Life is busy what with learning German, training for a half marathon, a new job and helping out at a theatre but I always find a little time every month to write about food :-). I’ve wanted to cook Japanese katsu curry ever since I tried it in a restaurant in the Tokyo Tower in downtown Tokyo. It was the ultimate comfort food as far as I was concerned. Crunchy breadcrumbed chicken or pork, smooth curry sauce and rice.
There is an interesting background to curry in Japan. It is said that curry was spread to Japan from the west at the end of the Edo period after the ports re-opened, and that the first curry recipe was introduced to Japan in 1872. After 200 years of seclusion, the whole nation was keen to embrace western culture, and food was no exception. However, curry and rice was an expensive gourmet dish and could cost eight times more than a typical local dish. However, it rapidly gained popularity.
In the 1910s, the recipe for Japanese curry and rice was invented, featuring onions, carrots and potatoes as ingredients. This recipe was adopted by the Japanese army because of its nutritional value and ease of cooking. In 1923, Minejiro Yamazaki (founder of S&B Foods Inc.) was determined to develop a Japanese curry powder. After much trial and error, he finally succeeded in his goal. Today, every family has curry powder at home.
Today there are many varieties of curry eaten in the Japanese home and in their restaurants and Japanese katsu curry is very popular. Traditionally made from breadcrumbed pork served with curry sauce and rice, the recipe I want to show you uses chicken. It is more tender and easier to cook I think. It is actually taken from The Hairy Bikers’ Great Curries book:
4 x 175g boneless, skinless chicken breasts
50g plain flour
1 large egg
100g Japanese panko breadcrumbs or dry white breadcrumbs
100ml sunflower oil or groundnut oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
25g chunk of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp medium curry powder
1 tsp ground star anise
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
20g plain flour
500ml chicken stock (made with 1 chicken stock cube)
2 tsp tomato purée
freshly ground black pepper
- First make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan and add the chopped onions.
- Cover with a lid and gently fry the onions for 8–10 minutes until well softened, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the lid, increase the heat a little and cook for 3 minutes more, stirring often, until the onions are pale golden brown. Reduce the heat, add the ginger and garlic and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir the curry powder, star anise, turmeric and a few twists of ground black pepper into the onions. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Sprinkle over the plain flour and stir well. Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring constantly until it is all incorporated. Add the tomato purée and bring to a simmer, then cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and blitz with a stick blender until smooth. If you don’t have a stick blender, let the sauce cool for a few minutes and blend in a food processor until smooth. Cover with cling film and set aside while you prepare the chicken.
- One at a time, place the chicken breasts on a board and cover with cling film. Bash the thickest part of the chicken with a rolling pin until the pieces have an even depth – just under 2cm.
- Sift the flour on to a large plate.
- Beat the egg in a medium bowl with a metal whisk until smooth.
- Sprinkle half the breadcrumbs over a small tray.
- Take a chicken breast and dust it in the flour.
- Shake off any excess and dip it straight into the beaten egg, then coat it in the breadcrumbs until evenly covered.
- Put the chicken breast on a tray while you coat the rest, adding the reserved breadcrumbs after coating 2 breasts.
- Chill for 30–60 minutes if you have time, as this will help the breadcrumb coating to ‘set’.
- Pour the oil into a deep non-stick frying pan and set over a medium heat. DO NOT ALLOW THE OIL TO OVERHEAT AND NEVER LEAVE HOT OIL UNATTENDED. Using tongs, gently lower 2 of the chicken breasts into the hot oil. Cook for 5–6 minutes on each side until the chicken is crisp, golden brown and cooked through – there should be no pinkness remaining in the centre.
- Keep these chicken breasts warm while you cook the others.
- Five minutes before the chicken is ready, remove the cling film from the curry sauce and pour it into a pan over a low heat.
- Slowly bring to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Slice the crisp chicken breasts thickly and serve on warmed plates with steamed rice and some hot sauce, or place the sauce in small dishes to serve alongside. Serve immediately
Tip 1: personally I am not keen on star anise and you can leave this out of the curry sauce and it is a lovely curry sauce still. The star anise gives it a flavour of aniseed. It is personal taste though.
Tip 2: this curry sauce minus the aniseed makes a great chip shop curry sauce alternative!
Serve on the plate with the breadcrumbed chicken the smooth curry sauce and a heap of white rice.