Why It Works
- A homemade blend of spices delivers deeper, fresher flavors that are customizable to your own tastes.
- Toasting the spices before grinding, then frying them in the roux, develops their flavors and infuses them throughout the dish.
- Grated apple adds a subtly sweet tone to the dish, balancing the hot and strong spice flavors.
- A broth made from both chicken stock and dashi is more complex, with a distinctly Japanese flavor.
Japanese curry (or kare, as it's called in Japan) is one of the nation's most popular convenience and comfort foods. Most renditions come straight from a package, but by making it from scratch at home, you can get better, fresher, and bolder spice flavors throughout. This recipe captures a classic Japanese curry, complete with juicy pieces of chicken, tender nubbins of carrot, sweet peas, and silky chunks of potato, but it's seasoned with a homemade spice blend that's way better than what comes out of a tin. Feel free to adjust the spices to suit your own tastes—that's half the fun.
- For the Curry Spice Blend:
- 2 tablespoons (7g) whole coriander seed, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
- 1 tablespoon (6g) whole cumin seed, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
- 1 tablespoon (6g) whole fenugreek seed, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (6g) cardamom seeds, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant (see note)
- 2 teaspoons (5g) whole black peppercorns, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) fennel seed, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant
- 1 (2-inch) piece cinnamon (3g)
- 3 cloves
- 1/2 of a star anise pod
- 1 or 2 strips (1g) dehydrated orange peel (optional; see note)
- 2 tablespoons (16g) ground turmeric
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (1 to 2g) chili powder, depending on the intensity of your chili powder and how spicy you want the curry
- Pinch grated fresh nutmeg
- For the Stew:
- 1 pound (450g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil, plus more as needed
- 1 large yellow onion (1 pound; 450g), diced
- 8 ounces carrots (225g; about 3 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 quart (950ml) homemade chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium broth
- 1 quart (950ml) homemade or instant dashi (see note)
- 1 pound (450g) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- Half of 1 (6-ounce) apple, peeled, cored, and finely grated, minced, or puréed
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (4 ounces; 110g)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (2 ounces; 55g)
- 1 (2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, finely grated
- 3 tablespoons (25g) Curry Spice Blend
- 1 cup frozen peas (5.5 ounces; 160g), if desired
- Warm short-grain rice, for serving
- Pickled ginger and/or rakkyo (pickled Japanese scallion), for serving
For the Curry Spice Blend: In a spice grinder, combine coriander, cumin, fenugreek, cardamom, black peppercorns, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and orange peel (if using) and grind to a fine powder. Empty into a small bowl and combine with turmeric, chili powder, and nutmeg, then set aside.
For the Stew: Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken and cook, turning, until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.
Add onion to Dutch oven, lower heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and cook for 4 minutes. Add chicken stock and dashi and bring to a simmer over high heat; reduce heat to maintain a simmer.
Cut up chicken into bite-size pieces and add back to pot, along with any accumulated juices. Add potatoes and apple and cook at a gentle simmer until potatoes are tender and carrots can easily be pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until foaming. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, until roux is a deep caramel brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in ginger and 3 tablespoons (25g) Curry Spice Blend and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Scrape roux into stew pot, stir well, and simmer until broth has thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in peas, if using, and cook until heated through.
Serve curry with cooked rice and pickled ginger and/or rakkyo.
If you have cardamom pods, toast the pods first, then crack them to remove the seeds. You can dry orange peels on a baking sheet in an oven set to its lowest setting; check them frequently, and remove when dehydrated. If you don't have dashi, you can use the same volume of additional chicken stock to replace it.