What comes to mind when you think of popular Japanese dishes? Of course, sushi and ramen top the list, but it’s also hard to leave out curry rice. Our modern notion of Japanese curry, which originally came from India and was further developed in England, came to Japan during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). However, the ingredients used for “medicinal curry” (based on Chinese medicine) have actually been in Japan for 1,300 years, since the Nara Era (710-794). We were lucky enough to find a pouch of instant “1,300-year-old curry” and just had to try it!

  • 1,300-year-old curry made from ingredients used during the Nara Era


This ready-made curry is sold for 680 yen (US$6.61) per box. It may seem a bit expensive for curry in a sealed plastic pouch, but it’s worth the price for being such a unique curry made using only ingredients that existed in 1,300 years ago.  The main ingredients are eggplant, taro, daikon, lotus root, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, ginger, sake lees, millet mochi, vegetable oil, miso, honey, spices, sesame seeds, black pepper, Japanese pepper (sansho), and cardamom.

Pretty cool, right? It’s amazing to think that all of these ingredients already existed in Japan by the Nara Era. We were surprised to see cardamom and black pepper on the list. While it’s true that some spices like cloves were brought by monks and envoys and stored in public storehouses, isn’t it strange nonetheless? By the way, there is no meat in this curry.

  • It definitely tastes like curry!


Potatoes, onions, carrots, and other chief ingredients found in the so-called modern Japanese curry are not included at all. It really seems to be legitimate curry made using only ingredients that existed 1,300 years ago.

Without any meat, we were worried that it wouldn’t have enough flavor or body. But our worries were soon unfounded after trying it. The flavor comes mainly from the eggplant and shiitake mushrooms, and the sake lees, millet mochi, miso, sesame paste, etc. all add a subtleness to the sauce.

Furthermore, the scent of cardamom pierces your nostrils, and gives off an “I’m telling you that this is curry!” sort of vibe. It’s definitely curry! Just not the usual kind we’re accustomed to.

  • Almost like fine quality pork! Satisfying with only syrupy daikon and no meat


All of the ingredients are tasty,  but the daikon is worthy of special mention. It’s so thick and syrupy you would never guess it’s daikon! It’s not too bitter or strong, and blends very well with the curry. The flavor is almost as if you were eating fine quality pork bordering between lean and fatty meat.

Even though there’s no meat, it’s not lacking in anything. Rather, it makes you think that all curry could be good if it were made with only daikon.

  • Warms your body even though it’s not spicy

As you can probably guess from the ingredient list, while 1,300-year-old curry tastes like how curry should taste, it’s not spicy. However, you do warm up from the inside after eating it. Yup, that’s definitely curry for you. It’s the food that is said to be made by Buddha himself by combining lots of spices.


Original article by Sawai Meg
Images: RocketNews24
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