Japanese curry rice is one of those dishes that are easy to prepare, are affordable, are popular with the crowd, and that only need one pot to pull off. Although curry is not a native Japanese cuisine, thanks to its introduction in the late 19th century, the dish has gained popularity all over Japan and is one of Japan’s staple soul foods.

Top Curry Rice Ingredients

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table__image Yamaroku Shoyu
  • Brewed and Aged For 4 Years
  • Original Asian Umami gourmet soy sauce
  • Deep, full rounded and perfectly balanced flavor
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table__image Marukan Seasoned
  • Used to season sushi rice or mixed with soy sauce
  • For a perfect flavor heat the vinegar in a pan and add a sugar and salt
  • Simmer on low hit until sugar dissolves
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table__image Kikkoman Manjo
  • Used to season a variety of Japanese dishes
  • Perfect for stir-fries, teriyaki, tempura, and sukiyaki
  • A regular when making sauces for dipping, cooking, or glazing meats
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table__image KOKUHO RICE SUSHI
  • A pantry essential for any Japanese cuisine lover
  • Great all-around rice - not only for sushi
  • Commonly used rice in Japanese curry
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table__image House Foods Vermont Curry
  • Perfect combination of flour, fat, curry, and other spices
  • Common in restaurants and homes
  • Convenient if you are pressed for time
Check Price on Amazon.com

Japanese curry rice has evolved over the decades to include many variations offering different tastes and textures. Although its inspiration traces its roots to India, the Japanese version varies in its thickness and taste. While Indian curry is runnier and very spicy, the best Japanese curry rice boasts a thicker, sweeter curry.

Still, both Japanese curry and Indian curry have some similarities in the ingredients that go into the curry. These include cumin, ginger, chili, and turmeric. However, Japanese curry rice has a fruitier taste and flavor and is much thicker and sweeter thanks to one popular best Japanese curry rice ingredient – apples.

Whether you are preparing Japanese pork curry or chicken Japanese curry rice, the best Japanese curry recipes’ evolution has made curry a perfect topping for the traditional sticky and chewy Japanese rice. Japan is popular for its recipe variations. For the curry, the most popular recipes are Japanese curry rice, curry udon, and different curry bread.

The base of Japanese curry features a protein and a popular flavoring cube sold in supermarkets. Depending on you who ask, you’ll get a recommendation for different brands, but the most popular is Golden curry and Vermont’s. The cubes are available in hot, medium hot, and for families with little children, each brand has a mild curry cube.

In today’s post, we look at the different ingredients of Japanese curry rice, the preparation, and the different curry rice variations. Before we go into the different curry variations, here are some essential curry rice and Japanese ingredients.

1. Soy Sauce


There are a variety of soy sauces but the most popular or “standard” soy sauce is koikuchi (dark mouth). Dark soy sauce is what you will find in most Japanese restaurants, supermarkets, stores, and homes. It has a darker color and better flavor than most soy sauces. Koikuchi does not necessarily stand for the label you should look out for when shopping for soy sauce, it only stands for the color and type.

Brands like Kikkoman and Yamasa typically sell koikuchi soy sauce. The sauce is a favorite in Tokyo and Kanto and is made from soy and wheat in equal parts in addition to yeast and salt.

Other popular soy sauces include:

Usukuchi soy sauce – Usukuchi is lighter and saltier and is popular in the Kansai region. Additional ingredients in this soy include wheat gluten and fermented rice.

Tamari – popular in the west and native to central Japan, gluten-free tamari soy sauce is thicker and mostly used as a sashimi dipping sauce and as a teriyaki dressing.

Yamaroku Shoyu

Put down the generic soy sauce and experience the real deal. Brewed and Aged For 4 Years using Ancient Methods. Using 100 year old Kioke Wooden Barrels

2. Rice Vinegar

Marukan Seasoned

Rice vinegar is more of an ingredient you’ll find on a sushi list than on one of our Japanese rice curry list. But, although our focus today is on curry rice, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you are a fan of Japanese cuisine, and sushi is a staple.

Rice wine vinegar is used to season sushi rice or mixed with soy sauce and used to dip oily foods such as gyoza. To make the perfect rice wine vinegar for seasoning your sushi rice, heat your rice wine vinegar in a pan and add a tablespoon each of sugar and salt. Simmer on low hit until sugar dissolves then pour on sushi rice and mix thoroughly.

Marukan Seasoned

Marukan Seasoned Rice Vinegar 12 Oz (12 ounce)

3. Mirin

Kikkoman Manjo

Another product of rice, mirin is a sweet rice wine used to season a variety of Japanese dishes. Mirin is a common seasoning ingredient in stir-fries, teriyaki, tempura, and sukiyaki. It is an essential recipe in Japanese cooking and is a regular when making sauces for dipping, cooking, or glazing meats.

Kikkoman Manjo

Cooking essentials for Asian cuisine

4. Japanese Sticky Rice


Another otaku pantry essential is Japanese sticky rice. While sticky rice is often used for sushi, the rice is actually great all-around rice. The short grain rice has a sticky and glutinous texture when cooked making it ideal for sushi as it holds together with perfection.

Sushi rice is also the most commonly used rice in Japanese curry.  



5. Japanese Ramen Noodles

NongShim Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup

If you fancy fast and practical meals that last long and taste delicious, you should stock up on Japanese ramen noodles. Our list below features different rice curry recipes, but most of those recipes can substitute the rice for ramen with surprising success.

Ramen noodles are easy to prepare and handle and have a long shelf life. The most popular noodles are udon and soba thanks to their unique taste, texture, and nutritional content. Ramen noodles make some of the best Japanese curry.

NongShim Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup

Premium Quality - The spicy flavor, cooked with beef, mushrooms and carrots, was inspired by the world's finest peppers

6. Wasabi

Wasabi paste is one of the most expensive ingredients used in traditional Japanese cuisine. The root from which wasabi is made is hard to cultivate making the fiery paste an expensive condiment.

S&B Premium Wasabi

However, the real thing works wonders when used on sushi and different meats. When shopping for wasabi, look out for real wasabi paste although it will be expensive. There are cheaper wasabi pastes, but those are made from Japanese horseradish. Other manufacturers mix horseradish, mustard, and food color.

The taste of real wasabi is more herbal than the horseradish paste. Also, real wasabi does not leave a burning aftertaste that lingers long after. The flavor is also smoother and more plant-like.

S&B Premium Wasabi

Made from real wasabi, not horseradish

7. Japanese Curry Cubes

S&B Premium Wasabi

The golden goose in any Japanese curry recipe is the curry cubes. The little brick-like cubes look like dark chocolate and are what you use to make the curry paste. These cubes have a perfect combination of flour, fat, curry, and other spices in precise portions. Although you can make your own Japanese roux curry from scratch, the cubes are more convenient if you are pressed for time.

The only problem with brick curry is the thinner flavor profile and the after taste. There is also a noticeable difference in taste between brick curry and the stuff you’ll find in the best Japanese restaurants.

Still, curry cubes are common in restaurants and homes alike given their convenience.

House Foods Vermont Curry

Pack of ten 8.8 ounce boxes

Now that your pantry is full of Japanese ingredients, here are the rice curry variations you should try.

Best Japanese Rice Curry Variations

The recipes we will look at below including Japanese pork curry have one thing in common – most are served with Japanese rice. However, pork curry is more popular with ramen noodles although it also finds its way to rice recipes.

Curry Rice

Curry rice is undoubtedly the most popular variation of this Japanese dish. It is not only popular in Japanese homes and restaurants, but it is also a favorite among school going kids. The ingredients of curry rice vary depending on the region.

Japanese pork curry rice is native to Tokyo. The Kansai region, including Osaka, prefers beef as their main curry ingredient with a topping of raw of half-boiled eggs. In these regions, local’s pair curry rice with pickled vegetables such as ginger shallots, or brown radish (fukujinzuke). Depending on the region, you will also find different sauces used to top the final dish.

Japanese Curry Pan

If you though curry is only good for full-blown meals, think again. The curry pan features a crunchy fried bun with a doughnut-like texture complete with a crust. These tasty curry rolls are crispy on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside thanks to the curry filling. The fillings used in curry pan vary across regions but one thing is certain – curry pan is a popular snack across Japan.

Soup Curry

A favorite for residents of Sapporo in Hokkaido prefecture, soup curry is closer to Indian curry than any other best Japanese curry. The consistency is soupier like the Indians like it and the flavor is less Japanese. However, the preparation of the Japanese soup curry is different from the original Indian one.

In India, the vegetables are cooked in broth until they breakdown then the curry is added into the vegetable soup. In Japan, vegetables are first fried or grilled. They are then arranged in a bowl and topped with meat. The curry soup is then poured on top of the dish and served. On the side, Japanese soup curry comes with a separate bowl of rice.

Curry Udon

Another Japanese favorite is curry udon. Unlike the usual sweet Japanese curry, curry udon has a more savory taste as it is highly seasoned with soy sauce giving it a different flavor. The flavor is enhanced by the smoked bonito-based broth and kelp stock. Unlike the best Japanese curry rice broth, curry udon’s broth is thinner. This broth is mostly served with ramen and topped with crispy fried prawn.

Katsu Curry

This is a variation of regular Japanese curry which features a curry topped meat served on top of rice. However, Katsu is a special pork cutlet making this one of the best Japanese pork curry you can make. The cutlet of pork is breaded then deep fried and topped with curry sauce on top of rice. Again, depending on the region, the cutlet protein may change to something like beef in Kansai.

For those with an even bigger appetite, Katsu curry has its own variation in Katsu curry don. Another Japanese pork curry, the dish features deep-fried pork cutlets served on top of rice and topped with egg, other condiments, and a curry bath.

Hamburg Curry

In Japan, Hamburg is the meat patty you’ll find in a hamburger. In this Japanese pork curry, the Hamburg is served with rice then topped with thick, brown gravy of curry sauce. Some regions add cheese to give it more flavor and color.

Other types of curry include:

Black curry – same Japanese rice curry recipe but with the addition of ingredients like squid ink and bittersweet chocolate giving the dish the dark tinge of color.

Yaki curry – baked rice curry topped with egg and cheese to complement the taste and texture.

Dry curry – with dry curry, the rice is cooked in the curry sauce resulting in yellow rice and a drier dish. The dish is then topped with different veggies such as cucumber and tomatoes and a protein – mostly minced meat.

With the different variations of Japanese-style curry rice and Japanese ingredients above, we hope you enjoy these delicious dishes. 

Mikasa Jones
Mikasa grew up in the dynamic Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Mikasa defines herself as an adaptive young woman who has been immersed into various cultures not just in the United States, but also her mother's hometown in Yokohama, Japan. She is a chef by profession and is an active member of the American Culinary Federation. She swears by a cup of hot matcha after a long day, saying that it helps her relax and focus on her tasks on a day-to-day basis.

Japan Daily Press is one of her outlets for sharing information with readers about the accessibility of commercially available Japanese products. She thinks that the misconception of sub-standard quality and taste of commercial food should be erased because there are a lot of manufacturers that are really stepping up their game in terms of developing products that are as close to authentic as possible.