To this day, I still can’t pull off the perfect Melayu kari like the one my late mom would make from scratch. I can’t seem to get it red enough (the canned Ayam Brand stuff that I use doesn’t count) and I find the kari looking too anaemic. I did think probably because of the amount of santan I use. My dad has also said that mom used to add kerisik, but for the life of me, I can’t remember seeing her going the extra mile to add kerisik to the mix. I remembered being thought to make curry using milk (with a twist of lime) in place of santan at sixth form in Enniskillen. It wasn’t it but it was the nearest to Malaysian home cooking we had in those days. It was also at sixth form that I went to several survival cookery classes with my classmates where I learnt to make curry the orang puteh way – which was right weird as they add dessicated coconut, sultanas and apples to it.

It was then that I learnt not everyone made kari the same way. The orang puteh kari has a sweet-ish tinge to it, not surprising as it is meant for the more delicate Western palate. I also found out that the Japanese have their take on kari too. They call it kare raisu (カレーライス) which is essentially curry rice. I first knew of it from watching a scene from Utahime (歌姫) where the family all sat around a chabudai having curry and rice for dinner.

I checked out YouTube and found a gazillion ways to make kare raisu, most of which involved using roux blocks of curry to make the sauce. And guess what I found at our local oriental C&C? It was suitable for vegetarians and hence I’d no worries about using it to make the kare.

I used beef in large thin-ish slices, about 300 g of it. For the extras, I chose potatoes and carrots which were were diced. The method of making it is so simple:

Of course, it ain’t kare raisu if you used basmati so I made sure I used the japonica variety (I used medium-grained rice by Nishiki which is grown in California – so not Japanese in that sense!).

Most importantly, what did it taste like? I have to say it’s not like curry as you’d expect it to be. We all know where curry originates from and I think it’s unfair to expect a Japanese version to taste exactly like the varieties they have in India or from your local nasi kandar vendor. I thought it tasted like a cross of Maggi perisa kari and take-away Chinese curry sauce. If you have been in Britain and bought chips and curry from the local Chinese take-away, you’ll know what I mean. It was nice, nonetheless, and I walloped a whole lot of it last night. And unlike other Japanese rice dishes, kare raisu is meant to be eaten using the conventional fork and spoon.

The search for the perfect kari goes on.