Curry on rice is often prepared in Japanese homes and school kitchens. It's a favorite with almost everyone, probably because curry goes well with rice, the staple food in Japan. Curry on rice is now almost a national dish, along with
Cooking with curry originated in India, as everyone knows. The British took curry recipes back with them from India around the end of the 1700s, and from England curry spread throughout the world. The recipes gained acceptance as a way to serve meat-flavored with a curried sauce, with rice as a side dish to the meal. Curry powder was first developed and marketed in England in the early 1800s. The powder contains a mixture of different spices, and makes it easy to cook curry-flavored meals in the home.
When curried dishes came to Japan around the end of the 1800s, they were introduced as a type of British cuisine. In those days a meal with curry was a luxury, but the new taste gradually spread to homes and ordinary restaurants in towns and cities. The meal was called by one of two names-
. The recipe for curry on rice originated in the 1910s, and has remained basically the same since then. The curried sauce, which contains more vegetables than meat and is thickened with flour, is served over rice with a relish (often chopped
radish pickled in soy sauce).
Before the war, the military found curry on rice a convenient meal because it can be cooked in large quantities and offers a nutritional balance. Curry on rice only became a common household meal after World War II, thanks to an important development, a mixture of curry spices and flour that could be used for "instant" cooking. The meal is a snap to prepare-just fry the ingredients you want, add water, simmer, then toss in an instant curry bar and dissolve it in the liquid. Curry on rice is easy and cheap to make, which helps explain why it has become regular fare in homes throughout the country.
Curry on rice is not only served in the home-you'll find different types of curried dishes in commercial districts as well. Almost all restaurants have it on the menu, some noodle shops serve both
(curried wheat noodles) and rice with a curry containing bonito-fish broth, and many bread stores sell
(buns with a curried sauce hidden inside).
Restaurants serving curried dishes from India, Thailand, Indonesia and other countries are gaining in popularity, especially among the young. One of these is Nakamuraya, a well-known restaurant that has offered Indian-style curry in Tokyo's Shinjuku district for the last 74 years. In 1927, the founder, Soma Aizo, learned how to make curry from his son-in-law, Rash Bihari Bose, a leader of the Indian nationalist movement who was living in exile in Japan.
Nakamuraya's curry is thickened naturally with vegetables, not flour. The taste is light, yet full-bodied. It makes for a healthy meal because it uses plenty of spices that are used as herbal medicines, and you won't get tired of it even if you eat it often.
This meal was prepared by Ninomiya Takeshi, the executive director and grand chef of Nakamuraya Restaurant. Since he joined the company 49 years ago, he has been in charge of the menus for Indian curry, the restaurant's specialty. He frequently presents curry cuisine to television audiences and magazine readers.