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Gluten Free Japanese Curry – Coco Ichibanya Copycat

Japanese curry rice is one of my favorite guilty-pleasures within Japanese cuisine. It's incredibly easy to make and customize with only a few basic ingredients. It can be made sweet or spicy, but spicy tends to be more popular with adults (including me).

Only a distant cousin to Indian curry, I would describe Japanese curry as closer to a thick, rich brown gravy. The Japanese refer to it as a sauce, and serve it over rice with vegetables and meats. I enjoy mine over diced, pan friend potatoes and breaded chicken.

Coco Ichibanya is a well-known family style restaurant chain in Tokyo. They actually serve an allergen-free curry, but that curry is much more bland than their regular sauce. Below is a recipe I've been working on to mimic their regular curry sauce, but without gluten.

Ingredients

  • Butter - 3 Tbsp
  • Rice Flour or Gluten Free Flour Blend (I use Pamela's All-Purpose Blend) - 3 Tbsp
  • S&B Oriental Curry Powder - 2 Tbsp
  • Cayenne Pepper - 1/4 - 1/2 tsp (to taste)
  • Salt - 1/4 tsp (to taste)
  • Sesame Oil - ~1 Tbsp
  • Onion - 1 small
  • Bacon - 1-2 strips
  • Water (hot) - 2 Cups

Method

  1. Make a rue: Melt the butter on medium-low heat and mix the flour into it; cook for a couple of minutes to brown the flour slightly. Stir in the curry powder, cayenne pepper, and salt. Mix it all together into a thick paste, then turn off the heat and set aside.
  2. Chop and cook the onion in the sesame seed oil until it begins to turn transparent. Add the bacon and cook thoroughly. (Sesame oil adds richness, but vegetable, canola, or coconut oil are also fine.)
  3. Return the rue to the heat and stir in hot water. Mix thoroughly, making sure to remove all the lumps. Then, add the onion and bacon with all their grease and stir thoroughly. Bring to a boil and cook a few minutes, until it begins to thicken. Taste test and add more salt / cayenne pepper if desired.
  4. Serve over rice with additional toppings, if desired. Sausage, breaded meats, shrimp, and mixed vegetables are all common toppings.

Notes

  • Adjust amount of the cayenne pepper for more or less spice. I think 1/4 tsp is about "Spice Level 1" at Coco Ichi.
  • Use one or two slices of bacon depending on how rich you want the sauce. I store my bacon in the freezer by wrapping the slices two together in plastic wrap inside a freezer-safe bag.
  • For a variety of flavors, you can also experiment with using chicken or beef broth in place of the bacon and the water, and/or add chopped garlic at the end of the bacon's cooking time.
  • If you're living in Japan, you'll be able to find S&B カレー in a tall bottle with a yellow label. This blend is still gluten free, but it includes salt, so leave out the salt in the recipe.
  • Depending on your flour blend, you may have to adjust the amount of flour to achieve the right consistency. It should be thick, but not hold it shape. I find that leftovers tend to thicken; don't be afraid to add some water when you reheat it.

Image not my own.

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