Japanese Curry Brick
This recipe for buttery curry brick comes from the cookbook author and teacher Sonoko Sakai, who wanted a homemade alternative to the industrial, store-bought cubes that make the thick, spicy sauce for Japanese curries. Sakai wanted to avoid palm oil, preservatives and artificial ingredients, so her version starts with whole toasted spices, ground into a fine powder and stirred into a gently browned roux of butter and flour. Feel free to play with the spice proportions — increase the chile powder for a hotter curry or the kombu for more sweetness. No matter how you tweak it, the best part about Sakai’s recipe is that it makes enough for several meals, and you can store the extra curry bricks in the fridge or freezer, so you’re ready to make a curry whenever you like (see the note below for instructions).
- Serves: 3 persons
- 1(2-inch) cinnamon stick, pounded into small pieces
- 1dried bay leaf
- 1tablespoon brown mustard seeds
- 1tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ½teaspoon whole cloves
- 2cardamom pods
- 1dried shiitake mushroom, broken into pieces
- 1(1-inch strip) dried kombu, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 ½teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 1orange, zested
- 1tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1tablespoon ground ginger
- 1tablespoon sea salt
- 1teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
- 1 ½cups/340 grams unsalted butter (3 sticks)
- 2 ¼cups all-purpose flour
Step 1In a large skillet, toast cinnamon, bay leaf, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, cloves and cardamom pods over medium heat, stirring until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the spices. Transfer the toasted ingredients to a spice grinder.
Step 2Add the mushroom, kombu and peppercorns to the spice grinder, and grind at the highest speed for 30 seconds. Shake the grinder a couple of times as you blend to make sure the cinnamon stick is pulverized. (You can also grind the spices in batches, if necessary.) Transfer the pulverized spices to a small bowl. Add the orange zest, turmeric, ginger, sea salt, paprika and cayenne pepper.
Step 3To make the roux, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter is nearly melted, lower the heat to medium-low. Gradually whisk in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux turns light brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to burn the roux. Turn off the heat, add the spice mix and stir until well combined.
Step 4Divide the mixture among three mini aluminum loaf pans, adding about 3/4 cup per loaf pan, or transfer the entire mixture to a parchment-lined quarter-size sheet tray. Let cool for a few minutes at room temperature, then transfer to the fridge so the bricks can solidify. Once firm, unmold, cut each brick into 9 small curry brick cubes (or, if using a sheet tray, cut the mixture into 27 pieces total) and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for about a month or in the freezer for 3 months.