TNT Diner

Sunday’s food festival at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple is your chance to try this comfort stew

A bowl of Japanese curry from the 2017 Tacoma Buddhist Temple Fall Food & Crafts Bazaar.
A bowl of Japanese curry from the 2017 Tacoma Buddhist Temple Fall Food & Crafts Bazaar. Tacoma Buddhist Temple

Whether in Tokyo or Tacoma, the recipe for Japanese curry basically is the same.

It’s a stew typically served over rice. It fits into a universal category of comfort eating with meat and vegetables slow cooked and flavored with an ingredient most would associate with Indian cuisine — curry powder. How curry wound up in Japan is one of those meandering ingredient import tales. As the lore goes, curry wove its way from India to Japan through the British, who introduced Japan to the spice mixture all the way back in the 19th century.

Japanese curry— or karē-raisu, as it’s called in Japan — has become a ubiquitous slice of the Japanese culinary lexicon. It’s a national food enjoyed by everyone from school children to members of the Japanese navy.

It’s also a dish that has been modified to the point that it’s now a curry with its own identity separate from British or Indian curries.

“It’s kind of like an Indian curry, but less spicy,” explained Junko Yotsuuye. “Every Japanese kid, including myself, grew up eating karē-raisu.”

Yotsuuye will be making enough Japanese curry to feed about 250 people Sunday at the Fall Food & Crafts Bazaar at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple, where she is a member.

The food and crafts festival is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and is a one-day crash course in Japanese cuisine. An army of temple members, including Yotsuuye, make the food from scratch in the temple’s huge kitchen.

The menu includes udon noodle soup, rice bowls, musubi, teriyaki chicken and eel, and the temple’s regionally famous dessert, daifuku mochi. Dishes are bargain priced at $1 to $9 each with proceeds benefiting temple programs.

Japanese curry has been on the temple’s menu for at least 40 years as part of the annual fall food festival. That recipe’s been handed down, tweaked and merged over the years. This is Yotsuuye’s first year in charge of the curry preparation. As with every dish prepared at the temple, she’ll add her own modifications to the stew made from beef, carrots, onions, potatoes, peas and a spice mix.

“Very small changes,” is how Yotsuuye described her recipe tweaks.

“I’m still using the same ingredients. The basic potato and carrots and onions. Onion is a big part of the recipe. I’m using a lot of onions,” she said. “They add a lot of flavor.”

That tip to add more onions came from her mom.

“This year’s curry recipe is based off my mother’s recipe. My mother still lives in Japan and she’s a nutritionist,” said Yotsuuye.

Her mother’s other curry recipe tip? Boost the flavor with a little added bouillon.

Growing up in Japan, the curry dish was everyday eating for Yotsuuye, who said she’s carried on the tradition with her own boys. When they were younger, she’d make her children a version of curry stew flavored with mild curry powder, but now that they’re older, she’s upgraded to medium level spicing, which still isn’t spicy enough for her husband, who also grew up eating his family’s version of Japanese curry.

That medium-level spicing is what she’ll also use Sunday for the temple stew, the recipe for which requires 28 pounds of stew beef, 10 pounds of carrots, 40 pounds of potatoes, 45 pounds of onions and a whopping 10 pounds of curry spicing.

Yotsuuye said spice avoiders need not worry. The spice is evident, but it’s not a hot (read: painful) heat. Just a flavorful type.

“It’s not very spicy. Curry rice is one of the favorite kid’s food dish in Japan because it’s less spicy. With Indian spice, it can be hard for hard for kids to eat, but not this kind.”

A plate of the curry, served over rice, will be $8 and for sale at Sunday’s event. Get there early, the temple has been known to run out of food halfway through the event.

In conjunction with the Japanese dishes served at the festival, there’s also an art, decor and rummage sale. Admission is free with food items priced $1 to $8.

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270, @tntdiner

2018 Fall Food and Crafts Bazaar

Where: Tacoma Buddhist Temple, 1717 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 4)

Admission: Free. Cash and cards welcome

Info: 253-627-1417 or