|Topics in Japan #62:
Curry, one of the "Japanese-style" cuisines
As we wrote in the article issued on December 16, 2009(#117), we enjoy osechi dishes on New Year in Japan. Since osechi dishes are preserved food that is supposed to be during New Year, they're usually quite sweet and strongly flavored. So, if you keep eating osechi dishes for every meal during New Year, you're likely to eventually get tired of them. One of the foods that many Japanese long for after having enough osechi is probably ... curry with rice.
But why curry? In fact, curry has been loved by most Japanese for a long time. Curry is known as Indian cuisine, but it is said to have been introduced to England in the 18th century. Then in the late 19th century, curry was introduced from England to Japan. So, in Japan, curry had long been considered as "Western" cuisine similar to beef stew, rather than a soupy Indian-style food.
The origin of the longing for curry after osechi dates back to 1976, when House, a major food company, made a TV commercial for their boil-in-bag curry sauce with the catchphrase "Osechi is good, but curry is good too." In this commercial, the Candies, a very popular girl group around that time, appeared and so the catchphrase received much attention as well as the commercial itself.
Nowadays, there's no doubt that curry is one of Japan's standard home-made dishes. If you go to a supermarket, you'll find a wide variety of curry spice cubes and boil-in-bag curries. We've also invented various dishes using curry ─ curry udon, curry bun, curry-flavored nabe (hot pot), and curry casserole. When people from India visit Japan, these Japanese curry dishes may surprise them. I wonder if they like them or not!