This post is dedicated to my sister who has always adored Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry. That’s not to say that I don’t, because I certainly do, but not in the same way as my sister. A few years ago when I visited her in Vancouver she ordered it in a Japanese restaurant hoping that it would bring back the same happy childhood memories of the dish. Sadly the disappointment on her face when she tried their offering was plain to see, so I made it my mission there and then to try and find the recipe of our youth.
You may be wondering why we were eating such cosmopolitan food at such a young age in 80’s rural England. Our blessing was that my family had close links with a Japanese boarding school called the Rikkyo School. Most half term holidays we would welcome a couple of Rikkyo students, who were the same age as ourselves, into our home, as their parents lived overseas. We always looked forward to the arrival of our new guests and spending time in their company. Reserved, with gentle, quiet manners, our home and food must have seemed so alien to what they were used to.
In return for our hospitality we were invited to their annual open day. We so looked forward to this day, in fact it was definitely up there as one of our favourite days of the year, along with the village fete, Christmas, Easter, bonfire night and halloween. It transported us to another world that was completely new to us. I think that it was these childhood experiences which gave my whole family a genuine fondness and fascination with all things Japanese. To this day I visit a Japanese hairdressers whenever I need a haircut, not least because it transports me to Japan without having to get on a plane and the service is exemplary.
Anyway back to the ‘open day’.
The day consisted of watching displays of jujitsu and kendo, visiting their classrooms and seeing all the work they had done over that year, going to a Japanese tea ceremony, visiting the haunted tunnel which they had put together, going to a music concert, but most of all we enjoyed having lunch and sampling their delicious food, especially the chicken katsu curry with Japanese sticky rice.
So you can see where this fondness for the dish began.
Chicken Katsu Curry
4, chicken breasts
200g panko breadcrumbs
plain flour, enough for coating
5 eggs, whisked
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 golden delicious apples, peeled and chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 pint of water
2 bananas, sliced
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1 tsp of curry powder
salt and pepper, a couple of pinches to suit tastes
100 ml cold water
4 tsp of cornflour
2 carrots, chopped into bite size chunks
1 very large potato, chopped into bite size chunks
(optional – 1 onion, chopped into bite size quarters)
1. Place half the butter into a saucepan on a low heat and add the onion and garlic. After a couple of minutes add the apple and grated ginger. Stir regularly to prevent burning for another few minutes.
2. Now add 1 pint of water to the pan along with 2 bananas, honey, tomato ketchup, turmeric and curry powder. Bring to the boil and then simmer. To thicken the curry you need to now add the cornflour to 100 ml of cold water. Stir into the curry and then continue to simmer for a further 20 minutes. If you think it needs a little more water at this stage do not be afraid to add a little more. If you over water then just add a little more cornflour. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Strain the contents of the pan through a sieve so that you are left with a smooth liquid. Set aside. (please note: another time I may try using my hand whisk to blend all of the mixture together so that I do not waste any ingredients – if you do this and it works then please let me know!)
4. In the same pan you had been using for the curry mixture, add the remaining butter and warm on a low heat. Now add the chopped carrots and potato. At this stage you could also had an onion quartered into mouth sized segments! Continue to stir for a couple of minutes, making sure the vegetables do not burn. Now add the strained curry sauce that you have put to one side and gently simmer for 30 minutes, or until the potato and carrots are soft.
5. In separate bowls place the flour, whisked eggs and Japanese panko bread crumbs. By all means use ordinary breadcrumbs but you will find that panko have a coarser texture to ordinary breadcrumbs, which give a certain edge to this dish. They are also more delicate and absorb less oil than western breadcrumbs. They can be found at Asian supermarkets, although I managed to get mine on line at Amazon.
6. Flatten the chicken slightly using a rolling pin so that it is of even thickness and hence will cook evenly in the oil. Then place the chicken breast in the flour and coat both sides, then move it to the egg bowl and do the same procedure and then move on to the panko breadcrumbs. I like to have a good coating of breadcrumbs so I repeated this last procedure – egg -breadcrumbs-egg-breadcrumbs.
7. Warm a deep pan or wok with oil and so that it become very hot. Sprinkle a few panko breadcumbs into the pan and if they sizzle the oil is hot enough. Then gently place the breaded chicken into the oil moving it gently in the oil. Cook for up to three minutes and then turn over and repeat so that the chicken is thoroughly cooked through. Then take out and place on some kitchen roll. At this stage it is good to make some some incisions into the chicken to make sure it is properly cooked through. If need be you will have to place in the oil a little longer, but be careful not to over cook.
8. Repeat the procedure with all four chicken breasts and place on a warm plate in a low oven whilst you are preparing the next chicken breast.
9. Evenly slice the chicken and pour the warm sauce on top with some Japanese sticky rice on the side. Red-dyed pickled daikon and shredded cabbage are also eaten with this dish, although I did not manage to source them this time.