Japanese Vegetable Curry

It's soul-satisfying goodness and deeply comforting, reminding me of Japan, a place I absolutely adore.

September 7, 2017
japanese vegetable curry
Anna Williams

Adapted from Zac Posen's new cookbook, Cooking with Zac: Recipes From Rustic to Refined

I probably make this dish, which is somewhere between a stew and a thick curry, two or three times a month during the winter months. It's soul-satisfying goodness and deeply comforting, reminding me of Japan, a place I absolutely adore. This is a vegetarian curry, so it's on the lean side, too. Of course, I always make some rice to accompany the curry (see Cooking with Zac for my Perfectly Sticky Brown Rice, below) because all that curry sauce begs for steamed rice. Bulgur or quinoa are also great with this nourishing cold-weather meal.

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Japanese Vegetable Curry
(Makes 6 servings)

Ingredients:
Vegetables:

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped into 3⁄4" pieces

  • 1 large carrot, ends trimmed, peeled, and halved lengthwise, then sliced on a diagonal into 1⁄2"- to 3⁄4"-thick pieces

  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus extra if needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved

  • 1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2"-3/4" cube

  • 1 medium apple, halved, cored, and cut into 1/2"-3/4" cubes

  • 1 small sweet potato (preferably a white Japanese sweet potato), peeled and cut into 1/2"-3/4" cube

  • 1/2 pound winter squash (I like kabocha squash), halved, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2"-3/4" cubes

  • 1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth, Dashi Broth, or chicken broth

  • 2 Tablespoons mirin rice wine

  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon honey

  • Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil, for serving

Roux:

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 small yellow onion, very finely chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh gingerroot

  • 1 medium garlic clove, very finely chopped or grated on a Microplane-style rasp

  • 2 Tablespoons curry powder or garam masala

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 small chile pepper (such as a Scotch bonnet, habanero, or serrano), finely chopped (optional)

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:
1. To make the vegetables: Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, salt, and black pepper and stir to combine. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until the tomato paste darkens, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, potato, apple, sweet potato, and squash and stir to combine, then add the broth, mirin, and soy sauce. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook the vegetables at a gentle simmer until they are tender, about 20 minutes.

 

2. To make the roux: Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until the onion starts to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has melted into a somewhat pasty/grainy-looking mixture, about 15 minutes total. Stir in the curry powder, cinnamon, and chile pepper (if using), then stir in the flour. Continue to cook, stirring often, to give the flour a chance to lose its raw taste and brown in the fat, about 5 minutes.

3. Use a ladle to stir 1/2 cup of broth from the vegetables into the roux mixture. It will get absorbed quickly, so stir fast to work out any lumps. Add another 1/2 cup of broth and stir. Continue until the roux mixture is pretty liquidy (perhaps another 1/2 to 1 cup of broth, depending on how much liquid your saucepan can handle). Scrape the roux into the pot with the vegetables and use a wooden spoon to stir it into the broth.

4. Simmer the curry until the liquid is thickened and glossy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the honey, then taste and add more salt if needed. Serve with parsley or basil.