Mushroom and Sweet Potato Japanese-style Curry

mushroom and sweet potato japanese-style curryA few posts ago I talked about a new “direction” for this blog – instead of having my life revolve around recipes, I want this year to be more focused on the recipes that revolve around my life – the food that I cook on a daily basis, the ones that are simple, approachable, and nourishing, like the savory miso oatmeal with a poached egg I eat every single day. I’m so excited to share a recipe (also sort of a not-recipe) that has stayed with me since childhood, but actually in a more elevated way (read below)- a mushroom sweet potato Japanese-style curry that is simple and easy to make, based on a spiced dark roux and whatever protein and vegetables you want!! I made a rich mushroom and sweet potato curry, served with plain white rice and a side salad. I eat a variation of this every week. It’s so easy and simple to whip up with anything left in your fridge – chicken, tofu, mushrooms, bell peppers, beef… and served over rice, especially with temperatures dip below freezing yet again, it’s particularly comforting.

ALSO – I have news!!! Truly wonderful news! I somehow ended up as a finalist for Cucina Corriere’s first global blog awards, under “Photography + Instagram” – thank you for nominating me – I honestly had thought it was an Italy-only event, but it’s actually international! There are some amazingly talented folks and I’m so honored to be among such a great list of folks. You can vote and view the rest of the finalists here. 

When I was thinking about this new recipes-around-life direction (mostly during the holiday season, when the burnout began to manifest itself), I agonized over it. I mentioned the insecurities/anxiety/blocks as a creative in my last post, and that definitely applied to the blog, too! I get these bouts of ups and downs – what should I post on the blog? Will people like it? What are my readers (if there are any) expecting?!!! Ahh! It’s so easy to get buried in my own thoughts and overthink things. And as Hetty wisely pointed out in a comment previously, with social media it’s so easy to be influenced by trends and feel the pressure to “keep up” with what’s “in”. Well, my life is not about hashtags and trends (please, honestly who has different fresh flowers every day?), and I want to share the real-life food I make on this blog. Like this curry, which honestly is not very pretty (it’s brown! and orange!!), but SO GOOD. COMFORTING. mushroom and sweet potato japanese-style curry

mushroom and sweet potato japanese-style curry

I’ve had this curry since I was a child.In the best way, the Japanese have adapted curry and made their own delicious, more mild version of it – a rich, flavorful, thick curry with vegetables over rice, and it’s now a staple and appears on many menus in Japan and in Japanese restaurants here. Curry over noodles (yum), classically over rice, with katsu on top – because it’s seriously delicious. It was so popular that they packaged it into a powder-paste block that is now sold in most asian supermarkets. This is what my mom would buy when I was a child! You still have to cut up your vegetables, cook the protein, etc, but the pre-packaged block is basically the roux that has all the spices and thickening magic ability.

Well, you can make this roux easily at home. I say this is a not-recipe because the ratio is simple: it’s a 1:2 ratio of butter : dry ingredients (and this is a common ratio for roux, not a magic ratio I made up). The roux is cooked for about half an hour, until it’s golden brown and deep in flavor, and then curry powder, hot paprika, garam masala is added to this roux, which gives it the most delicious, fragrant flavors ever. This goes into your bubbling broth/vegetable mix and thickens it while permeating that curry/spicy flavor. It’s that simple.

Choose your desired protein and vegetables. I love mushrooms and the extra depth of flavor mushrooms ALWAYS add, so with a mix of hearty shiitake and maitake mushrooms, carrots, sweet potato, a grated apple for sweetness, and tomato, this curry became my go-to, especially in the winter.

mushroom and sweet potato japanese-style curry

mushroom and sweet potato japanese-style curry

Ok, by this point you may have noticed that the curry and rice and side salad are stored in these beautiful copper oval vessels that make a lunchbox!!! Vayaa company based in India, makes these vacuum-insulated Tyffyn lunch boxes that were made for home-cooked meals. When they reached out to me, I laughed out loud, because I was just in the market for a new lunchbox. In a few months I’ll be on rotation (i.e., in the clinic all day, like a normal work day), and realistically I could not buy lunch every day. I needed a lunch box, or I could just use my plastic containers. I hated lunch boxes growing up – the food became mushy, lost its flavor, and I don’t know, I just didn’t like how clunky they usually were. I decided to give the Tyffyn lunch box a try, and I have to say, it’s much smaller and sleeker than I’d thought, but holds a good amount of food. Three compartments (300ml, 300ml, and 400ml) comfortably holds 1 serving size of rice, curry, and side salad! Plus, it’s insulating and will keep your food warm for up to 5-6 hours. I loved using it, and you know what tells me it’s going to be used? Alex saw me playing with it one day, and casually said, “that insulates? hey, why don’t we take that to the beach one day for a picnic?” Alex NEVER suggests things like this, so I was pretty impressed with that association. Anyway, you can read more about this high-tech lunchbox here.

PS – the side salad is nothing to talk much about, but in case you were interested I simply throw together a range of greens – micro greens, lettuce, edamame, red onion, some fruit (any fruit), thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, and toss with olive oil, champagne vinegar, salt, and pepper. That’s it! Goat cheese optional.

mushroom and sweet potato japanese-style curry

mushroom and sweet potato japanese-style curry

This post is sponsored by Vaya. All opinions expressed are purely my own, as always. Thank you so much for supporting the companies that support this blog!!!! 

ceramics – myrth ceramics / pan – staub / backdrop – eclectic lab designs

*If you want to add in beef or chicken, you can brown the raw meat first, then remove and cook onions, deglazing. Add it back in with the carrots. Also, as for spices a good quality curry powder (not legit enough to grind my own blend) is paramount – the other spices I put in, hot paprika and garam masala, or totally because I like those in combination (especially hot paprika. Love it), but it’s really up to you. The end result taste remarkably similar to the store-bought package, and I encourage you to try your own combination of spices. I’m not trying to make an exact replica of the store-bought curry blocks, just offering a way to customize and make something similar at home :).

*also, as a reader noted, garam masala and curry powder are both spice blends with a lot of overlapping spices, but because they are blends they can vary vastly from one “producer?” to the next. I bought a curry powder specifically blended for extra heat and spice, and it is so wonderful (but it’s spicy!!). I put in a touch of garam masala, which is warm and pungent in a different way from the hot curry powder I have, because the two blends (from Formaggio in Boston) are different enough that they work synergistically. I’d encourage you to read what spices your blends are made of, or if you’re legit enough (which I am not), make your own special blend!!

RECIPE: Mushroom and Sweet Potato Japanese-style Curry


curry and spiced dark roux
3 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp hot paprika

Melt butter over medium low heat. Stir in flour, and continue stirring to prevent burning of the roux. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the roux changes color into a light, golden brown. Add in spices. Stir until combined and cook for another half minute, and remove from heat.

Mushroom Sweet Potato Japanese-style Curry
2 cups sliced shiitake and other variety of mushrooms
2 small yellow onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into wedges
1 sweet potato potato, peeled and cut into wedges
½ tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil for frying
4.5 cups chicken broth
1.5 tbsp tomato paste
1 grated tart apple
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
dark curry roux

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy pan (like a dutch oven) over medium and cook onions until soft and translucent. Add in ginger and garlic. Add mushrooms and cook until softened.

Add in carrots followed by broth. Bring to a boil. Add in grated apple, tomato paste, soy sauce and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Add in sweet potato wedges and cook for another 15 minutes, until the chunks soft and easily pierced with a fork.

In a separate bowl with the dark roux you made, add two ladle-fulls of broth and mix until dissolved into a smooth paste. Add this to the soup and stir. Simmer on low heat until it thickens to your preference.

Serve with white rice, and optional fresh scallions on top.

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  • Such a great recipe, even if you think is a kind of no-recipe :) we all need these type of quick and no-fuss food that is nourishing and comforting at the same time, so thank you for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • tbh i still buy the blocks (and made a batch last week!). i’ve never added grated apple, so that’s kind of a whoaaaa for me (my usuals are just chicken, potato, carrots and onions).ReplyCancel

  • Looks delicious. Perfect for my lunch and a lovely siestaReplyCancel

  • I love the ideas of recipes that revolve around life- I feel like I have been inadvertently trying to to something similar lately. Totally understand your blog stress, but clearly you are killing it because CONGRATULATIONS on your photography award! Seriously so well-deserved.

    I absolutely love the look of this unique curry, especially with that sweet + salty thing going on there. Definitely want to try :) xxReplyCancel

  • totally feel you on posting recipes that revolve around your life and I know that you following your heart will resonate with your readers (there are many! 😉ReplyCancel

  • You know, I like this new direction of your blog! I can relate in the sense that I’m really itching for the more organic, more relatable, more ME stuff as of late, without a care in the world of how it may present itself to be to others. Well, kind of. I still do care a teensy bit but then again I’m human. 😉 If I feel like making croissants then I will! If I want to add yet another (but seriously so good) banana recipe to the interwebs then I will, also! (Which I’m about to do here in a little bit, hah!)

    And Betty….! This is one of my faaavorite not-so-healthy but wholesome and nostalgic dishes ever! I eat it quite often but I’ve always been scared to make it from scratch. Growing up, I’ve always loved eating it with super fermented kimchi because trust me, people. It’s the best combination. I’m wondering if the spices you’re using really give it that authentic korean/japanese curry flavor…? Or does it have a tinge of Indian flavor? Or do those pairings make it taste pretty close to the packaged kind? Whichever the case I do want to try this bad.

    Lastly, this lunch box is too beautiful!!! I think I’d want to put it up on display because it’s too pretty. xDReplyCancel

    • Ahh Ellie! As always thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I am excited to share more everyday recipes (not necessarily healthy…), so thank you for the feedback! Super fermented kimchi addition sounds AMZING. Omg. I must give it a try. As for the spices – thank you for reminding me of the personal tweaks I put on it- I put in a note about how those spices were purely added because of my obsession with them and their combination. Not sure if those are in the store-bought block, but I think the curry powder (a good quality one) will be strong enough to still be the main flavor. It actually tasted remarkably similar to the store-bought blocks, with a bit more heat (paprika!!) :). I’d love to hear your version of it, especially with the kimchi!!!

      PS I want to see all the bananas recipes :)ReplyCancel

  • No one has fresh flowers everyday, in fact, no one needs to! I’ve always been bad with trends, because i don’t get a lot of them.
    This curry sounds and looks delicious, you know how to make even curry look beautiful :)

    P.S.And I seriously love that lunch box! You will enjoy it’s benefits when on rotations, I’m so sure!ReplyCancel

  • Wow, what a fancy lunchbox! I always have to pack a lunch, so I can see the appeal of something sleek like that. This curry sounds wonderful, and I’m excited to see more everyday dishes from you. As long as it’s something YOU think is worth sharing, that’s all that matters. 😉ReplyCancel

  • BETTY!!! AAAAAHHH So happy to find a recipe for a Japanese style curry that I can actually make at home! Love this and will surely replicate it.
    So excited to see you in Milan!! <3ReplyCancel

  • Bunty

    I am writing from India and am a keen cook myself – curry powder and Garam masala are mostly the same ingredients – curry powder is basically a ‘spice mix’ for the non Indian cooks! Apart from turmeric which curry powder has you can use garam masala and curry powder interchangeably. Secondly we in India use onions as a base as opposed to flour – what I do is sauté pounds of onions ginger garlic – blend and make cubes of them – and to make curry – you pull a couple out add spices and vegetables and hey presto – add a little yogurt and the curry becomes creamier. We make the onion masala for several months at a time! We make many kinds of spice mixes – garam masala ( my least favourite) actually, srilankan masala, chaat masala, gond masala etc. Garam masala is used mainly in North Indian Punjabi cooking!ReplyCancel

    • Hi Bunty!

      Thank you for your sweet and educational comment – I’m no expert in Indian cooking, which is why I just use spice blends such as curry powder and garam masala (definitely not legit enough to make my own blends!!!) – I realized there must be an overlap in the spice blends, but I bought them from this truly wonderful little spice shop that makes their own blends, and the curry powder I have is specifically hot/spicy, different enough from their garam masala blend that they go really well together! I can’t even imagine how many varieties of curry powder and garam masala there are- thank you for pointing that out! I’ve updated the notes for others’ reference :). I hope you try this Japanese-style curry, from what I understand it’s vastly different from Indian curries! So classic of the Japanese – got to love them!!!ReplyCancel

  • i don’t know what you’re talking about, this curry is plenty beautiful. how would you recommend serving it with a protein? would you throw chicken in there like a stew or would a panko breaded chicken on the side (like tonkatsu curry) be better?ReplyCancel

    • Either!!! You can brown some chicken or beef and then deglaze with onions (add a splash of sake, who cares?), and then continue, adding those chunks in with the mushrooms, OR you can make the curry and pour it over some crisped up tonkatsu. I’ve had it both ways and they’re equally delicious. Sometimes I do crave tonkatsu and the curry / tonkatsu texture difference is truly delightful!ReplyCancel

  • OMG – I need that lunchbox. So pretty!!! I just have to change jobs, but it’s totally worth it (right now I don’t need lunchboxes). And also, stop being so awesome, leftovers from your root veg pot pies are in my fridge, and I already want to make something else from your recipe index. Like this. Could I also make this vegan? (I’m not a vegan, but like to eat vegan sometimes) maybe just using olive oil and veg stock instead of chicken? And maybe also add an extra splash of soysauce to compensate? Love! EvaReplyCancel

  • hahaha i love your “its BROWN! and ORANGE!”. The worst nightmare of a food blogger but you have absolutely pulled it off and this curry looks incredibly comforting and warming. I’ve never made a curry using a roux before, or a japanese curry, so I can’t wait to give this a go when winter arrives. and I really really like your new direction, of real life food – and I think more readers end up making that food themselves in their own kitchens. And a huge congrats on your awards nomination!!! <3ReplyCancel

  • You make me want to lick my computer screen. It may not be “pretty” but this is truly beautiful food and I am not just talking about your gorgeous photos. Real food that gets my belly growling.ReplyCancel

  • I pull out my garam masala only for Indian cooking. I love that you used it in this Japanese style curry. Kind of opens up possibilities. I think that recipes that come from our life stories are always the best ones. Trends come and go but food that has soul in it will always remain in style … kind of like the LBD :-)ReplyCancel

  • This is so beautiful and inspiring Betty! And congratulations again on the nomination too! xxReplyCancel

  • I always enjoy such hearty curry. It always complete satisfaction with least amount of work. And that lunch box btw .. so cool!ReplyCancel

  • Oh man – overthinking is my entire life in a nutshell. I love this new direction you are going with having recipes that revolve around your life. I often times get wrapped into coming up with crazy flavor combinations and labor intensive recipes only to find out my most popular posts are the things I make for dinner on the regular (chili, tacos, etc). Also, congrats on the nomination!ReplyCancel

  • wish we could have this for lunch now, looks SO delicious :) <3ReplyCancel

  • Curry to me is most comforting meals and we eat curry a lot. But this Japanese style curry looks sooooo tempting. I have to make this for sure. I love your blog :) and many many congratulations on the nomination. Its no surprise to me :) You are awesome.
    That lunch box is super cool. I am in the market for a lunch box, will have to check them out. Quick question on that – does the lunch box has to stay upright for no leeks or its actually leek proof and the curry doesn’t mess up the bag??ReplyCancel

  • Hi Betty,

    I just made this last night (with a few substitutions and improvisations) and it was fantastic! Thanks!ReplyCancel

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