SCD Japanese Beef Curry

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As a military brat, I got to live in some pretty cool places. Japan was one of them. Even after all these years there are still certain things that bring strong memories rushing to my mind and body. Japanese curry is one of them. Its smell is very unique and wonderful. Whenever I catch the scent in the air, I am immediately thrown back in time to when I gobbled down food with the rest of my team-mates in-between races at swim meets. Standard fair were cup of noodles, onigiri (rice balls shaped into triangles with different fillings like red bean and tuna wrapped in seaweed) and curry dishes. Essentially Japanese comfort food. The feeling is so strong, I sometimes imagine I smell chlorine as well.

When I moved back to the United States, I didn’t have Japanese curry for a very long time. Then, one day, I stayed over at a friends house and her dad (who had also spent time in Japan while in the military) made Chicken Katsu Curry. Oh man. She made it when we were in college and when anyone questioned her curry (some Americans don’t know that curry is part of Japanese cuisine and are confused about how different it is from Indian or Thai curries) she would say, “Megan lived in Japan and this is exactly how it is there right?” Usually my answer was muffled because my mouth was too full to give a response.

But like all things, when you begin to try and take apart your favorite dishes you learn that what  contributed to that amazing taste were little powdered squares packed full of flavors and unfortunately, ingredients your body rejects (or at least my body). Although not many people make their curry from scratch, there is a resurgent interest in learning how to do so and plenty of recipes to choose from. However, there is still a problem for people like me, who are on diets like SCD. Ketchup, soy sauce, tonkatsu sauce, and worcestershire sauce are all common ingredients included to get that Japanese curry taste. All of these are not allowed on my diet. There are however, some simple changes you can make.

ketchup = organic tomato paste (I like Bionaturae Organic Tomato Paste-it comes in glass jars and has no added ingredients)


soy sauce = fish sauce (I use Red Boat Fish Sauce-it’s completely safe/legal.


It was the tonkatsu and worcestershire sauce that I was left scratching my head on. Luckily I did not have to think too long because I have encountered this problem with fried rice. When making cauliflower fried rice I found a solution to the whole oyster sauce problem. Fried rice is not fried rice without some oyster sauce so I wanted to find a solution pronto.

For a while I had been using a Honey-Garlic Chicken Wings recipe from ThePaleoMom. One day, I noticed that if I let it simmer for a while until it was really thick, it tasted a lot like oyster sauce. It made all the difference.

When I looked at some recipes on how to make your own tonkatsu sauce, a lot of them had both tomato paste or ketchup and worcestershire sauce in it. In some ways worcestershire sauce is a lot like fish sauce so I went ahead and decided that my “oyster sauce” could be changed into tonkatsu-worcestershire sauce with the addition of some tomato paste. I honestly have no idea if it really tastes like tonkatsu sauce but the curry came out really good so who cares.

All you have to do is combine 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoons ground ginger, and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in a small saucepan, bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low-medium and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the sauce is thick like oyster sauce is.

Spice blends are also very important for getting the right taste. Japanese curry has some heat but there is also some sweetness as well. The dominate spices in Japanese curry powder (80-90%) are turmeric, coriander, cumin, and cardamon. Spices that make up 5-15% of the mix are usually clove and fennel. To provide heat, black pepper and cayenne pepper are added along with spices that are unique to each blend such as cinnamon, allspice, fenugreek, bay leaf, sage, star anise, nutmeg, cocoa powder, and coffee powder. I was thinking of making my own blend but I found these in my spice cabinet.

The spice mixes I use
The spice mixes I use

The smell of the Morton & Bassett Curry is almost dead on and includes cumin seed, turmeric, fenugreek, fennel, mustard, coriander seed, allspice, ginger, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. I also wanted a little sweet in there, and this Savory Spice Shop blend of garam masala was perfect. With 2 tablespoons of the curry, 1 tablespoon of the garam masala, and a 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (because I wanted a little more heat), the smell was dead on.

This is a slow cooker recipe. You do have to do some work before putting everything in the slow cooker but trust me, it’s worth it. Seasoning and browning the meat in a large pot and then sautéing the onions, garlic and shredded ginger in the reserved fat for a few minutes before adding the flour (for the roux) and spices/seasoning really builds the flavor of the curry. The final step before transferring everything to the slow cooker is to deglaze the bottom of the pot by adding the beef broth and bringing it to a boil. After transferring everything to the slow cooker along with the browned beef, you cook it on low for three hours before adding the acorn squash (this is a substitute for potatoes, which are illegal on the SCD diet), carrots, and apple. It cooks for another three hours on low before it’s done. The peas are added at the end, once the slow cooker is turned off to prevent them from getting mushy.

Once again, I cannot stress enough how much home made beef broth will improve the taste of your food.

For every dish I do that is served with a side of cauliflower rice, I try to dress it up a bit in ways that complement the main dishes. Because without additional spices, cauliflower rice just tastes like cauliflower. This time, I drew inspiration from onigiri. I can’t have seaweed but if you parboil spinach, squeeze the excess moisture out, and then season it with sesame seed oil and sesame seeds, it can taste similar.

Cauliflower Rice
Cauliflower Rice

Your home will smell very delicious throughout the whole day (and the next too). I have completely changed my mom’s opinion of curries after this dish and the Thai Green Curry with Chicken so even curry haters might like this. Just give it a try. I promise it won’t disappoint. If any of you read Japanese manga or watch Japanese dramas, you will know that before a meal a certain word is spoken in a very energetic and exciting way. I’m going to say it now but for those of who don’t know what it means just say dig in. Itadakimasu (it sounds like eek-e-dak-e-mas)!!!

Japanese Beef Curry - Itadakimasu!
Japanese Beef Curry – Itadakimasu!
5 from 2 votes

SCD Japanese Beef Curry

Servings 8 to 10
Prep Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 7 hours 5 minutes


Tonkatsu Sauce

  • cup ⅓ honey
  • cup ¼ lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • teaspoon ¾ ground ginger

SCD Japanese Beef Curry

  • 2.5-3 lb boneless beef chuck
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 yellow onions halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger grated
  • cup ¼ almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon garem masala
  • teaspoon ½ cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons homemade Tonkatsu sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 cups beef stock/broth
  • inch ½ an acorn squash peeled and cut into 1 cubes
  • 3 carrots sliced
  • 1 large apple diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas


Tonkatsu Sauce

  • First, make your homemade Tonkatsu sauce. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Once it has come to a boil, reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Simmer until it is a thick sauce, similar to oyster sauce. Pour into a container and set aside.

SCD Japanese Beef Curry

  • Place the cubed beef into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon each of salt (preferably sea salt) and pepper. Toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Once the olive oil is warm add the beef. Brown each side for 3 to 4 minutes. Take beef out of the pot once browned and put on a plate, leaving behind the juices/fat.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of butter. Heat on medium-high heat and add the onions, garlic, and ginger and cook (stirring occasionally) for 7 minutes. The onions should be soft and creamy and beginning to darken in color.
  • Add the almond flour and stir for 2 minutes. It will begin to smell like it is burning and will be really thick and semi-dry looking.
  • Add the curry powder, garam masala, cayenne pepper, tomato paste, Tonkatsu sauce, honey, and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Mix well.
  • Slowly pour 1 cup of the beef broth in and deglaze the bottom of the pot, stirring continuously. Add the remaining 3 cups of beef broth and bring the curry to a boil. Turn off heat and transfer to the slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 3 hours with the lid on. Add the acorn squash, carrots, and apple and cook on low for 3 more hours. Turn off the slow cooker and add the peas, stirring them in. Serve with cauliflower or regular rice.


When making a roux and soups, it is a lot easier if you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go into the pot before you start. Ingredients are added very fast so have the flour measured and by your side, the sauces in one small bowl ready to add (tomato paste, honey, and Tonkatsu sauce), the spices in another (curry powder, garam masala, cayenne pepper, and salt), and the beef broth measured out.
For the last hour of cooking I like to take the lid off in order to thicken up the curry some.
Author: Megan Wells
Course: Main Dishes
5 from 2 votes

Cauliflower Rice-Japanese Curry Version

Servings 4
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


Cauliflower Rice

  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • sesame seeds to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Tonkatsu Sauce or to taste, store-bought or homemade
  • salt and pepper to taste

Tonkatsu Sauce

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger


Tankatsu Sauce

  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Once it has come to a boil, reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Simmer until it is a thick sauce, similar to oyster sauce. Pour into a container and set aside.

Cauliflower Rice

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat. Cut the cauliflower into medium sized florets. Try to remove as much of the stalk as possible. Put the cauliflower florets in a bowl and toss with a 1 tablespoon of peanut oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until they are evenly coated. Spread the cauliflower florets onto the lined baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes or until the forest begin to get brown along the edges. Let the cauliflower cool for ten minutes.
  • Take a small handful of cauliflower and place in a blender or food processor. I use a blender and you should be able to see the tips of the blades. Pulse for a few seconds on low speed (a 3 if you have a Vitamix). The cauliflower should have the texture of rice. Pour into a bowl. Repeat until you have "riced" all the cauliflower.
  • Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil. Place the spinach in and keep there for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain. Squeeze excess water out of the spinach and place in a bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and sesame seeds and mix well. Mix the cauliflower rice and the seasoned spinach together. Add 1 teaspoon (or more if desired) of the homemade Tankatsu Sauce and mix well. Add salt, pepper, and sesame seeds until the taste is right to you. Serve with Japanese Beef Curry.
Author: Megan Wells
Course: Sides and Snacks


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