Curry Rice: The Next Big Trend Following Ramen?

Ramen, very much the soul food of the Japanese, is taking the US by storm. The popularity of Ramen is breaking through food culture barriers and is now entrenching itself into the American food culture.

In contrast, Japanese Curry Rice, a cult favorite in Japan alongside Ramen, has remained under-the-radar. With that said, it’s only a matter of time before mainstream America catches onto its allure.

2016 Favorite Food Ranking Survey
by Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living

Originating in India, curry made its way to Britain and rose into popularity as Anglo-Indian cooking during the country’s early colonial campaign of the 17th century. Anglicized curry, a more gentle interpretation of fiery vindaloo from India, was then introduced by the UK to Japan through a maritime exchange. Over the years, the dish has changed and adapted to something uniquely Japanese, where today, Japanese Curry Rice is distinctly one of the nations beloved dishes across all age groups. In fact, Japanese Curry Rice is ranked 4th on the 2016 Favorite Food Ranking by Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, moving up by a notch from 2006, replacing Sashimi.

1. VERSATILITY
While curry made with meats (pork, beef, and chicken) are predominant in Japan, the dish can easily be adapted to suit a variety of dietary lifestyles and tastes.

Soybeans and avocado can be used in place of meat, and instead of white rice, brown rice and zakkoku mixed grain rice can be used to boost nutrition value. Curry also tastes delicious with noodles such as Udon and soba. Better yet, a delicious mashup of curry + Ramen will surely be the next big hit.

2.  HEALTH BENEFICIAL INGREDIENTS

The complex taste of curry is made by combining spices and herbs.

For example:
Distinctive Color:  Turmeric
Addictive Spiciness: Chili powder, red chili pepper, and ginger
Fragrance: Coriander, cumin, and cinnamon

Many of these same spices are traditionally used is herbal healings, and are used to improve the workings of the liver and gastrointestinal tract, soothe coughing, boost fatigue recovery, and prevent infection, diarrhea, colds, obesity, hangovers, and muscle pains.

Chili powder and red chili peppers contain the fat-burning Capsaicin, a spicy component which signals heat-sensitive nerves to cause the brain to trigger sweat response to cool down the body.  With accelerated blood circulation, the body temperature rises to stimulate the sweat glands, which help detoxify the body and clear pores for a beautifully clear complexion.

Men and women alike, regardless of age or ethnicity, are always looking for ways to improve health and boost beauty. Curry may be the answer to those needs.

3. NAME FAMILIARITY

Nowadays, Sushi is widely enjoyed in the US, however, it should be noted that introducing Sushi to Americans who were not accustomed to eating raw fish was no easy feat.And while Japanese Curry Rice is still under-the-radar from mainstream Americans, curry as a dish is already quite familiar to many, thanks to Indian, Thai, Singaporean and South East Asian cuisines which all have their own signature curry dishes. In fact, according to yelp, there are almost 4,500 restaurants serving curry in the Los Angeles area as of August 28, 2017.

And while Japanese Curry Rice is still under-the-radar from mainstream Americans, curry as a dish is already quite familiar to many, thanks to Indian, Thai, Singaporean and South East Asian cuisines which all have their own signature curry dishes. In fact, according to yelp, there are almost 4,500 restaurants serving curry in the Los Angeles area as of August 28, 2017.

Further breakdown of curry types by national cuisine is as follows:

Thai curry 1609 restaurants
Japanese curry 808 restaurants
Indian curry 413 restaurants

(Data from Yelp.com as of August 28, 2017)

Looking Ahead

Millennials and Generation Z’s are the future of the US consumer market. And with these generations move into their prime spending years, the market size for both generations combined is expected to exceed 1 trillion dollars by the year 2020. Accordingly, it’s vital for restaurant businesses to capitalize on the ever-changing trends by grasping the minds and hearts of these economic powerhouses, enticing them with unique, value-added propositions than with those offered to the aging baby boomers and Generation X’s.

Ramen noodles and curry rice – two dishes originating in foreign lands, and over the years adapted to Japanese tastes.  They have earned irreplaceable positions as distinctly Japanese, and deeply rooted in country’s culinary culture. It’ll be interesting to see how these two dishes yet evolve in America, further into popularity in the next 10 years.


KIDS' CHOICE
Curry Rice Ranks #1
according to a survey conducted by Japan Sport Promotion Center in 2010, Curry Rice was voted the number one favorite school menu by elementary school students. We see now, that postwar school lunch menus have been the number one major driving force in spreading the popularity of curry rice across Japan, embedding the once “imported Asia-Western” dish, deeply into the Japanese culinary culture.