Japanese fast food that’s better than the takeaway? Here’s how to do it at home

Fakeaway Friday: A cracking chicken katsu curry, and chip-shop curry too

Japanese katsu curry with rice. Photograph: iStock

Japanese katsu curry with rice. Photograph: iStock

 

What’s the story with the sudden popularity of chicken katsu curry? The thick, fruity curry sauce served with a breadcrumbed chicken escalope and rice is mild enough to be acceptable to most palates, so it appeals to anyone cooking for young families.

Irish Times food writer Lilly Higgins says the Japanese dish has “long been one of my kids’ favourite dinners. Essentially it’s a tangy, sweet, smooth curry sauce served with breaded chicken. Along with a mountain of soft white rice, this is one dinner that never gets complaints,” she says.

She also has a recipe for katsu curry with aubergine and sweet potato slices, “Yasai katsu involves slices of aubergine that become meltingly delicious inside their deep-fried crumb coating once cooked, and the sweet potato slices retain a little texture and are perfect for dipping into the sauce.” Scroll down for both recipes.

The curry sauce gets its sweet, fruity notes from the addition of carrots, onions, and apple or banana, and sometimes sultanas. The “hidden” fruit and veg also give the sauce its characteristic thick consistency when it is blended.

Katsu curry can also be appreciated by those feeling a bit under the weather, for its comforting and soothing qualities. Takashi Miyazaki, chef proprietor of Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant Ichigo Ichie, and the takeaway, Miyazaki, both in Cork city, agrees. “It can be a junk food, but a comfort food too. I understand that people here want to have curry as a hangover food.”

Miyazaki sells both chicken and pork katsu curry in his takeaway restaurant, and although chicken is more popular than pork here, pork is more authentic. “If you say katsu curry, that means pork cutlet curry in Japan. Pork is more common than chicken.”

In the same way that chicken tikka masala did not originate in India, katsu curry doesn’t have its origins in Japan. “Katsu curry is a real hybrid of a dish. Curry was introduced to Japan during the Meiji era (1868-1912) by the British,” writes Lilly Higgins. You can read the Japan Times take on how curry came to claim its place in Japanese cuisine here.

Higgins’s interest in the dish was sparked by her maternal grandmother. “She was a nurse who worked as an ambulance driver in the Queen Alexandra nursing corps during the second World War, based in Burma, India and Sri Lanka. When she came back to Ireland and had her own children in the 1950s, she made them curries based on those she had eaten abroad and always added cubed apple or sultanas for a fruity sweetness.”

UK chef and TV presenter Tom Kerridge says his chip-shop curry recipe which relies on raisins for its sweet notes, can be used to make chicken katsu curry too. And you can eat the rest with a big plate of chips.

Tubs of Japanese curry sauce concentrate can be found at most Asian food stores, including Asia Market in Dublin, which delivers nationwide. But if you want to have a go at making Japanese curry roux from scratch, take a look at this recipe, from Enda McEvoy, chef proprietor at Michelin starred Loam restaurant in Galway.

Chicken katsu curry with cucumber and carrot ribbons. Photograph: Lilly Higgins
Chicken katsu curry with cucumber and carrot ribbons. Photograph: Lilly Higgins

Lilly Higgins’s chicken katsu curry

Serves: 6

Ingredients
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 onion, finely diced
3 chicken breasts, butterflied open and flattened
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, finely chopped
1 yellow or red pepper, chopped
1 eating apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp curry powder
300ml stock or water
1 x 160ml tin coconut milk
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 eggs, whisked with 2tbsp water
200g plain flour
250g panko breadcrumbs
150ml vegetable oil or sunflower oil for frying
To serve: Plain boiled rice

Method
1 Melt the coconut oil in a medium-sized heavy-based pan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté until the onion is soft. Add the pepper, carrot and apple. Place the lid on and leave to cook for a few minutes before adding the curry powder. Stir to coat everything well and toast the spices a little. Add the stock and coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes until the carrot is cooked.

2 Add the soy sauce, tomato purée and coriander.

3 Remove the curry from the heat and allow to cool a little. Blitz the curry until smooth using a hand-held blender or use a food processor.

4 Pour the smooth curry sauce back into the pan, keep it warm and set aside.

5 Get three shallow bowls and place the flour in one, beaten egg in the other and breadcrumbs in the last.

6 Heat the oil in a wide frying pan. Dip the chicken into the flour, egg, breadcrumbs and then cook in the oil for about three to four minutes on each side, until cooked through.

7 Serve the chicken while it is still piping hot, with the rice and curry sauce.

Aubergine and sweet potato katsu curry. Photograph: Lilly Higgins
Aubergine and sweet potato katsu curry. Photograph: Lilly Higgins

Lilly Higgins’s yasai katsu curry

Serves 6

Ingredients
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, finely diced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 eating apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp curry powder
300ml stock or water
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 aubergine, sliced into .5-inch thick slices
2 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into .5-inch thick slices
2 eggs, whisked with 2 tbsp water
150g plain flour
250g panko breadcrumbs
150ml vegetable oil or sunflower oil for frying
To serve: Plain boiled rice

Method
1 Melt the coconut oil in a medium-sized heavy based pan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté till the onion is soft. Add the yellow pepper, carrot and apple. Place the lid on and leave to cook for a few minutes before adding the curry powder. Stir to coat everything well and toast the spices a little. Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes till the carrot is cooked. Add the soy sauce, tomato puree and coriander. Remove the curry from the heat and allow to cool a little. Blitz the curry till smooth using a handheld blender or use a food processor.

2 Meanwhile, melt 1tbsp of coconut oil in a heavy based pan. Add 1tbsp of plain flour and stir well to form a smooth paste. Leave on the heat for a few minutes to cook. Gradually add the smooth curry back into the pan, whisking as you do so no lumps form. Taste for seasoning and add more soy sauce or a little sugar as necessary. Keep warm and set aside.

3 Get three shallow bowls and place the flour in one, beaten egg in the other and breadcrumbs in the last. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan. Dip the vegetable slices into the flour, egg, breadcrumbs and then cook in the oil for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Serve whilst still piping hot with the rice and curry sauce.

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