Japanese curry bricks deserve their place in our pantries as a staple — inexpensive, with a long shelf life, and full of fast flavor. For those without easy access to store-bought curry bricks, you can make your own or opt for this recipe, in which a quick roux is made using a commercial curry powder blend. A Japanese brand like S&B is ideal, though most products labeled “curry powder” will work. If you have curry bricks in your pantry, you can use them and skip to Step 4, but note the package instructions to determine how many bricks to use. This recipe makes a thick, silky broth that clings ardently to the chubby udon noodles. Potatoes, carrots and onions are common ingredients used in Japanese curry, and while the spinach is not traditional, it adds a nice green element; substitute with broccoli, baby bok choy or kale if you prefer.
- Serves: 4 persons
- Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- 1 ½pounds fresh udon noodles (vacuum-sealed)
- 1tablespoon neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
- 1yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 3medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 3medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 6cups vegetarian dashi (see Tip) or vegetable stock
- 2teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1teaspoon granulated sugar
- 4handfuls baby spinach leaves (about 5 ounces)
- 6tablespoons unsalted butter
- ⅓cup all-purpose flour
- 2tablespoons curry powder (such as S&B)
- 1tablespoon garam masala
- ½teaspoon ground cayenne
Step 1Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the udon and cook for about 2 minutes, using wooden chopsticks or tongs to gently loosen the noodles from their tight bundle. Drain, rinse with cold water and leave to continue draining while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Keep the pot out for making the curry broth. (No need to rinse.)
Step 2To make the curry roux, place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt completely. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the roux turns a light caramel color. Whisk in the curry powder, garam masala and ground cayenne. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Step 3Place the large pot from Step 1 over medium-high heat and add the neutral oil. Add the onion and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until slightly softened and fragrant. Add the potatoes and carrots, and stir. Pour in the dashi or stock, soy sauce or tamari, sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender.
Step 4When the vegetables are tender, add the curry roux (if you are using store-bought curry bricks, add them now, checking package instructions to determine how many bricks to add) and stir until the broth thickens. It should be the consistency of a thick soup broth (like chowder). If it is too thick, add some water to loosen.
Step 5Add the udon to the broth, along with the spinach. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the noodles are just warmed through and the spinach is just wilted.
Step 6Divide the noodles and broth equally among four serving bowls, and eat immediately.