Hook’d Up Bar and Grill Uncovers the Secrets of Coco Curry

japanese tofu katsu curry with rice on an oval plate

Are you a fan of Japanese cuisine? Have you ever tasted the renowned Coco Ichibanaya House Curry? If you’re longing for that delicious and flavorful experience in the comfort of your own home, then you’re in luck! At Hook’d Up Bar and Grill, we have unraveled the secrets behind Coco Curry and are thrilled to share them with you.

The Secret to the Perfect Japanese Curry Sauce

soy meat katsu curry on a white coco plate

Japanese curry rice is a beloved comfort food in Japan, loved by both children and adults. Coco Ichibanaya House Curry stands out with its diverse spice levels, toppings, and mouthwatering flavors. Unfortunately, it’s not available here in Canada, but don’t worry! We have created a homemade version of Coco Curry that comes pretty close to the real deal.

Our vegan curry sauce is bursting with flavor, thanks to ingredients such as caramelized onions, white pepper, togarashi (or cayenne), vinegar, coffee, and cocoa powder. The combination of these ingredients creates a delectable bitter-sweet taste with a hint of tanginess. You won’t be able to resist this explosion of flavors!

The CoCo Ichibanaya Experience

japanese curry with rice and natto on top of a white plate

Let’s take a brief journey into the history of CoCo Ichibanaya. It all began in 1974 when Tokuji Munetsugu and his wife, Naomi, opened a coffee shop called Bacchus. To boost sales, they added curry to their menu and eventually opened a restaurant specialized in curry. They named it Curry House Coco Ichibanya, signifying that their curry was the best and most delicious.

At CoCo Ichibanaya, curry takes center stage. They offer a wide variety of toppings and spice levels, from classic katsu to seafood, vegetables, and even natto. The luscious and saucy curry sets them apart from other establishments, making each bite a delightful experience.

Unveiling the Ingredients

japanese curry ingredients

Now, let’s delve into the ingredients for our Coco Ichibanaya-inspired Japanese curry sauce. While there are multiple ingredients involved, each one plays a crucial role in creating the complex and delicious flavor you crave. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Onions (yellow or Spanish)
  • Carrot
  • Red bell pepper (or additional carrots)
  • Vegan butter (or creamy dairy-free alternative)
  • Plant-based bacon or beef (optional)
  • Vegan chicken bouillon (or vegetable stock)
  • Bull Dog Worcestershire sauce
  • Bull Dog Fruit & Vegetable Sauce (or ketchup)
  • Apple (or banana)
  • Mixed fruit chutney (or jam/honey/sugar)
  • Peanut butter
  • Japanese curry powder (S&B or homemade)
  • Japanese curry roux cubes
  • Rice vinegar
  • Instant coffee (or cocoa powder)
  • Red miso (or white miso/dark soy sauce)
  • Dark soy sauce (optional)
  • White pepper (or black pepper)
  • Togarashi (or cayenne)
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Choosing the Best Japanese Curry Roux Mix

frying and caramelizing onions in a pan for Japanese curry

Selecting the right Japanese curry roux mix is essential for achieving that authentic Coco Ichibanaya taste. While personal preferences may vary, here is a breakdown of some popular brands to help you make a decision:

  • Golden Curry (S&B): The oldest and most traditional brand, offering basic curry flavor without additional sweetness. Adjust seasonings and add ingredients according to your taste.
  • Torokeru (S&B): Sweet, savory, and perfectly balanced spices. Not as thick as other options, allowing you to add richness without heaviness.
  • Java Curry (House Foods): Similar to Torokeru but with a slightly spicier kick. Rumored to be the brand used by CoCo Ichibanaya.
  • Kokumaro Curry (House Foods): Sweet and on the milder side.
  • Vermont Curry (House Foods): Thick, smooth, and fruity sweet.
  • Zeppin (Glico): Intense flavor with a thick texture and sweetness.

Creating the Perfect Coco Ichibanya-style Japanese Curry Sauce

how to make Coco Ichibanya-style Japanese curry

Making Coco Ichibanya-style Japanese curry sauce requires love and effort, but the final result is absolutely worth it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you create the perfect curry sauce:

  1. Fry the onions until golden, giving them a slightly smoky and savory note.
  2. Caramelize the onions to add sweetness and complexity to the curry.
  3. Cook the grated carrot and apple with the caramelized onions.
  4. Deglaze the pan with water to scrape off the caramelized onion remnants.
  5. Roast the bell pepper over a gas stove or in the oven.
  6. Cook the plant-based bacon and remaining onions in a large pot.
  7. Add water from the caramelized onion pan and bring to a boil.
  8. Blend the seasonings, including consommé, dashi granules, caramelized onions, fried onions, bell pepper, peanut butter, mixed fruit chutney, and curry powder.
  9. Strain the mixture for a smoother curry (optional).
  10. Add curry roux cubes, butter, Worcestershire sauce, Nakano sauce, miso paste, instant coffee (or cocoa powder), rice vinegar, salt, and white pepper.
  11. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  12. Let the flavors mature by resting the curry for at least 3 hours, ideally overnight.
  13. Reheat the curry, adding dark soy sauce and vinegar.
  14. Serve over rice with your choice of toppings, such as katsu, karaage, korokke, hambagu, natto, fried vegetables, egg, spinach, potato salad, kimchi, tempura, or corn.
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The Perfect Pairings

Coco Ichibanaya vegetable curry rice with soy burger on a white plate

Japanese curry is a versatile dish that pairs well with various ingredients. Here are some serving suggestions to enhance your culinary experience:

  • Your favorite katsu (tofu katsu pictured)
  • Tofu karaage
  • Korokke (Japanese croquettes)
  • Hambagu (vegan Japanese hamburger patty)
  • Natto
  • Fried vegetables
  • Plant-based hot dogs
  • Egg (for vegetarians)
  • Spinach (cooked into the sauce)
  • Potato salad
  • Kimchi
  • Tempura
  • Corn

Don’t forget to serve your curry over a bed of rice with fukushinzuke (pickled sweet daikon) and ryakyo (pickled scallion bulbs) for an authentic touch.

Quicker Caramelized Onions

quick caramelized onions

If you’re short on time but still crave the deliciousness of caramelized onions, you can use a microwave and stovetop method to achieve similar results in about 15 minutes. Here’s how:

  1. Microwave thinly sliced onions with butter, covered in cling wrap, for 3 minutes. Stir and microwave for an additional 3-5 minutes until translucent and soft.
  2. Heat a pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and let them slightly brown on the bottom. Stir occasionally to prevent burning and continue cooking until caramelized and jammy. Deglaze the pan with water as needed.

Tips for Delicious Japanese Curry

To make your Japanese curry even more delicious, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Adjust the curry texture according to your preference. If you prefer a smoother and more liquid curry like Coco Ichibanaya’s, strain the ingredients through a fine mesh sieve after blending or add more liquid. For a thicker curry, simmer for a bit longer.
  2. Add flavor boosters, such as instant coffee, cocoa powder, miso, and rice vinegar, at the end to preserve their freshness.
  3. Make extra curry to enjoy leftovers. The flavors will continue to develop and blend together, resulting in an even tastier curry the next day.
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Storing Leftover Curry

Once your curry has cooled, you can store it in the pot with the lid on in the fridge. For smaller amounts, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To reheat, simply warm it on the stove over low heat.

If you want to freeze your curry, transfer it to freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to one month. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat on the stove over low heat. You may need to add water to achieve your desired consistency.

Recipe FAQs

  1. How does the vegetarian/vegan CoCo Ichi curry compare to the one made with beef/pork? According to my mom’s comparison, the two are quite similar and incredibly flavorful. The vegetarian version has a slightly fruitier taste and feels lighter on the stomach.
  2. How does this recipe compare to the CoCo Ichi curry? While this recipe isn’t an exact replica of CoCo’s curry, it comes pretty close. The main difference lies in the mouthfeel, as this curry is less greasy. You’ll love the depth of flavors from the sweet and jammy onions, fried onions, and cooked onions.
  3. Can I add other vegetables to the curry? Absolutely! If you prefer a chunkier curry with potatoes and carrots, you can try our Japanese vegan curry recipe.
  4. What can I use instead of plant-based bacon? Mushrooms are a great vegan alternative. If you’re not vegan, feel free to substitute with your choice of bacon or thinly sliced beef. You can also use chicken stock instead of water for added richness.
  5. Do I have to strain the curry? Straining is optional, especially if you’re using a high-speed blender. Coco’s curry is generally smooth, but if you like a bit of texture, there’s no need to strain.

More Japanese Curry Recipes to Explore

If you can’t get enough of Japanese curry, here are some other recipes to try:

  • Japanese curry powder
  • Japanese kabocha curry
  • Tofu katsu curry
  • Curry udon
  • Yaki curry
  • Kare pan (deep-fried Japanese curry buns)
  • Curry fried rice

We hope you enjoy our Coco Ichibanya-style Japanese curry recipe! If you give it a try, let us know how it turned out by leaving a comment or tagging us on Instagram @Hook’d Up Bar and Grill. Hungry for more? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media for more tantalizing recipes!

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