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Why Some Japanese Curries Include Instant Coffee

Japanese curry and rice
Japanese curry and rice - gontabunta/Shutterstock

Fans of Japanese curries know these dishes are often sweeter, creamier, and more gravy-like than their non-Japanese counterparts. Japanese curries also include unique ingredients such as apples, melons, cocoa powder, or chocolate, plus something we usually drink in the morning for a kick of energy. Yes, we're talking about a cup of joe — Japanese curries sometimes include instant coffee. When it comes to Japanese curries, you'll find layered and complex flavors: sweetness, umami, acidity, savoriness, and spice all at once, each taste balancing the others. Instant coffee deepens the curry's color, adds robustness, and rounds out the overall flavors of the curry.

To understand why coffee is added to Japanese curries and why this dish is so unique, it's good to understand more about Japanese cuisine in general. Japanese food is all about balancing flavors and harmony. Japanese dishes are full of depth and nuanced flavors. Take sushi from the hands of Japanese sushi masters, for example. Each delicious bite includes slightly aged fish with nuanced flavors: umami and subtle sweetness, all atop sushi rice meticulously seasoned with vinegar and other seasonings. With Japanese curries, you also get multiple layers of flavors, and instant coffee balances these flavors.

Read more: 21 Delicious Ways To Use Up Leftover Rice

Adding Instant Coffee To Japanese Curries Is A Flavor Balancing Act

Japanese curry and iced coffee
Japanese curry and iced coffee - BELL MALINEE/Shutterstock

So, how does instant coffee add robustness and round out the other flavors in Japanese curry? One may think adding coffee to curry will make it taste like a latte, but that is not the case. The goal here is not to overpower the other flavors with coffee but to use it as a counterpoint and make Japanese curries more sophisticated and well-rounded. Coffee has inherent mild bitterness and acidity and balances out the spice in the curry. Instead of the sharp heat you get from other curries that make you sweat, you get a more well-rounded spice flavor. In fact, Japanese curries are not known to be intensely fiery or spicy. Coffee also balances the sweet components in Japanese curries, like apples, carrots, and onions. Japanese curry can be rich and creamy, and coffee's acidity helps cut through the heaviness, making the dish feel lighter than hearty stews.

Coffee's acidity also serves a dual purpose. It can help tenderize the proteins in the curries, making meat more succulent and flavorful. It is very clever to add instant coffee to Japanese curries, underscoring the philosophy of achieving balance and harmony in Japanese cuisine. It's no wonder Japanese curry is a beloved staple, and as a dish, it stands out in the vast sea of curries.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.