As you read this, a towering 150-litre stockpot deep in Shafto Lane is performing magic: namely, transforming a truckload of ingredients into a golden, life-affirming curry. This magic trick takes three days to pull off and involves seasonings imported from Japan, ingredients grown in Western Australia (including, curiously, a banana) plus plenty of heating, cooling and waiting. This stockpot is almost certainly the only stockpot in Australia being used to make Hokkaido-style curry, or at least commercially and in these sorts of quantities. But with time, perhaps others will follow its lead. That’s the feeling of Nobukazu Muraki, owner of recently opened Rojiura Curry Samurai and someone who is all too aware of the dish’s appeal.
“If you ask people in Hokkaido what their favourite food is, the answer would be ramen, sushi and then soup curry,” says Muraki who was born in Noboribetsu in the south of Hokkaido.
Like most people who grew up in Japan’s northern-most major island, Muraki ate his fair share of Hokkaido curry – a thinner, more soup-like curry than the thicker roux-based Japanese curries usually found in Perth – while studying at university. But unlike most, he spent three years working nights at specialist Hokkaido curry shops while holding down his day-job as a Tokyo salaryman in his 30s. Which goes some way to explaining why the curry served at the two-month-old Perth outpost of Rojiura brims with so much flavour. (Having said that, I also suspect Muraki’s commercial cooking studies in his early 20s, plus time spent working in Perth establishments such as Modern Eatery, Flour Factory or Kailis Leederville have played their parts, too.)
Save 20% when you buy two or more Broadsheet books. Order now to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas.SHOP NOW
Taste aside, the curry served at Rojiura is also notable for how customisable it is. Diners can choose from four different soup bases including vegan variants (the curry base is vegan by nature but the regular broth is enriched with a stock made from chicken and pork); pick a spice level from zero to 10; and select a small, medium or large serving portion of rice. As to what’s in the curry, options range from fried chicken and braised pork belly to a vegan-friendly, all-vegetable option, plus additional rice toppings such as fried oysters, soft-boiled eggs and fried broccoli.
Curry is just one way that Muraki is repping his hometown. The rice is the beloved Hokkaido shortgrain rice Kirara (“very, very sweet,” says Muraki), while the beer list champions Sapporo, Yebisu and other Hokkaido-born beers. Wines from Yoichi Winery – yes, the same Yoichi behind the whisky – are also available and Muraki says Rojiura is the only place in Australia selling these wines. (Our man regularly receives care packages from Japan filled with these Hokkaido products as well as the seasonings to make the curry soup.)
“Hokkaido is one of Japan’s major food towns so I’m proud of it,” says Muraki. “I want to introduce Hokkaido food to more people.”
Wondering what the name means? Muraki says it translates to “narrow space”. When the original Rojiura opened in Sapporo, it was a poky 25-seater that some customers struggled to find. Although Rojiura’s first international outpost is double that size and can accommodate up to 50 guests, the name this time is a nod to Shafto Lane – a narrow space connecting Murray and Hay streets in the CBD.
Rojiura Curry Samurai
4A Shafto Lane, Perth
(08) 6185 1523
Mon – Thu 11:30am-3pm; 5:30pm-8:30pm
Fri – Sun 11:30am-3pm; 5:30pm-9pm