Japanese sailors share their ‘secret’ curry recipes with US Navy chefs in Yokosuka
Stars and Stripes July 26, 2023
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Japanese curry, a popular dish whose recipes are jealously guarded in the galleys of the country’s naval vessels, is coming to American clubs at the homeport of the U.S. 7th Fleet.
Four Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are supplying their curry recipes to clubs at Yokosuka, recipes closely held to prevent one ship from appropriating the distinctive ingredients of another, according to Larry Criner, acting Fleet and Family Services director.
To mark the occasion, Club Alliance — the base enlisted club — hosted a tasting event on July 21 to showcase Kizuna 111, a curry made aboard an unnamed Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship.
“The folklore is that it’s a secret, so the other ships don’t ‘steal’ the flavor of the other ship,” Criner said at the event. “Think of it as capture the flag.”
The tasting was attended by Capt. Les Sobol, Yokosuka Naval Base’s commander; Yokosuka city vice mayor Hiroshi Kamijo; Capt. Rafael Facundo, deputy commander and chief of staff for U.S. Naval Forces Japan; and officers from the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the guided-missile destroyers JS Onami and JS Takanami.
“This is about embracing your teammates and your partners on common ground,” Sobol said at the event. “When you get to break bread with somebody and you get to eat something that they're very proud of and they're proud of making, it's magical.”
Sailors in the Japanese navy are served curry nearly every Friday at base dining halls and in ship galleys. The service picked up the tradition from the United Kingdom, which adopted curry from India.
The Japanese discovered curry had the right ingredients to prevent beriberi, a disease linked to a vitamin B1 deficiency, and the meal became a staple in the service, according to the Atlas Obscura website. Japanese sailors consume about 45 tons of curry a year, about 2.25 million meals, according to the Maritime Self-Defense Force website.
Four curry varieties will be rolled out eventually at the Chiefs Club, the Officers Club and Club Alliance at the naval base and Club Takemiya at Ikego Housing Detachment, Criner said.
“This helps with our partnership with our Japanese allies,” he said. “Everyone’s so excited. The Japanese are excited to share these flavors of curries that are uniquely theirs, and the Americans, we are excited to be part of the process.”
Kizuna 111, the curry at Friday’s tasting, is beef-based and comes with two varieties of rice: garlic and coffee. In Japanese, Kizuna means “the bond that connects us.”
“It's just amazing,” Sobol said. “It's very well done. The coffee rice is not overpowering, there is just a hint of coffee taste, just enough to make it tastes really good. The curry is sweet and savory with not a lot of spice to it. It is well done and balanced.”
Club Alliance will serve Kizuna 111 on Friday at the Italian Gardens restaurant, base spokesman Randall Baucom told Stars and Stripes by email Monday. How often it will be available has yet to be determined.
Cooks from each ship taught Yokosuka Morale, Welfare and Recreation chefs how to prepare the curries. Kizuna 111 takes a couple of hours to make; the most difficult process is getting the beef appropriately tender, MWR chef Takashi Watanabe said Friday.
“It's an honor,” he said.
Expert diners approved of the result.
“The curry was very good, with a rich taste to it,” said Chief Hiroyuki Ogata, a culinary specialist on the JS Onami.
An order of Japanese navy curry will go for $5 at the base and housing area clubs, Criner said. The menu is subject to change, depending on available ingredients.
“Give it a try,” Sobol said. “If you're curry fan, you're gonna love it. If you're not a curry fan, you're gonna be pleasantly surprised about just how good it is.”