Top 5s in Tokyo Ep3 with Khaled Iwamura: Top 5 Curry Dishes in Shimokitazawa
Did you know curry is as popular as ramen in Japan?
Did you know Tokyo has a curry district?
Well, it does! You can find it in a neighbourhood in Tokyo called Shimokitazawa, an area with a bohemian vibe and chill atmosphere that’s tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular districts.
The area is known for its thriving arts and music scene, hipster coffee shops, second-hand and vintage fashion stores and, of course, hole-in-the-wall eateries that serve some of the best curry dishes I have ever had!
They even have a curry festival!
The Shimokitazawa Curry Festival is Japan’s largest curry festival and it takes place every October.
In 2018, festival goers walked around the town tasting different curries from 151 shops, including 128 curry shops and 23 sweets shops. This 10-day event is visited by an estimated 100,000 people every year.
Now let’s try the top 5 most popular curry dishes in Shimolitazawa:
5. TWO TYPES OF CURRY OVER RICE
Restaurant: Curry PlanetOne of the prettiest dishes you will see.
Fronted by the signage of a camera shop that once occupied the space, this offbeat eatery feels more like a stylish cafe once you step inside, as it’s decorated with photographs and antique furniture.
You can choose two from the four types of curry served with rice. Each of their curries is prepared onsite using a unique blend of spices.
All-time favourites are the “cream of curry lentil, chickpea and seasonal vegetables” and “spicy ground meat keema curry.” The artistic presentation with edible flower petals comes about because the owner is a bistro chef. The restaurant is frequented by male and female customers alike, and is popular for the visual appeal, taste and satisfying portion of their curry. It’s a local favourite that has been featured in community magazines.
4. CURRY OVER PRAWN AND SAM-BAR
A little curry shop run solo by the owner, who was inspired by his trip to India and developed his own unique style of curry to serve at Anjali. His Indian curry, served with homemade papad (or papadum), achaar and rice, has been localized to suit the Japanese palate.
While Indian dishes more commonly available in Japan tend to be comprised of the imperial cuisine from northern India, dishes served at Anjali are inspired by southern Indian cuisine and are made with coconut milk, coconut oil and seafood. There is also an appetizer made with shredded coconuts, cucumbers and beans, and a side dish of vegetables stir-fried in coconut oil.
The most popular prawn dish and the second most popular Sambar (tangy vegetable and bean curry) are favoured by customers who do not eat meat.
3. CHICKEN CURRY SOUP
Restaurant: Magic Spice
This curry shop has been around for 26 years since opening in Hokkaido. Hoping to serve food that energizes, the owner built on his personal experience with the food stalls he experienced during his trips to Asia.
He was inspired by soto ayam, an Indonesian soup dish, and developed his own curry that he called “soup curry.” The first of its kind in Japan, Magic Spice’s soup curry was a huge hit. Today, soup curry is a popular dish all over Japan and can even be found in convenience stores.
A popular staple on the menu, their energizing chicken curry (the nirvana level of spiciness) is a brothy soup full of umami, spiciness and deep flavour that’s perfectly balanced.
Choose from seven levels of spiciness, ranging from New Experience to Hot Experience.
2. CHICKEN CURRY SOUP WITH 20 VEGETABLES
Restaurant: Rojiura Curry Samurai
A soup curry shop from Hokkaido, the flavorful and nutrition-packed soup stock is free of artificial flavours, flour and oil and made with tons of vegetables, chicken bones, pork bones, and small dried sardines and bonito flakes that are simmered for two full days. Then they add caramelized onions, ripe tomatoes, and a homemade blend of spices with health benefits to their additive-free stock to create a golden soup with depth and rich flavour.
Being purist about using Hokkaido rice, beans and water, they make their soup in the kitchen in Hokkaido and deliver it to their shops around Japan.
The most popular item on their menu is the chicken with a full day’s serving of 20 vegetables. A whole leg of slow-cooked bone-in chicken is served either crispy fried or cooked in the soup.
The 20 different colourful vegetables change according to seasonal availability and come mainly from Hokkaido, sent directly from local farms. Each vegetable is cooked in a way that best brings out its flavour. The result is the umami, sweetness, acidity and spices of the ingredients all brought together into one exquisite tasting soup. Satisfying to the eye and the palate, their curry will nourish your body and soul.
1. SPECIAL ROUX CURRY
Restaurant: Nasu Oyaji
Enjoy a curry dish while listening to vinyl records.
Currently operated by the second generation, the restaurant will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2020.
The style of their curry is an extension of the typical Japanese curry. Onions are slowly cooked over 10 hours and mixed with the original blend of spices to make the special roux with a perfect balance of sweetness and the intense flavours of the spices. Their curry special is topped with everything - pork, beef, chicken, vegetables and hard-boiled eggs - and is very popular for the satisfying bites of fully loaded toppings.
Relaxing interiors with natural wood are paired with music played on a record player. A restauranteur and a musician, the owner recommends enjoying his slow-cooked roux curry while listening to vinyl records that have stood the test of time.