Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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The second request from our readers on recipes is ground meat curry, known in Japan as “dorai karee,” literally “dry curry.”

We took on the challenge of creating a deep flavor even though the ingredients were narrowed down and the simmering time was shortened to make the process less daunting.

For the meat, we chose a mixture of ground beef and pork. Just like “awase-miso,” a mixture of different types of miso, each meat offers its own unique flavor and enhances the umami.

As for the vegetables, fragrant ones centering on a generous amount of onion will be chopped finely. This is an extra effort, but the vegetables will blend nicely with the ground meat to create a tender texture.

There are three steps to follow after the pot goes on the stove, namely stir-fry the ingredients, add sake and reduce the water content. Sake is used instead of water to add umami and cook out the smell of meat with the power of alcohol. By cooling in the pot with a lid on after the heat is turned off, the meat will become moist with steam.

The arranged version is offered in the Chinese “zhajiangmian” (noodles topped with fried sauce) style, where the curry tops the “hiyamugi” noodles. The sourness of the tomato and the texture of cucumber add a nice accent to the dish.


This week’s request came from a 62-year-old resident of Abiko city in Chiba Prefecture. He wanted pointers on how to improve the flavor when re-creating “curry-flavored roasted ground meat,” which his late wife used to often cook.

We imitated the man in using Worcester sauce as a hidden flavor, and the dry curry turned out to suit both rice and bread.

If you wish to add summer vegetables, you could stir-fry a tomato, paprika and zucchini and simmer with the rest. When adding buttered rice on the side, have 10 grams butter and 1/2 tsp salt to 1 cup of rice ready. After lightly cooking the rice in butter, place in the rice cooker and cook normally with salt.


(Supervised by Kuniaki Arima in the cooking aspect and Midori Kasai in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients (Serves 3)

200 grams mixed ground beef and pork (aibiki-niku), 1 (200 grams) onion, 1/2 (60 grams) carrot, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp each of chopped garlic and ginger, 1/4 cup sake, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, 2 to 3 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp “chuno” sauce (Worcester sauce in medium thickness), 3 bowls of cooked rice

About 575 kcal and 1.2 grams salt per portion

1. Chop vegetables. Chop garlic and ginger finely, onion and carrot into dices 3 to 4 mm on a side (PHOTO A).

Stir-fry onion, garlic and ginger thoroughly, simmer ingredients and cool in pot with a lid on. (Video by Masahiro Goda)

2. Add olive oil, garlic and ginger to pot and place on low heat. When aroma rises, turn up heat a little and add onion. Coat pieces with oil and spread them over entire bottom of pot. Keep heat level that causes sizzling sound and heat while cooking off water. Mix occasionally. When ingredients start to become transparent, add carrot and cook further in similar fashion (PHOTO B).

PHOTO B: The sound of the water content popping will grow smaller, and the raw aroma of onion will fade. Be careful of the heat level to prevent the content from burning. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

3. When water of vegetables evaporate, sweet aroma rises and edge of the pot starts to color lightly, add ground meat. Loosen lumps with spatula. Add sake and mix. When water content comes to a boil, add salt, sugar, curry powder and chuno sauce (PHOTO C).

PHOTO C: Adjust the amount of curry powder by checking the taste. If you have spices you usually add when making curry, you could add them at this stage. (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

4. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes while mixing occasionally. Check taste and adjust flavor with salt. Slide spatula across bottom of pan. If water no longer fills the gap, turn off heat. Place lid and cool in pot.

5. Reheat before eating. Serve on rice.

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Kuniaki Arima is the owner-chef of Passo a Passo, an Italian restaurant in Tokyo’s Fukagawa district. Midori Kasai is a professor at Ochanomizu University and former chairwoman of the Japan Society of Cookery Science.


Curry zhajiangmian

Curry zhajiangmian (Photo by Masahiro Goda)

For one serving, mix 1/2 cup of the dry curry with 1 tsp “mentsuyu,” or dipping sauce for noodles. Prepare diced tomato and fine strips of cucumber in an amount you prefer. Boil a bunch of “hiyamugi” noodles and cool in cold water, drain and top with curry and vegetables.


Ground meat is finely chopped tough meat such as the shoulder and the shank that contain a high portion of collagen (protein found in the connective tissues). Since collagen shrinks exceedingly when heated, the meat will remain tough if only stir-fried in oil. But if water content is added and heated for a long time, the collagen will loosen and dissolve and the meat will become tender. The simmering liquid will become flavored and thicken as well.


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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column