Whether you’re looking for a spicy or savoury type of this Japanese food staple, you'll find it at these must-try restaurants, delis and stalls
Everyone’s got their own fancies when it comes to the perfect curry. While we’ve touched on tongue-tingling Indian curries and feast-friendly fish head curries, we’ve yet to pluck from the mix our go-to spots for Japanese curry rice. A comfort food for the Japanese, this stew-like dish might not be as traditionally spicy at its more fiery counterparts, but it’s able to satisfy tums with a full hearty meal while bringing together Japanese ingredients like tonkatsu, chicken karaage, ebi tempura and veggies. In a hurry for the best curry? Our list will bring you up to speed.
Nope, this ain’t a mistake. Who would’ve thought that a stall specialising in udon noodles – and one that stands modestly within shopping mall food courts, no less – packs one of the best curry rices in town? Gobble up this plate of Japanese soul food with a giant slab of chicken katsu for just $6.80; or if you and your gals think you’re up for the challenge, $19.80 for a 3kg(!!!) plate of curry with ajitsuke tamago, chicken katsu, tonkatsu, potato croquette, ebi tempura and chicken karaage. Good golly.
Udon Goen, Stall 11, #04-02/38 Food Republic, Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Road, Singapore 238877, p. 6337 4237. Open daily 11am-10pm.
Aside from potatoes and carrots, you won’t usually find veggies in your curry. So lest you need your fibre fix, Saboten is known for serving free-flow cabbage salad, possessing a crunchiness that complements the provided sesame and peanut sauce dressings. But the real sauce you want here is, of course, Saboten’s light, grainy (but not lumpy) curry, served with your choice of chicken katsu or loin katsu. If you like fatty meat, go for the latter.
Saboten, available at several outlets including Millenia Walk and Changi Airport.
You’ll never worry about feeling hungry post-meal with these Godzilla-sized portions! Amply sizeable enough to feed a kaiju, this chain’s signature combo curry slams its plate with pork katsu, fried fish, pork shabu-shabu, shrimp tempura and cheese – a feast that’s easily fit for two at just $25. Monstrous servings aside, its curry is also a special, demi-glace, brown sauce concoction – rich and thick without skimping on the spice.
Whether it’s the warm, oozing consistency of the sauce, or the chewy chunks of carrots and potatoes found within, it’s natural to regard curry rice as a homely, hearty dish – comfort food for many Japanese, in fact. Couple this sentiment with the equally-homely and rustic décor of Ma Maison, and you have a meal that hits the spot beyond your palate. Warning: dipping crispy, fatty strips of tonkatsu in this savoury curry may trigger noises of “Mmm…” and “Ahh…”.
Some might say that a Japanese curry is only as good as the meat that’s served with it, as it absorbs all of the sauce’s umami flavours without losing its natural taste. Concur? Then you must already be a fan of Ginza Bairin that serves top-notch black pig loin katsu. The fatty, porky taste of the loin is hardly overpowered by the trickling curry; the latter a harmonious medley of onion, potatoes, carrots and pickles.
Ginza Bairin, #B4-39/40/41/42 ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801, p. 6509 8101. Open daily 11am-10.30pm.
We’ve already told you how this Japanese-favourite fixture is one-upping the ramen game with its black pig shabu ramen, and likewise, it’s fiddling with conventions in the curry rice department. Turning up the heat, Tampopo serves its curry rice in a hot stone pot, preventing the gravy from coagulating too quickly. And why else would they wanna keep it at this piping-hot temperature? ’Cos this curry rice is served beneath a bed of melted, baked cheese. Sizzling, indeed.
Tampopo, #01-23/24 Liang Court Shopping Centre, 177 River Valley Road, Singapore 179030, p. 6338 3186. Open Sun-Thu 11.30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10.30pm.
#B2-33 Takashimaya Shopping Centre, 391B Orchard Road, Singapore 238872, p. 6235 2318. Open daily 11am-10pm.
Revered by the Japanese themselves, this trusty franchise has been on top of the curry crusades since 1978. Now the largest curry restaurant chain in the world (as certified by Guinness World Records), Coco Ichibanya will always get your order right; and that’s because you have full control over it! The quantity of rice; the level of spiciness; the quantity of curry; choice of toppings – your plate of curry is entirely customisable. Personally, we’re always sold on its hamburg or fried chicken (karaage) curry, or the scrambled egg curry that marries the milky gooeyness of the egg with the curry’s gravy-like texture,
Kyoto Tsubaki-an Deli
We swear: this has nothing to do with the fact that this humble curry haven is just down the road from our office in Telok Ayer! Run by Japanese staff who are always all-smiles, this small eatery frequently attracts the weary lunch crowd who can’t wait to dig into its signature katsu and karaage curry rice. The sauce isn’t too thick and grainy, and it even has a welcome tinge of spice to wake you up in the morning. And did we mention karaage? The deep-fried chunks here are huge! Available for takeaways too.
Kyoto Tsubaki-an Deli, #01-19 China Square Food Centre, 51 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 048441, p. 9800 8000.
Sama Curry & Café
Think you’ve tried all sorts of Japanese curry in Singapore? Think again. Singapore’s first-ever Japanese soup curry restaurant has opened its doors in OUE Downtown 2 Gallery. Not only is the curry here lighter and more watery – more ideal for indulgent slurping – but the restaurant als offers four flavours of soup curry – coconut, tomato, wafu, and shrimp – served with rice, and with the optional addition of cheese and, if you’re feeling adventurous, natto. And if you’re worried about the spice levels, fret not; Sama offers each of its soup curries in three levels of spiciness.
Sama Curry & Café, #03-26, OUE Downtown 2 Gallery, 6 Shenton Way, Singapore 068809.
Tengawa Hokkaido White Curry
Tengawa Hokkaido White Curry is the first and only restaurant that whips up this unconventional variation in Singapore. Prepared with Hokkaido milk, the white curry here is creamier and richer than other brown sauce-based counterparts, and is still served with rice alongside top-notch ingredients like Iberico pork belly and shrimp tempura. Topping this off with one final twist? The chawanmushi here is also drizzled with truffle oil – ’cos we can never have too much truffle… right?
Tengawa Hokkaido White Curry, #02-16 Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Boulevard, Singapore 039596, p. 6265 1314. Open daily 11.30am-10pm.
The Japanese Curry Shop
Its name doesn’t get any simpler than that, and that’s exactly the kind of setting you can expect at this fuss-free eatery. Tucked within the basement of Liang Court just outside of MEIDI-YA, this counter-top curry booth is approved for its authenticity – evidenced by the droves of Japanese expats and families it attracts. The curry here is served in a saucière, so you can control how much you’d like to drench your rice and ingredients – the chicken katsu and ebi fry here are must-tries – with curry.
The Japanese Curry Shop, B1-31 Liang Court, 177 River Valley Road, Singapore 179039, p. 6333 0630.