... to make consummate comfort dishes such as this chicken katsu curry from his new book
The story of Japanese curry is one of global empires rising and falling. Before the end of the 19th century, there was no curry in Japan. It was introduced not from India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia – or anywhere else that can be thought of as somewhere curry originates – but from Britain. At that time, South Asian curry had already been integrated into the imperial diet, and it was British military officers and diplomats who introduced it to the Japanese. British curry – not very spicy, thickened with flour – caught on, particularly with the Japanese navy and army, where it was an economical and tasty way to feed hundreds of hungry servicemen.
Curry remains one of Japan’s favourite comfort foods, as delicious as it is weirdly divorced from curry’s Asian origins. Whereas an Indian curry will be naturally thick from pureed onions/tomatoes/chillies and a whole heap of spices, Japan’s curry is based on a flour-and-butter roux that thickens a lightly spiced, stock-based sauce. I do love Japanese curry, but I also love South Asian curries with their vibrancy and layers of flavour. This recipe combines the two. I keep my curry sauce itself vegetarian, because I find it just as satisfying that way, but if you want you can add chicken, beef or pork to this. In fact, you can add just about anything you want (at the restaurant we put ham and cheese on it and it’s amazing). (Note: if you want a really authentic and really easy Japanese curry experience at home, just buy a box of instant Japanese curry at an Asian supermarket. No, really
– it’s good and cheap and fast, and it really doesn’t get much more authentic than that!)
Katsu curry is simply Japanese curry rice with the delightful addition of breaded, fried meat – typically chicken. Feel free to use less veg in the sauce, if you like, since there will be more bulk from the katsu.
Chicken katsu curry
1 onion, cut into small chunks 2 carrots, peeled and cut into wedges 400g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks ½ cauliflower, broken into bitesize florets
For the curry sauce
4 tbsp oil 1 large onion, roughly chopped 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
1 green chilli, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ green apple, peeled and chopped ½ banana
30g mild Madras curry powder
2 tbsp garam masala
750ml chicken or beef stock
6 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp soy sauce
For the chicken katsu (optional)
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally into 2 thin escalopes Salt and black pepper
Plain (all-purpose) flour, for dredging 1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk or water
200g panko breadcrumbs
Oil, for shallow frying
1 For the sauce, combine the oil, onion, ginger, chilli, garlic, tomatoes, apple, banana, curry powder and garam masala in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Pour this into a saucepan and cook on a medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mixture begins to caramelise and the spices become aromatic. Add the stock and bring to the boil. 2 Meanwhile, melt the butter in a separate saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook on a low heat for about 8 minutes, stirring constantly, until the roux thickens and turns a golden brown colour. Ladle the curry mixture from the other pan into the roux, a little at a time, whisking constantly to incorporate. Add the ketchup and soy sauce. Cook the mixture until it’s quite thick, then transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree until very smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
3 Put the onion, carrots and potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, add the cauliflower and reduce to a simmer.
4 Cook for about 10 minutes, or until everything is tender. Drain and return to the pan, and pour in the curry sauce. Bring everything back to a simmer.
5 To make the chicken katsu, season the chicken breasts well with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Soak them in the beaten egg, then coat them thoroughly with the panko. Heat a little oil (about 2mm in depth) in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Lay the breaded chicken in the oil and cook for 5–6 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on kitchen paper or a wire rack. Leave to rest briefly before slicing.
6 Serve the sliced chicken katsu with a helping of rice, and of curry – on top, or on the side, as you prefer.
JapanEasy: Classic and Modern Japanese Recipes to Cook At Home (Hardie Grant) is out now