Ever since I got back from our last trip I’ve been working on perfecting one of my favorite dishes. My Vegan Japanese Curry recipe has always been a favorite, but with winter upon us and squash season in full swing I decided to make an alteration and replace potatoes with kabocha squash.
With the sweet and fluffy kabocha squash, this Japanese curry has been a huge hit this season. I’ve also omitted a few ingredients to make this an even easier curry dish! Gluten-free option is available by using gluten-free tamari and sweet rice flour instead of soy sauce and flour.
Japanese curry roux cubes are available at Asian markets and some grocery stores but I wouldn’t recommend them. Even when you’re fortunate enough to find one that is vegan, they still usually contain a number of heavily processed and questionable ingredients.
I’ve included a post detailing how to prepare kabocha squash. Please read here for more details.
Vegan Japanese Kabocha Curry
Yield: 4 servings
For the Roux (see GF option in Notes)
- 3 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (sunflower, canola, etc)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour or sweet rice flour
- 2 tablespoons curry powder* (preferably mild madras, Oriental or see Notes)
For the Curry
- ½ kabocha squash (about 1½ pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch cubes * (See Notes for using golden potatoes)
- 1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (sunflower, canola, etc)
- 1 small or ½ medium yellow or sweet onion (about 4 ounces), thinly sliced
- 4 ounces carrots, cut into ½-inch chunks (¾ cup, chopped carrots should yield 3.5 ounces/100g)
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
- ½ tablespoon organic ketchup or tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons curry powder* (preferably mild madras, Oriental or see Notes)
- 3 cups vegetarian broth (Edward & Sons Not-Beef Bouillon)
- 1 small (5 ounces) Gala or Fuji apple, peeled, cored and finely grated (use a microplane or immersion blender, should have fine apple sauce consistency) or unsweetened apple sauce (about ⅓ cup)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup frozen edamame or peas, thawed
- ¼ cup frozen corn, thawed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened dairy-free milk (optional)
- ¼ cup scallions, green parts only, chopped
- Sesame seeds, for garnish
- Salt to taste
Put the cubed kabocha in the rack of a steamer over boiling water and steam for 10-12 minutes until tender. Drain the kabocha and set aside to cool.
Make the roux. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over very low heat, add the flour and cook until slightly browned for 5-7 minutes. Add the curry powder. Continue to cook for 1 minute until the roux mixture is bubbling. Remove from heat immediately and allow it to cool immediately.
Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onions. Cook, stirring often until onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute, until fragrant. Add the carrots and continue to stir for another minute. Add tomato paste and curry powder, cook for another minute, until mixed in. Add broth and bring to a gentle boil, cover and reduce the heat to low heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove foam as it forms (optional). When there is no more foam, add grated apple and soy sauce. Cover immediately.
When the roux mixture is cool, add a ladleful of liquid (up to 1 cup or more) from the “vegetables” pot into the roux and stir rapidly with a wire whisk until smooth. Add more if needed, then transfer the roux mixture to the “vegetables” pot. Stir constantly until the curry is smooth.
Add the frozen peas, frozen corn and cooked kabocha. Cook, increase heat to medium, stirring often, about 10 more minutes until it thickens a little and vegetables are tender. Just before serving, stir in the optional milk and season with salt (I added about ¼ tsp). Serve over rice with scallions and sesame seeds.
Advance Preparation: The curry is best served the day it’s made but it can be refrigerated for a couple of days. Make sure you add a bit of water before heating the curry since it will thicken after being refrigerated. You may want to add salt to taste after adding the water. The roux can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Using golden potatoes instead of kabocha squash: Substitute kabocha with golden potatoes, using about 9 ounces (255g) of potatoes. Peeled and cubed potatoes should yield about 7 ounces (200g). Skip the 1st step (steaming kabocha) and in the 2nd step add the potatoes at the same time as the carrots. Reduce simmering cooking time to 5 minutes (instead of 10) in 2nd step.
Broth: I use a gluten-free Edward & Sons Not-Beef Bouillon for the broth, it provides the curry a lovely dark caramel color and flavors. If you prefer to use water or low-sodium broth, the color of curry will be pale, but taste for seasoning, adding soy sauce or tamari if desired.
Curry powder: I use non-organic Morton & Bassett Curry Powder or S&B Oriental Curry Powder. Garam masala powder also works well in this recipe in place of curry powder. When purchasing a curry powder or garam masala, do not choose one that lists cumin as the first ingredient (e.g. Trader Joe’s). This type of curry powder is not the flavor you want for this dish. An ideal curry powder or garam masala will have turmeric, fenugreek or coriander among the first few ingredients.
Gluten-free option: Use sweet rice flour in place of all-purpose flour and gluten-free tamari in place of soy sauce. For the roux, cook the sweet rice flour over low heat for about 5 minutes. The color of the roux will stay pale. If you are unable to find sweet rice flour, try King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour.
Spicy version:Garnish the curry with a dash of our favorite Japanese chili flakes: ichimi togarashi. Or add ½ teaspoon dried chili flakes or 2 chillies (seeded & finely chopped) to the roux.