This Hokkaido dish can be easily confused as Japanese curry by tourists and foreigners but against the brutal winter seasons up north of Japan or just wanting a comforting soupy meal on a rainy day in Kuala Lumpur, this dish is heaven-sent.
Anyone who has been or knows of Japan would definitely have tried Japanese curry. But this article is not about Japanese curry but rather its lesser known cousin all the way from Hokkaido. Compared to the thicker, sweeter, and more popular Japanese curry, the Hokkaido soup curry is more watery, rich with spices that packed a punch and filled with more nutritious ingredients. Best served piping hot with rice, this soupier curry dish warms the soul and body during a cold winter day in Hokkaido, or event on a rainy day in Malaysia.
Hokkaido soup curry is a relatively new dish to the Japanese cuisine scene, having only appeared in the last 30 years or so. Rumour has it that this dish takes inspiration from a Chinese/Korean medicinal soup and carries the flavour profile of curries from many Asian countries like Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.
There are many reasons to what sets this Hokkaido soup curry apart from Japanese curry and the most obvious point would be the thickness of its broth or there lack of. As its name indicates, it should be very thin and watery – more like a curry-flavoured soup and very often, the level of spiciness can be adjusted to suit your taste buds. Next, it uses vegetables that are more vibrant in colours, chunkier, and rich in nutrients such as bell pepper, lotus roots, pumpkin, and mushrooms. Instead of cooking them with the curry, these vegetables are deep fried without batter using a Japanese technique called “su-age” and added last to the dish.
All of these, combined with a fall-of-the-bone chicken or pork, tenderised carrots and deep-fried vegetables, offers a variety of interesting textures in one colourful soup curry dish. The appeal of this soup curry comes from its hearty properties and its versatility in customising the ingredients and spiciness levels. While it can be made from scratch at home, most locals prefer to venture out to many soup curry restaurants around Sapporo to get their fix.
One popular place amongst locals and tourists is Suage, where the outlet just a short walk from Susukino subway station. Suage is known for mixing its soup curry with coconut milk or squid ink. Sometimes, they can also get inventive with its ingredients with seasonal dishes like lavender pork-flavoured curry and the special charcoal-grilled chicken curry.
The other lesser-known soup curry restaurant in Sapporo is DOMINICA and for Tokyolites, there are even two branches of this restaurant in Ginza and Shinjuku. At all outlets, DOMINICA customers are given refillable salad and water while waiting for their soup curry as each soup dish is made fresh upon ordering. If possible, opt for the bar sitting so that you can see how the magic happens in their kitchen. For an added treat, add on grilled cheese to your soup curry for a truly delectable meal (as cheesy as that sounds).
Believe it or not, it is possible to get Hokkaido soup curry in Malaysia right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. When flying to Sapporo is out of the question, just head down to Curee, the only restaurant in Malaysia to offer this relatively unknown Japanese dish. For those who have tried and tasted the wonders of soup curry, Curee is godsend as their soupy dish comes close to mimicking the flavours of the original version. Its selection is limited in comparison to Suage and DOMINICA but Curee makes up for it with the standard Japanese curry, a variety of toasts and perhaps the perhaps the yummiest chocolate brownie in Kuala Lumpur. Try their soup curry with natto if you dare!
If you have yet to try soup curry, be sure to put it on your list of foods to try when in Hokkaido. You will not regret! Just make sure you can handle the spiciness level.
Address: South 4, West 5, 2nd floor, Central ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Hours: 11:30am – 9:30pm
Address: TM Ginza Bldg 2F, 3-4-1 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:30am – 10:30pm
Address: 40, Jalan 1/77A Off Jalan Imbi, Changkat Thambi Dollah, 55100 Kuala Lumpur Hours: 12 – 5pm, 6 – 10pm (Tues – Fri), 12 – 10pm (Sat- Sun) Closed on Monday.