Japanese curry is one of Japan’s most popular dishes, more commonly eaten than sushi and found everywhere from school lunch menus to chain restaurants. Distinctive from its Asian counterparts for its mild yet slightly sweet taste, Japanese curry is bursting with umami flavor despite the lack of spice.
According to manufacturer S&B Foods, sales of Japanese curry roux and ready-made pouches total approximately 100 billion Japanese yen per year and on average curry is consumed in Japan once every five days. And it’s not just adults who love Japanese curry either. According to a survey by Gurunavi, a well-known Japanese restaurant guide, curry ranked as the number one favorite food voted for by Japanese children, ahead of sushi and karaage (fried chicken).
From curry roux blocks to ready-made sauce pouches, here are a selection of the most popular Japanese curry brands and products for you to try at home.
The Golden Curry blocks orrouxas they are officially called, are one of the most popular brands of Japanese curry that can be found on virtually every supermarket shelf in Japan. Golden Curry is made by S&B Foods who were the first company in Japan to manufacture curry powder in 1930, and today their curry roux comes in a range of spice levels varying from mild to extra hot and is exported to more than 50 countries around the world. The Golden Curry brand first launched in 1966 and is known for its rich aroma and full-bodied flavor produced through its unique manufacturing process that incorporates various herbs and spices.
Torokeru Tasty CurryOther curry products from S&B include their Tasty Curry Mix roux which uses vegetable broth made from simmered vegetables to create a rich, deep-tasting curry sauce, and Curry Sauce retort pouches that come ready-made and can be heated up in less than five minutes for an instant Japanese curry with a tasty sauce.
House Foods Curry
House Foods is one of Japan’s largest food manufacturers, with a selection of curry brands to choose from including Java Curry, Vermont Curry, the Hotel Curry, and Kokumaro Curry. The company first began producing and selling their "Home Curry" in 1926 in Osaka however at the time the company struggled with sales as curry was still a new product that many Japanese people were unfamiliar with. In 1928, the company rebranded their product to call it "House Curry" and began focusing more on advertising by doing cooking demonstrations to allow customers to try the curry before they purchased it. After that, the company grew their curry sales further and by the 1960s they had become one of the biggest curry manufacturers in Japan, even producing a ready-made Japanese style space curry designed for astronauts in 2007.
Described by House Foods as a robust curry with a rich onion flavor and strong aromatic spices, Java Curry is aimed at adults and available in medium hot and hot spice levels. This curry is recommended for individuals who prefer a deep, spicy curry and prefer to avoid milder tasting sauces.
First introduced to consumers in 1963, Vermont Curry is one of House Foods’ most successful exports and is their best-selling curry brand in China. Before the development of the Vermont Curry brand, curry was usually quite spicy and therefore only considered suitable for adults. This curry was created so it could be enjoyed by both adults and children. Suitable for the whole family, Vermont Curry has a milder taste that includes flavors of apple and honey.
A rich yet mild curry made from a blend of two different kinds of roux, a rich curry and a mellow curry, Kokumaro Curry is a rich, creamy flavored curry available in a medium hot spice level. The first Kokumaro product, a medium spicy curry roux, was released in 1996 and since then the range has expanded to include a mild, sweet roux, ready-made retort pouches, a healthier roux with reduced fats and oils, and a butter chicken curry that was released in 2020.
The Hotel Curry
The Hotel Curry range by House Foods was created as a way for consumers to recreate the experience of eating an extravagant hotel-restaurant quality curry at home in minutes using their instant cook retort packaging. The Hotel Curry is available to try in a medium spice level and ingredients include beef meat, bouillon, sautéed onions, tomato, and red wine.
In 1968, Otsuka Foods released Bon Curry, the world’s first commercially available food in plastic pouch bags. The heat resistant bags were developed after one of the company’s product developers was inspired by an article about pouch sausages used by the Swedish army. These ready-made sauces are free from preservatives and contain only Japanese grown potatoes, onions, and carrots. Bon Curry is available to purchase in a range of different flavors including sweet, medium hot, and extra hot.
Shiseido Parlour Curry
Made from a recipe created by the chefs at the Shiseido Parlour restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, the restaurant grew from an ice cream counter to a western-style dining establishment where curry became one of the most popular menu items. This luxurious curry sauce is simmered for three days, and their boil in the bag products are available in a selection of flavors to include beef, vegetable, and chicken curry.
Although Muji are better known outside of Japan for their homeware and fashion products, they also produce a variety of foods. Muji’s range of instant curry sauces can be boiled in the bag in water or cooked in the microwave, and their most popular product is their butter chicken curry. The curry sauce is mild in its spiciness, and includes flavors of tomatoes, aromatic spices, and cashew nuts creating a delicious umami taste.
Another of Japan’s most well-known food manufacturers, Glico produces a range of curries including their Premium and Zeppin brands. Glico’s Premium Curry roux is available in spice levels ranging from one (sweet) to five (spicy) and contains ingredients such as vegetables, tomatoes, spices, and cocoa mass.
Zeppin curry roux is a two-layered block that contains a paste in the middle, made from the same technology used to manufacture sweets. This rich tasting curry contains 40 kinds of spices and has been recognized as an outstanding product by the International Taste Institute in Belgium.