So you love curry but can’t take the typical heat that comes with Indian curries? We’re not saying they’re the same, but Japanese curry still makes for a pretty good alternative the next time your cravings for spice hits. But not all Japanese curry is made the same, so here are some of the best in Singapore to head to.

Besides exquisite sushi, comforting soupy ramen, and crispy tonkatsu, Japanese Curry, or カレー karē, is also one of Japan’s representative foods familiar to diners.

The Japanese are proud of their unique version of curry, especially since the dish often appears in Japanese popular culture like drama series and anime. Netflix’s Midnight Diner even featured a bowl of the delectable Japanese Curry Ramen, a Japanese dish that can comfort cravings and a hungry appetite when served piping hot, despite its humble appearance.

What’s special about Japanese curry?

Like Indian curry, Japanese curry has a rich stew-like appearance, except it tastes uniquely different. The brief origins of this dish occurred when the Europeans imported curry from India and invented a typical form of curry powder so the dish could be made without having to master the intricacies of spices.

This form of curry was then introduced to Japan during the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Since then, the Japanese have adapted it to suit their palates, transforming it into a thicker, starchier, and sweeter stew.

At one point, Japanese curry was even eaten more than sushi or tempura, and is as popular as ramen in Japan, as noted in an article by Vice.

What goes into Japanese curry?

The main sauce of Japanese curry is created with a pre-prepared curry powder and roux. With convenience in mind, the curry powder usually consists of a basic Indian spices blend.

Typically, Japanese curry is thicker in texture. Taste-wise, it is sweeter and less spicy than its Indian and Thai counterparts. This stew often includes vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and onions, which add to the flavour and sweetness of the curry. You also can find proteins like pork, beef, and chicken in the mix, although it’s also popular to have it with pork or chicken katsu (cutlet).

Japanese curry is usually consumed with a large tablespoon, so don’t be surprised if it’s presented to you at curry houses, whether you’re in Singapore or Japan. The dish can come with sides like fukujinzuke garnish (sweet pickles) or rakkyo (pickled Japanese scallion).

Although the Japanese curry we know is thick and rich in texture, there’s also the Hokkaido variation or Sapporo Soup Curry. You’ll find more vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms and okra chunks in this flavourful alternative.

(Hero and feature image credit: CoCo ICHIBANYA)

10 best Japanese curry restaurants and stalls in Singapore today:

Multiple outlets including Bugis+, Plaza Singapura, and The Star Vista

Probably the best-known Japanese Curry chain brand, CoCo ICHIBANYA has a notable presence in Singapore too. Established more than 40 years ago, it’s rightfully named in Japanese as CoCo (‘Here’), Ichiban (‘Number 1’), and Ya (‘Shop’ or ‘Store’) as a record holder of having a significant number of branches globally.

CoCo ICHIBANYA’s menu is extensive and offers different ingredient combinations in their signature curry. Thick and tantalising, look forward to options like seafood curry, omelette curry, and vegetable curry in the form of Creamed Mushroom Omelette Curry, Clam and Tomato Omelette Curry, and the quintessential Pork Cutlet Omelette Curry.

(Image credit: @CoCoICHIBANYA.SG/Facebook)

Opening hours: 11 am – 10 pm (Monday to Sunday).

Gochi-So Shokudo
Gochi-So Shokudo
Multiple outlets including Chinatown Point, Plaza Singapura, Square 2 Novena, and Millenia Walk

Although this establishment specialises in tonkatsu, using premium cuts of Iberico pork, you can also find Japanese curry dishes that pair perfectly at Gochi-So Shokudo. The Japanese curry here is family-friendly, with a mild blend of spices that’s flavourful without overpowering your palette.

The restaurant is known for their Mille Feuille Katsu, which features smashed layered pork slices with a breaded coating and deep-fried to lock in the juices. For a more flavourful meal, opt for the Collar Mille Feuille Katsu Curry. Those who prefer thicker cuts will love the Bellota Loin Katsu Curry or Iberico Pork Belly Rice.

(Image credit: @gochiso.shokudo/Instagram)

Opening hours: Timing varies with outlets (Open from Monday to Sunday).

Japan Rail Cafe
Japan Rail Cafe
5 Wallich Street, Guoco Tower #01-20, Singapore 078883
6385 5422

Since it’s operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East), a Japanese train operator, you can be sure that the food here is definitely authentic. Besides promoting Japan by providing travel information to the country and selling Japan rail tickets, customers can chill at the cafe space here for a little taste of the country.

And what better way to do so than with the Watashino Curry Rice, which sports a darker shade than most Japanese curries thanks to its black pepper base that’s mixed with a blend of spices, alongside beef and onions. Japan Rail Cafe also hosts pop-ups for brands like the famed Champion Curry from time to time.

(Image credit: @red_dot_hero_sg/Instagram)

Opening hours: 11 am – 9 pm (Monday to Thursday), 11am – 9:30pm (Friday to Saturday), 11am – 8pm (Sunday)

Kuro Kare
Kuro Kare
80 Stamford Road, SMU School of Information Systems #B1-65, Singapore 178902

Kuro Kare (translated to ‘black curry’) is helmed by a team of chefs whose experience includes stints at the one Michelin-starred Meta, and the Japanese-French-Singaporean restaurant, Fleurette. With a vision of showcasing fine-dining techniques and premium ingredients in dishes at an affordable price, the talented team has decided to focus on the humble Japanese curry rice.

The curry here is cooked for a minimum of 36 hours using 25 ingredients, which include onions, honey, mirin, ginger, butter, milk, and a blend of spices. Diners can choose from a concise menu that appeals to everyone, from the Thinly Sliced Australian Ribeye, Spanish Pulled Pork (Kind of Pig Deal), Kuro Fried Chicken (K.F.C), Vegetable Curry (Keeping Up with the Kroquettes), and Melty Beef.

(Image credit: @foodforfoong/Instagram)

Opening hours: 11 am – 8 pm (Monday to Friday). Closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Maji Curry
Maji Curry
10 Sinaran Drive, Square 2 Novena #02-07, Singapore 307506
8494 4898

Maji Curry is a Japanese-founded brand that now has a presence in Thailand and Singapore. In an impressive feat, they won the 2018 Kanda Curry Championship just seven months after opening their Japan store. Their name ‘Maji’ translates to ‘serious’, so you can be sure that they are serious about creating their curry dishes.

Their curry flavour profile leans towards the sweeter side and has a lighter texture than usual. But diners can customise their preferred spiciness levels, with one being mild to three, the spiciest. Maji Curry’s signature picks include Hamburger Steak Sauce Curry Rice, Pork Cutlet Cheese Sauce Curry Rice, Chicken Cutlet Sauce Curry Rice, and Tonkatsu Omelette Curry.

(Image credit: @majicurrysg/Instagram)

Opening hours: 11 am – 9:30 pm (Monday to Sunday).

Maruhachi Donburi & Curry
Maruhachi Donburi & Curry
Multiple outlets including Bedok North, Jurong West, Edgefield Plains, Havelock, and Sengkang

Maruhachi Donburi & Curry was founded by an ex-head chef of a famous Japanese tonkatsu restaurant that formerly operated at ION Orchard for nine years. The owner-hawker created a buzz with his first outlet at Punggol (671 Edgefield Plains) and has since expanded the brand to many outlets island-wide thanks to its affordable tonkatsu.

The Pork Katsu Curry and Pork Fillet Katsu Curry say true to traditional flavours has a flavourful thick sauce. Not into pork? There are Ebi Prawn Fry and Kaki Oyster Fry options too.

(Image credit: @megans3meals/Instagram)

Opening hours: 11 am – 9 pm (Monday to Sunday).

Monster Curry
Monster Curry
Multiple outlets including ION Orchard, Vivocity, Bugis Junction, NEX, and Waterway Point

Here’s one for those with huge appetites. Monster Curry is a Japanese curry chain restaurant that specialises in monster-sized portions at affordable prices. It is also the only Japanese restaurant in Singapore that serves a demi-glace-based curry sauce. This trademark rice sauce is derived from slow cooking 14 different spices and vegetables for 48 hours, resulting in a deep brown curry.

Hungry diners can attempt the Monster Combo Curry. Great for sharing among two to three people, the generous plate consists of fried pork katsu, pork shabu-shabu, crunchy shrimp tempura, and fried fish fillet atop a mound of fluffy rice. This is surrounded by a moat of curry sauce that’s finished with grated cheese. Diners can choose varying spiciness levels from normal, extra, very, super and monster hot.

(Image credit:

Opening hours: 11 am – 10 pm (Monday to Sunday).

OTOKO Japanese Restaurant
OTOKO Japanese Restaurant
1187 Upper Serangoon Road, #01-20, Singapore 534785
8302 3372

Located in the Hougang neighbourhood, residents staying in North-Eastern Singapore need not venture far for the best Japanese curry on the island. Diners can choose from a wide variety of protein options and combinations – think Chicken Katsu Curry, Pork Katsu Curry, Seafood Katsu Curry, Tori Karaage Curry, Nacho Cheese Chicken Curry, and Mix Tempura Curry.

The curry here is slightly spicier and delivers an appetising kick. For something a little different, you can swap rice out for udon and also top your meal off with cheese at an additional cost.

(Image credit: @otoko_midtown/Instagram)

Opening hours: 11 am -3 pm, 5 pm – 9:30 pm (Sunday to Monday, Wednesdays to Thursday). 11 am – 3 pm, 5 pm – 12 am (Friday to Saturday). Closed on Tuesdays.

Washoku Goen
Washoku Goen
Multiple outlets including Great World City, Vivocity, Junction 8, and Causeway Point

Managed under the same group as Japanese charcoal BBQ and sushi buffet Yakiniku Oh, Washoku Goen offers affordable Japanese curry dishes at various food courts islandwide.

Priced less than SGD10 for the signature chicken katsu curry rice, Washoku Goen makes an ideal quick lunch or dinner option. The no-frills stall also allows add-ons such as pork katsu, fried fish, and beef slices.

(Image credit: @graphito/Instagram)

Opening hours: Timing varies with outlets (Open from Monday to Sunday).

Yao Japanese Rice House
Yao Japanese Rice House
6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, #02-05, Singapore 081006
8323 8781

Don’t underestimate this hawker stall specialising in Japanese-style curry rice and Omu Fried Rice at Tanjong Pagar Food Centre. An endless snaking queue can be seen at Yao Japanese Rice House during lunchtime.

Have the best of both worlds by ordering Omu Fried Rice with Japanese Curry Sauce. You also can top it up with proteins like grilled chicken, fried chicken cutlet, fried pork cutlet, or grilled pork loin.

(Image credit: @bbjiaksimi/Instagram)

Opening hours: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm (Monday to Friday). Closed on Saturday and Sunday.

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore

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Where Can You Get The Best Japanese Curry In Singapore?
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