The formula for making Japanese curry powder

As I wrote in the Beef Curry recipe, I don't make my own curry powder. Lomo asked in the comments about the "secret" 15 to 20 spices that make up curry powder. After poking around a bit on Japanese web sites, I came up with this page that describes what goes into S & B curry powders, the most popular brand by far in Japan. It's an official S & B page, so should be accurate, though as you can see the percentages given have a pretty wide range. I guess it's because the actual formulas are 'secret'. In any case it gives a starting point for any experimentation I think.

I've also included a recipe for making garam masala. Note that I make no claims whatsoever that these are authentic mixes for Indian or other curries, but I'm talking here about Japanese curry.

The following is a rough summary/translation of the Japanese article.

Japanese curry powder

These basic four spices make up 80 to 90% of the mix:

  • Turmeric (20-50%)
  • Coriander (20-30%)
  • Cumin (5-25%)
  • Cardamon (5-15%)

Then the following 'hot' spices make up about 5% of the blend. If you want to increase the amount of hot spices, decrease the turmeric accordingly.

  • Black pepper (2-8%)
  • Chili (cayenne) pepper (0.5 - 2%)

The remaining 5-15% is taken up with aromatic spices. Adjusting these spices makes the powder distinctive.

  • Clove (3-5%)
  • Fennel (1-2%

All of the above are the basic spices (that go into all the powders, I assume).

Other spices, herbs and so on are added to give distinction to each blend, such as:

  • Cinnamon
  • Star anise
  • Allspice
  • Nutmeg
  • Fenugreek
  • Bay leaf
  • Sage
  • Oregano ("and other herbs", not specified)
  • Cocoa powder
  • Coffee powder

They say to limit the amount of 'other' ingredients to about 1-2% of the total.

To make up the curry powder, roast the spices (I think they assume you are starting out with ground spices) in a dry frying pan for about 2-3 minutes. Cool the spices, and if possible let them mature in a cool, dark place for about a month before using.

Note that a good garam masala mix will contain the aromatic spices like cloves and fennel too. Here's a standard garam masala mixture from an old Japanese curry cookbook I have, if you'd like to make up your own, starting from whole spices:

Garam Masala (a la Japonaise?)

  • 4 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cardamon pods
  • 1/3 cup cloves
  • 1/3 cumin
  • 1/4 cup coriander
  • 1/3 cup black pepper
  • 1/3 cup white pepper

Put all of the above onto a baking sheet, and roast in a 90°C / 195°F oven. Roast for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take the cardamon out of the pods. Grind it all up in a mixer, dividing up if necessary, until ground to a fine powder. (Note: nowadays I would use an electric coffee mill reserved for spices.) Store in an airtight jar.

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