Imperial Japanese Navy Curry-with Recipe!!

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Imperial Japanese Navy Curry-with Recipe!!

Post by Goldfish » 27 Jun 2005 15:02

Curry History of the Imperial Japanese Navy
(from the December, 2004 issue of Rekishi Gunzou, initial translation by Masuda Tomiko)

Curry was first introduced to Japan in 1872 by cooks working for a British company. At first, it was served in the British style of the time, kind of a curry-flavored beef stew served with bread. This was new to Japan, using beef and spicy seasonings, but was soon appreciated as a great invention. In 1877, the restaurant “Fugetsudo” in Yokohama began serving curry dishes to the public.

The Imperial Japanese Navy, based in Yokohama, soon took notice of the curry dishes and by the end of the Meiji era, curry was common on IJN warships. The Japanese added flour to the curry to thicken it and added more beef. It rapidly became the most popular dish in the IJN and former sailors introduced it to their families and friends.

Karee Raisu (curry rice) is now a staple of the Japanese diet. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces also still serve curry. Some companies sell original-recipe curry in Japanese Navy-themed packaging.



Rice (preferably Japanese glutenous rice available at Asian grocery stores). Cook as much as you like, at least 50 grams (uncooked) per person.

Beef stock-1.2 liters (1200 cc)
Curry powder-6 tablespoons
Flour-2 ½ tablespoons
Lard-140 grams

Cut beef and veggies into medium size pieces.
Onions-500 grams
Potatoes-400 grams
Carrots-250 grams
Beef-300 grams

In a skillet, melt half of the lard (70 grams). Add curry powder and flour. Mix and stir well over medium heat for about three minutes.

In a large saucepan, place the rest of the lard (70 grams) along with veggies. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until soft. Add beef and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low heat until beef is soft. Stir in seasoning (above). Continue to cook on low heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until most of the liquid has simmered away and the sauce is thick enough for your liking.
Serve over rice. Serves five.

Itadakimasu!! (Let's eat!!)

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 01 Jul 2005 05:58

As a fan of curry, I will have to give this a try. Thanks, Goldfish!


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Post by tonyh » 04 Jul 2005 17:24


Thanks Goldfish. My girlfriend is always at me to make a dinner. She get an IJN curry now.

Then she can take of in her zero and do a patrol over Midway.


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Post by Unterfeldwebeljosef » 14 Jul 2005 23:49

holy crap tony your girlfriend has a zero? cool! :D

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Re: Imperial Japanese Navy Curry-with Recipe!!

Post by sanibeta » 13 May 2009 06:51

Is there a recipe for whole wheat baking mix (similar to Bisquick) that uses vegetable oil and not shortening? I have a recipe for a whole-wheat baking mix that uses a Crisco type shortening but I am searching for a healthier recipe using vegetable oil. This recipe would be used much like Bisquick for making muffins, pancakes and quick breads.

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Re: Imperial Japanese Navy Curry-with Recipe!!

Post by Sewer King » 14 May 2009 04:29

In 1935, a fleet accounting division compiled several hundred recipes that were the most popular in the Navy, and of course kare raisu was among them. The description matches the recipe given above:
Curry Rice
  • Rice, barley and pieces of sweet potatoes simmered until done in a sauce made of
    minced beef, carrots, onions fried in butter or lard and seasoned with curry powder, salt and pepper.
cf. Cwiertka, Katarzyna J. Modern Japanese Cuisine (London: Reaktion Press; US: University of Chicago. 2004), page 74

For comparison, here is an ordinary Chinese recipe. Like the Japanese version, I expect that it too is descended from the reach of 19th century British commerce and naval power:
  • Image
    • 1 tsp sugar
      1 oz curry powder
      1 small red pepper
      1 tbsp soy sauce
      2 cloves garlic, chopped
      1 med sized onion, diced
      3 medium potatoes, cut into pieces of 1-1/2in
      1 small can Carnation milk (evaporated milk)
      1 tsp ginger powder, or 1 small ginger, (smashed)
      3 tbsp coconut oil, if not available use peanut oil or salad oil
      1 lb stewing beef – cut into pieces of 1-1/2” remove some of the fat
    Pour oil into frying pan, bring to boil and sauté onion, garlic until brown. Add curry powder, pepper, and ginger – cook for 3 minutes. Add meat into this mixture and sauté for another 5 minutes.

    Pour contents, meat, and curry sauce into sauce-pan, add milk and 2 cups water. Simmer for 15 minutes, add potatoes and simmer until meat tender – add salt to season.

    Serve hot with rice. Serves 3 to 4.

    Note: Chicken can be substituted for beef. Some prefer to add coconut milk [in place of condensed milk].
cf. Huang, Leon. Chinese Recipes (Hong Kong: Fortune Publishing Co, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1977), page 55

Chinese traders, scholars, professionals, and small businessmen had long served in small intermediary roles between Asia and the West. But across the centuries they had done the same for and between Asian countries themselves. Chinese cooks were among those same agents of cultural exchange, and their dishes were still another vehicle for it – so commonplace as not to be considered.

Americans will recognize this role most in the popularity of Chinese-style restaurants at home, where they trace back to the 19th century. But Cwiertka shows that they also had become popular in early 20th century Japan.

Overseas Asian cooks – whether Chinese, Indian, Filipino, or others – will also cook the cuisines of the countries they reside in, which in time might dilute or otherwise change their native dishes for popular taste. Sometimes this is because true and original versions of foreign foods may be harder to accept unless changed in this way. Food historian Reay Tannahill hinted that this happened to curry in her book Food in History (revised ed. Crown Publishers, 1987), pages 115-117:
The true Indian curry bears very little resemblance to the parodies of it served (by Indians themselves, as well as by Europeans) even in these reportedly enlightened times. Save for the Nepalese and a few regional versions, it should not, by and large, be designed to paralyse the palate.

For Indians, curry is a sauce designed to add relish – no more -- to rice or the pliable wheaten pancakes known as chapatis. A little of it goes – and is meant to go – a long way… Chilies, today’s ‘hot’ element, were not introduced into India from tropical America until the sixteenth century. Thinking of curry on rice as one of the predecessors of tomato ketchup on chips helps to put it in perspective.

The original south Indian kari (meaning ‘sauce’) from which the word ‘curry’ is derived, seems to have been of a fairly liquid consistency; when Europeans first encountered it they described it as a broth or soup poured over the rice. There were other types, however, with other names; some were like a spicy stew of vegetables, fish, or meat; some drier still almost as if the ingredients had been grilled.

This Japanese article traces curry in that country to Yokohama where its popularity spread after being made for the British. In earlier discussions here it was attributed to the influence of Britain’s Royal Navy on that of Imperial Japan. Might both origins be true?

tonyh wrote:My girlfriend is always at me to make a dinner. She get an IJN curry now. Then she can take of in her zero and do a patrol over Midway.
That if she likes it, and I hope so. But even though you make it well, what if she doesn't?

sanibeta wrote:Is there a recipe for whole wheat baking mix (similar to Bisquick) that uses vegetable oil and not shortening? I have a recipe for a whole-wheat baking mix that uses a Crisco type shortening but I am searching for a healthier recipe using vegetable oil. This recipe would be used much like Bisquick for making muffins, pancakes and quick breads.
Here are some references to shortening substitutes, but it likely depends on what the final uses are. In limited looking I haven’t yet come across a homemade mix stored for ready use like Bisquick. I've used canola oil measure-for-measure in muffins, waffles, and pancakes. Although I know how to make basic pastry crusts, they are for occasions and for others so I haven’t felt experienced enough to try substituting for the butter in those.

-- Alan

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Re: Imperial Japanese Navy Curry-with Recipe!!

Post by hisashi » 17 May 2009 11:36

Japanese curry is a 'Japanized' dish considerably different from British originals.

Both IJA and IJN contributed to the prevailing of Japanese curry, though the origin was perhaps from the navy. Several military recipe book had an entry for them but it seemed each vessels and troops had some 'secrets' for their recipe. On the other hand, the custom of IJN, on which they served curry rice for lunch every Saturday, could be the cleaning up of vegetable stock. If it was true, their recipe must be very flexible on the supply situation of the vessel.

Even today curry rice is the most popular fast food just as Hamburgers for Americans. In other words, it makes money. Many companies and towns asserts that their curry recipe is close to the original navy curry. The third link is a restaurant owned by Yokosuka city office, supported by Yokosuka Maritime SDF Headquarter and Yokosuka board of trade for the revival of recipe. ... /navy.html

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Re: Imperial Japanese Navy Curry-with Recipe!!

Post by Sewer King » 25 Nov 2011 15:28

IJA tankette Type 94 in curry advertisement.jpg
Curry powder advertisement, 1938 [Cwiertka, page 127]
Type 94 tankettes roll forward in this advertisement, flags flying. There is also a baseball motif at the top of page. Of course “Hit” is a baseball term, but is it also a brand name of this curry here, or its maker?

What does the rest of the advertisement generally say?


Still another summary history for kare raisu written for a wider audience, cited in Citizen Historian, 31 July 2007.
Japanese Curry and the Navy
by Yamamoto Fumihito

Today, Japanese cuisine is extremely popular and is eaten all over the world, to the point perhaps that most people believe that Japanese eat Sushi, Sashimi and Tempura everyday and that these are traditional Japanese cuisines. But this is a misconception. While it is true that Japanese do eat such foods, most of us do not eat Sushi and Sashimi every day. The more popular daily foods in Japan are actually curry and Ramen.

Almost all foods that people around the world considered as Japanese foods can trace their origins in foreign countries. Both curry and Ramen have their origins outside of Japan, likewise Sushi, Sashimi and Tempura. It has been said that custom to eat salted fish and rice coming from South-East Asia and South China had gradually changed to a cuisine nowadays known as Sushi and Sashimii for a long period of time and finally became Edo-Mae Sushi (Edo-style Sushi) in early nineteenth century. Tempura is also a cuisine with external origins in Portuguese fried food. The only food that has a Japanese origin is Katsuodashi (bonito soup stock), which is necessary for Japanese cuisine. Perhaps the special feature of Japanese food (amongst other products thought of as Japanese), is not just invention, but rather arrangement and sophistication.

Japanese curry is different from Indian and British curries. Japanese curry is stickier, less spicy and possess an interesting historical origin ...

...The Japanese Navy learned how to make curry from the British Navy. After the signing of the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, interactions between the two navies led the Japanese to discover that that the Royal Navy served curry aboard their ships. Initially, Japanese sailors and officers ate curry with bread, but the sailors had joined up to eat rice, not bread. Even by the early twentieth century, Japanese living in rural areas were not really in the habit of eating bread for meals. Sailors coming from rural areas recognised bread really as a snack, not as a meal.

Plain rice, however, still did not contain the crucial vitamin B1 to prevent beriberi. During the Russo-Japanese War, in a bid to get their sailors to eat with the right nutrition, the Navy began serving curry with plain rice, cooking the curry with wheat, which contains vitamin B1. This new arrangement became popular among sailors. Sticky curry suited very well with Japanese rice. Curry was also served with fresh salad and milk, both full of necessary vitamins and minerals, such as calcium.

The curry meal quickly became popular for other reasons too. Eating curry was cost-effective in many ways. Being a basic one-plate meal made it easy to wash up. During weekends, when there were fewer people in the naval bases, the curry meal is perhaps the simplest to prepare for any skeleton staff remaining in the base. Every ship and naval base moreover would have its own unique recipe for making curry and regularly compete with one another.

In 1908, the curry was officially acknowledged when the curry meal recipe was published in The Naval Cooking Guide. Every Friday, sailors and officers in every ship and naval base in the Japanese Marine Self Defense Force would eat curry. This is a tradition inherited from the Imperial Japanese Navy. When sailing in the oceans and seas, sailors tended to lose their sense of time. Eating curry every Friday reminded sailors which day of the week it was.

The new-style Japanese curry had spread from the Navy and the naval bases -- Yokosuka Naval Base is usually recognised as the birthplace of Japanese-style curry -- initially for very practical reasons, i.e. nutrition. But after a while, with the sailors introducing the curry to their families when they went home, the curry meal slowly started to take off within Japanese society, becoming one of the more popular daily meals in Japan today.
In the recent competitions between former Imperial Japanese Navy port cities about whose curry was the original kare raisu, serving a glass of milk with it might be expected to go on as part of the originality claims. Because of curry, milk would have been served on the weekend too. Another general author of military food history noted this tradition below, but was unable to explain its origin as Yamamoto did.
... [The new dish] became an immediate favorite among sailors who, upon returning home, told friends and families about the fine curry they were served aboard ship. Japanese naval ships still serve a special curry dish, typically on Friday, to both sailors and officers. Admiral Richard M. Dunleavy, U.S. Navy, partook of this fine food on board ships of the modern Japanese navy. Curry is usually served with a glass of milk, a tradition of unknown origin.
Depending on one's taste, the creaminess of milk might be a good accompaniment to the spice of curry. Some recipes from China (see earlier post), India, and SE Asia may cook milk or coconut milk directly into their curries.

The old IJN Naval Cooking Guide would be interesting to see. But maybe it is obscure today even in Japan?

-- Alan
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Re: Imperial Japanese Navy Curry-with Recipe!!

Post by kgbudge » 25 Nov 2011 19:47

Mmmm, curry.

I'll have to modify the recipe to be more diabetic-friendly, though. I can use a non-starchy thickener, but I'll have to give some thought to what to substitute for the potatoes.

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