Monday, November 24, 2008

Japanese Shrimp Curry - Ebi Kari Raisu

Japanese Shrimp Curry - Ebi Kari Raisu

Before you say, "Where's the shrimp!" well, I ate them all before this shot was taken. I swear there were more in there last night. By the time I fished through the pot, all I could find were the two little ones you see here, but you get the idea.

Okay, on with the post.

When most people I know think of Japanese food, curry might not be the first thing to come to mind, but curry (or kari raisu as the dish is known in Japan) is as Japanese as teriyaki or sushi. Generally speaking, the word "curry", is a broad term used by us non-Indians to refer to any type of Indian food. It's a little more complicated than that.

The practice of tea drinking and Buddhism (and I'm guessing many other things) migrated their way through China to Japan over the centuries from the Nepalese region, so one might assume curry followed a similar path. My guess was that curry traveled a direct path from Nepal, throughout India, into China and across the sea of Japan where it caught on and became a part of Japan's food culture.

After a little internet research, I found it was in fact the British who introduced curry into Japanese cuisine. After the signing of the 1902 Anglo-Japanese alliance, cooperation between the two military's led to the British navy sharing their curry recipe with the Japanese as a cure for the condition beriberi which is caused by the lack of vitamin B1 in the diet. I never imagined a cure for an ailment could taste so good. Of course the Japanese happily adopted the recipe and adapted it to their taste and the ingredients they had available. That's it in a nutshell. For more in depth reading on the subject, check out this informative article, Japanese Curry and the Navy by Fumihito Yamamoto.

Shrimp don't look so shrimpy with the Macro setting :)

There are many instant curry mixes available at Japanese markets. We usually pick up whatever brand happens to be on sale but our favorites are S&B, Java or House brand Vermont Curry. (Don't ask me what Vermont has to do with Japanese curry). They come in big chocolate-like bars with segment scores on the top to make it easy to break apart. All are easy to prepare. Brown onions and meat of choice, add vegetables and water to cover, bring to a boil and stir in cubes of curry until dissolved and simmer. Serve over rice with Japanese pickles on the side. Very little cooking skill required, tasty, filling and you won't get beriberi.

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