This Hot And Spicy Dish From Japan Is The Latest Food Trend In Manila

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While most Filipinos would rather lick a tub of ice cream clean on a hot summer’s day, the Japanese hover over a plate of spicy curry to help them cope with the sweltering weather. As absurd as it may seem, the heat from the curry gets them to perspire, which in turn, cools their bodies down. A trick we could try during Metro Manila heat waves, perhaps?

But aside from being a popular cooling agent, curry (or karē as the Japanese call it) has come to be so well-loved in Japan that it has bested sushi and miso soup in terms of popularity. Right now, it is battling ramen as Japan’s national dish.

Even the Japanese armed forces can’t go a week without curry! It has become a tradition in all Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships to chow down on a comforting plate of Karē Raisu every Friday, with each ship boasting of its own unique curry recipe.

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The Japanese Curry used to be a snobby dish.

It made its first appearance in Japanese menus in 1877, but it wasn’t quick to win over locals’ hearts and palates. A dish passed down from the Brits, it was considered bizarre and tagged with intimidating prices. With no supply of curry powder of its own at that time, this scarce ingredient had to be shipped all the way from Britain and then painstakingly and time-consumingly prepared by professional chefs in Japan.

Japanese Curry’s fame and popularity started because of a scandal.

In 1931, a scandal broke out when Japanese curry powder manufacturers tried to pass off their goods as imported, selling them for prices that were way beyond their actual value. But ironically, the controversy only led Japanese curry consumers to patronize their own products after realizing they couldn’t actually tell the difference between high-end British curry powder and the cheaper, Japan-made kind!

With this boost of support, the widespread distribution of local curry powder and instant curry mixes to many parts of Japan began, and before everyone knew it, curry was a staple in all Japanese homes and restaurants. Creative twists were applied to the dish, giving rise to variations like Karē Udon, Karē Nanban, and Karē Pan.

Today, you can find curry everywhere you turn in Japan, served in both cheap eateries and fancy food establishments.

Get your Japanese Curry fix in these restaurants in Metro Manila!

CoCo Ichibanya

Filipinos seem to have a penchant for Japanese food like sushi, katsu, and ramen, with the curry taking a backseat to these much-favored dishes. But that was before CoCo Ichibanya opened in Metro Manila and re-introduced us to the wonders of curry and the many forms it can take. A restaurant dedicated solely to the hearty dish with a kick, it’s difficult to run out of curry options here.

Pork Cutlet Omelette Curry from CoCo Ichibanya

Photo from Vicky J.’s looloo review for CoCo Ichibanya

Some of the favorites at CoCo Ichibanya are the Cheese Hamburger Curry, the Pork Cutlet Curry, and the Peri-Peri Chicken Curry. The spiciness of the curry sauce is customizable too for the most enjoyable experience!

CoCo Ichibanya can be found at Estancia, Meralco Ave., Capitol Commons, Pasig and on the G/F of One Rockwell, West Tower, Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati.

Ginza Bairin

Katsu may be the star dish at Ginza Bairin, but if you’d like to be the one with the unique order, ask for a plate of their curry (a decision you will not regret!) With a section just for Katsu Curry Sets on their menu, you can choose from meat variants like Rosu, Hire, Chicken, or Ebi Fry. You can also pick between regular and spicy curry sauce.

Ginza Bairin Curry

Photo from Matthew L.’s looloo review for Ginza Bairin

According to Pam L. in her looloo review, she wanted to test if Ginza Bairin’s curry would live up to the authentic version she’s tasted in Japan and she wasn’t disappointed!

Ginza Bairin can be found on the G/F of TriNoma, EDSA cor. North Ave., Quezon City, on the G/F of UP Town Center, Katipunan Ave., Diliman, Quezon City, and on the G/F of Glorietta 2, East Drive, Ayala Center, Makati.

Eri Curry

Chef Erica, having grown up in Japan, came home to the Philippines with the desire to spread the love for Japanese food, most especially the underrated curry. To appeal to the Filipino palate, she took away some of its powerful edge by adding a bit more sweetness to its flavor. She also made them customizable which we seem to have a thing for.

Eri Curry

Photo from Bee S.’s looloo review for Eri Curry

The first step is to choose from their wide selection of curry dishes, whether it be Katsu Curry, Fried Fish Curry, or Thin Sliced Beef Curry. You then decide how much rice you want, depending on how ravenous you’re feeling (they have small, regular, and upsize bowls!) The last step is to determine the spiciness of your curry sauce.

Eri Curry can be found on the 3/F of Atrium, SM Megamall, EDSA cor. Julia Vargas Ave., Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila.

Izumi Curry

If you have a gaping hole in your stomach just waiting to be filled with Japanese curry, a visit to Izumi Curry can very well do the trick. With portions meant for the very hungry, you’ll find yourself stuffed by the end of your meal.

Izumi Curry

Photo from Jam P.’s looloo review for Izumi Curry

Their bestseller, the Megabeef Steak Curry, is a thick slab of U.S. beef covered in thick curry sauce and melted cheese atop a generous helping of Japanese rice. Adrian L. highly recommends this dish, saying in his looloo review that the burger was juicy and packed with flavor and the sauce and cheese complemented each other well.

Izumi Curry can be found on the 5/F of The Podium, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila.

Izakaya Nihonbashitei

It’s that old, reliable restaurant in Makati that has everything you could possibly need to satiate hankerings for Japanese food. Don’t let its slightly run-down interiors fool you because out of its kitchen come authentic dishes like sushi, sashimi, tempura, and you guessed it, hot and spicy curry!

Off the menu, you get to choose from Beef, Katsu, Hamburger, and Seafood Curry Rice Sets which all come with a bowl of miso soup and a cup of coffee. Nikki L. who is a self-proclaimed curry lover said in her looloo review that her Katsu Curry was so bomb!

Izakaya Nihonbashitei can be found at 800 Pasay Rd., Makati, Metro Manila.

RELATED: Tired of Ramen? Here Are 7 Soup Alternatives.

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About Author

Denise Jose

Denise is a recovering food addict. She distracts herself with photography and keeps off the pounds by doing pilates. She is still struggling, however, and has occasional relapses. Her food comas are mostly induced by oily burgers and chocolate desserts.