Curry was brought to Japan by the British in the 18th century and has since become one of the nation’s most popular dishes. Unlike typical Asian curries, the Japanese sauce is thick and subtly sweet. As for the spice level, that can vary from mild to hot. Kare raisu is commonly made using store-bought curry roux blocks. They are really good and convenient, especially in a pinch. But a from-scratch version doesn’t take that much more time or effort and tastes a bit fresher and more nuanced. You can also play with the flavorings to suit your taste. Onions, carrots and potato are classic kare raisu ingredients, along with some kind of protein. This recipe uses beef, but you could try chicken, seafood or tofu, which can be cooked right in the sauce with the vegetables.
Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Add half the beef to the pot and cook until browned on at least 2 sides, about 6 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef, leaving it in the pot after it’s browned.
Add the beef from the plate and any accumulated juices back to the pot and cover with 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and gently simmer, occasionally skimming off any scum and fat, until tender but not falling apart, about 1 1/2 hours.
Transfer the cooked beef to a plate and set aside. Measure out 4 cups of the broth, leaving any sediment in the pot, and set aside. (If you don’t have enough broth, make up the difference with water. If you have extra broth, reserve it for thinning the curry later, if needed.)
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sweat, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 6 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 1 minute.
Add the flour and cook, stirring often and breaking up any clumps of onion and flour, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, garam masala and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
Slowly whisk in the 4 cups reserved broth and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce. Add the carrots, potatoes and grated apple and simmer, adjusting the heat as needed and stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the cooked beef and any accumulated juices and simmer, stirring often so the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, until the vegetables are completely tender, about 10 minutes more. Let sit for about 15 minutes for the flavors to meld.
If the curry looks too thick, thin with a little of the extra broth or water. Add salt and/or more cayenne, if needed.
Serve in shallow bowls or deep plates alongside the white rice and fukujinzuke or beni shoga.
When making curry and other simmered dishes, the Japanese cut cylindrical vegetables, such as carrots, using the rangiri, or roll, technique. This involves rotating the vegetable a quarter turn before each cut, made on the diagonal. The resulting wedges look nice and the greater surface area allows for better absorption of the sauce and flavors.