I have great memories of an amazing trip I made a few years ago to Tokyo. It was a work trip but there was some time in the evenings to explore the Japanese culture and cuisine. I started to cook katsu curry after this trip as I tried it in a restaurant in the Tokyo Tower. Katsu curry is the ultimate comfort food as far as I am concerned. Crunchy bread crumbed 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 katsu curry is very popular. Traditionally made from bread crumbed pork served with curry sauce and rice, the recipe I want to show you uses chicken. 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 whilst you coat the rest.
- If you have time, chill for 30-60 minutes as this helps the coating to ‘set’
- Pour the oil into a deep non-stick frying pan and set over a medium heat.
- Be careful not to overheat the oil and do not leave it unattended!
- Using tongs, lower the chicken breasts gently into the hot oil. Cook for 5-6 minutes on either side to give a nice golden brown colour and to cook the chicken.
- Keep these chicken breasts warm whilst you cook the others.
- Five minutes before the chicken breasts are ready, take the cling film off the sauce and re-heat over a low heat and bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Slice the chicken breasts thickly and serve on warmed plates with steamed rice and some hot sauce. Serve immediately.
Tip 1: if you want to make this dish healthier, you could oven bake the chicken for about 20 -25 minutes @ 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.
Tip 2: to enhance presentation, serve the curry sauce in individual sauce jugs.