Apples are serious business in the Japanese prefecture where I live. Most of the apples here are grown in Aomori prefecture, at the very top of the large island of Honshu. This means apples have become a major part of my life, and also that I’ve come to learn that just about everything can be made with apples as an ingredient.
When I think of apples, I think of autumn. I think of the leaves changing and cooler temperatures, and I also think of sweet apple treats such as apple juice, brownies, pie and dried apple pieces. But there are also some savory apple treats — definitely fewer in variety than the sweet treats, but they do exist. One of these dishes is apple curry. Although I haven’t seen this served on any menus (full disclosure: I don’t read Japanese so it could be served on menus, but I wouldn’t likely know!), I have found it in ready-to-heat packages in stores throughout the prefecture.
Japanese curry is a little different from curry found in other parts of Asia. You may be familiar with Indian curries or Thai versions — Japanese curry is more like a thick brown gravy, usually with some vegetables and a meat. I think it looks more like an American beef stew, but the sauce is thicker and it is served on a plate with rice. This dish is very hearty and satisfying, which is perfect for days when the temperatures are getting lower. It’s actually one of the more popular Japanese dishes, but lesser known than foods like sushi, soba and tempura.
Since apple season has been picking up again here in Japan, I decided to recreate apple curry at home. I didn’t add any meat to my version, but it would work well with either beef or pork if you felt like it needed a protein boost. If adding meat, cut back on the amount of sweet potato in the recipe. For vegetarians, tofu is an option, but I think seitan or tempeh may be a better choice because of the texture. For the apple, I went with Fuji, and I used a Japanese sweet potato known as satusuma, but the more common American kinds will work well, too (although may require longer cooking time). Check your local Asian market or the Asian aisle in your grocery store to find the S&B Golden Curry sauce mix.
Japanese Apple Curry
Recipe developed by Melinda Boyd, MPH, MHR, RD
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound sweet potatoes, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium (Fuji or similar) apples, cut into bite sized pieces
2 ½ cups water
1 package Golden Curry Sauce Mix (S&B brand or similar)
2 cups cooked brown rice
- Heat oil in a skillet. Add sweet potato and onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
- As the vegetables start to soften, add the apples. Continue cooking for 3 minutes.
- Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. If including meat, simmer for 10 minutes (as per directions on the curry sauce box).
- Break the curry block into pieces and add to the skillet. Stir in well, making sure that the curry has completely dissolved.
- Continue to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will thicken.
- Serve over rice.