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Before heading to Japan, Mrs. Selfish and I had built up a healthy fascination with Japanese curry. If you’ve never had it before, Japanese curry is completely different from your Thai or Indian curries.  It’s thick, savory, and packed with umami.  It’s also typically not that spicy.

Since it’s rarely made from scratch (even in Japan), you can get a decent approximation at your local grocery store in the foreign aisle. We typically make it with chicken, potatoes, carrots, and onions – though you can add whatever you want.

Golden Curry

Ah Golden Curry, the old standby.

Just keep in mind, if you use the full box you’ll end with over 8 portions of curry.  And that stuff gets old after a few days.  Not so with Japanese curry in Japan – I could eat that stuff from dusk until dawn without stopping.

Go! Go! Curry – the old favorite

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Mrs. Selfish and I had Go!Go!Curry during our first trip to Japan, when we were starving in the mean streets of Akihabara, Tokyo.  Having recognized it from an article in Wired, we stepped in and were blown away by the entire experience.

First, it should be stated that you order from a machine. While there are English menus, it’s a pretty simple process. You order the size of your portion, meat topping, and any extras.

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After paying, the machine spits out a couple of tickets, which you take upstairs to give to the server. You then grab a seat, and store your possessions in a basket under your chair (gotta love that Japanese optimization of space).

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Each seat is next to a pitcher of water, and choice of condiments.  Make sure to load up on the pickled radish, which is a very Japanese-type topping, and makes everything better.

Go!Go!Curry adheres to the Kanazawa style of curries – no vegetables in the curry sauce, and as black as your clogged arteries. Top with pork katsu (deep fried pork cutlet), and a side of cabbage.

After a few minutes of agonizing anticipation, the curry finally arrives. I’m pretty traditional when it comes to curry – so I usually opt for the pork katsu. I order the small portion every time, but then go for extra katsu.

So. Porky. So. Good.

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The curry sauce is thick, savory, dark, and really, really addictive. The pork katsu is crispy, salty, and jam-packed with porky goodness. I want more just thinking about it.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go all the way to Japan to try Go!Go!Curry, since they have a few locations in New York City.

CoCo Curry – Customization King

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CoCo Curry seems to be the most prevalent fast food curry house in Japan.  We’ve seen it in just about every city we’ve visited – sometimes in multiple locations per city.  And after eating there I can see why: customization.

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CoCo curry allows you to customize just about everything to your taste.  Too much rice? Get the small size. Not spicy enough? Try spice level 3 (they have around 6 levels of spicyness). Don’t like the beef-based curry sauce? Try one of the other two. Want different toppings? They have sixteen.

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Unlike Go!Go!Curry the pork katsu was a little small, but the sauce was delicious and had a nice kick (I ordered spice level 2).

The second time we went Mrs. Selfish tried the mushroom curry with kaarage (fried chicken), which was excellent.  I opted for a pork katsu/kaarage mix, which was probably a mini-heart attack in the making, but man was it good!

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Crispy, salty, tender, moist chunks of meat covered in a hearty curry – it was an immediate crowd pleaser.  Like Go!Go!Curry, CoCo curry has also found its way to the States with locations in Hawaii, and California.

Although both curries come from different schools of Japanese curry, they are both worth a try.  Though I must warn you, finishing that last piece of curry is inevitably followed by regret – either from your bulging stomach, or the sad fact that the meal has come to an end.