese Curry with Panko Chicken

East Asian Curries: How Curry fits into Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Cuisine

Curry is a popular dish all across the world, and for good reason. It can be mild or hot, savory or sweet, and can include pretty much anything you can think of. More than a dish, the word ā€œcurryā€ refers to the specific combination of organic spices people make to create a flavorful sauce.


In ourĀ last article, we discussed what curry is, where it comes from, and various styles of curries and spices that you can consider making when thinking about making curry. As a dish presumed to be Indian in origin, our general guide focused on Indian-style curries. However, cultures from all over the world, including China, Japan, and Korea, also have their own, very different combinations of spices and methods of preparation to create their versions of curry spices. In this article, we will explore how curry fits into Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine and their similarities and differences.

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Chinese Curry

Chinese Curry

Although the method of making curry is thought to have originated in India, its name comes from the UK, as ā€œcurryā€ is a British English word (it comes from the word "kari", or sauce). Additionally, Ā though many Chinese dishes use yellow curry powder as an added flavor in vegetable, seafood, and noodle dishes, the rice and sauce dish we know as curry is actually not very popular across mainland China. Thus, although Chinese curries use Chinese-based ingredients, their origin is likely Western.


Regardless of true origins, Chinese curry has been embraced by Chinese takeout and restaurants across the globe, particularly in the UK and in the United States. Although often made with chicken, Chinese curry can also include pork, beef, or a combination of seafood, meat, and vegetables. In addition to its signature yellow curry powder, Chinese curries also include classic Chinese flavors like star anise, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and cloves. Chinese curries will also use chilis, especially those from the Schezuan area, for spiciness. Our favorite is to add some Gochugaru Chili Flakes.


Chinese curry seasoning can be wet or dry, depending on how you prepare them. Noodle-themed dishes or stir-fries can be dry curry dishes when ordered from a takeout restaurant, whereas other Chinese curry recipes online will use cornstarch or plain flour with water to thicken their spice mix once incorporated into their dish.

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Japanese Curry and Rice with shrimp

Japanese Curry

Unlike in China, curry has become a well-known and cherished staple among Japanese people both within Japan and abroad. Its popularity has become a cultural icon of Japan, so much so that some Japanese consider their form of curry as a national dish.


Also unlike other curries, Japanese curries are made with a roux as its base rather than a mix of dry spices or a curry paste. This roux consists of a mix of sweet and savory ingredients to achieve an umami flavor, such as soy sauce, dashi, garlic, ginger, onions, carrots, and apples. As a result, traditional Japanese curries have a thicker consistency than Indian or other Southeast Asian curries.


Unlike spice- or coconut milk-based curry, Japanese curry is like a stew, served with rice and pickled vegetables on the side. Japanese curry also tends to be milder than other curries, although spicy versions are available. Japanese curries feature a variety of vegetables, most commonly potatoes, onions, and carrots. Pork, chicken, seafood, and tofu are all popular additions to Japanese curry as well. Because of its popularity, convenience stores, grocery stores, and evenĀ vending machines sell pre-formed curry blocks or pre-made, ready-to-eat curries.

Unlike in China, curry has become a well-known and cherished staple among Japanese people both within Japan and abroad. Its popularity has become a cultural icon of Japan, so much so that some Japanese consider their form of curry as a national dish.


Also unlike other curries, Japanese curries are made with a roux as its base rather than a mix of dry spices or a curry paste. This roux consists of a mix of sweet and savory ingredients to achieve an umami flavor, such as soy sauce, dashi, garlic, ginger, onions, carrots, and apples. As a result, traditional Japanese curries have a thicker consistency than Indian or other Southeast Asian curries.


Unlike spice- or coconut milk-based curry, Japanese curry is like a stew, served with rice and pickled vegetables on the side. Japanese curry also tends to be milder than other curries, although spicy versions are available. Japanese curries feature a variety of vegetables, most commonly potatoes, onions, and carrots. Pork, chicken, seafood, and tofu are all popular additions to Japanese curry as well. Because of its popularity, convenience stores, grocery stores, and evenĀ vending machines sell pre-formed curry blocks or pre-made, ready-to-eat curries.

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Korean Curry in a bowl with rice and kimchi

Korean Curry

Also stew-like in nature, Korean curry has become increasingly popular, thanks in part to the Japanese curry dish it comes from. Savory, spicy, and readily available in bothĀ commercial packages and through ingredients in grocery stores within Korea and the United States, Korean curry boasts a lot of flavor in a quick time frame. Based


Korean curry has similar ingredients and methods of preparation as Japanese curry but is notably spicier. Korean curries utilize a roux as their foundation like Japanese curries to get its thick consistency. Korean curry also .utilizes a mix of savory and sweet to build its foundation: carrots, onions, and potatoes A unique combination of peppers and spices make up the base of Korean curry, often commercially sold as a paste called Ottogi curry. The name of Ottogi curry actually comes from theĀ name of the company that sells the popular Korean curry powder, once called the Pung Lim Company. Pung Lim also makes the popular Vermont curry, available in both Japanese and Korean varieties.


Korean curry is a unique fusion of Indian and Japanese curries, with turmeric, coriander, cumin, fennel, as well as garlic, ginger, and spicy chili peppers popular in Korean pepper pastes, soybean, and even dairy products such as milk and cheese products.

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Which to Choose?

Curry is a fascinating and wonderful dish, and its versatility has made it a staple across the world. No matter the region, what unites every curry dish is its variety of spices that lend themselves well to any vegetable or meat they mix with.


Which curry you choose to make varies depending on both what cuisine you want to try and what spices you have available. You can find yellow curry powder in almost every grocery store; even in a pinch, you are likely to find curry powder at your local convenience store. Some commonplace American grocery chains, like Market Basket, Price Chopper, and Walmart, also provide ready-made curry, like from the popular Vermont brand. Conversely, you will likely have to visit your local Asian grocery store or a specialty supermarket to find the ingredients for an authentic Korean curry.


Regardless of which curry you choose to make, you also should also consider your level of spice tolerance. People who dislike spice or need something quick and easy to make after a long day at work will likely find an easier time gathering the ingredients for a Japanese or even Chinese curry. People who like spice or can afford to take the time to make curries from scratch or with specialty ingredients will find satisfaction in Korean curry or adding some extra peppers to their Japanese or Chinese dishes.


Ultimately, making a successful curry dish is to be adventurous and have fun! Explore various ingredient combinations, test your spice limits, and enjoy everything the culinary world has to offer. Full of organic seasoning, colorful, and sure to please, curry dishes are sure to bring something delicious to your next meal!

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DID WE "INSPIRE" YOU?

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