Want a taste of international travel without leaving your kitchen? Try making one of Japan’s most recognisable and perhaps best-loved dishes, katsu curry.
What is it?
Second only to ramen as Japan’s favourite food, katsu curry is a complete meal of pork cutlet doused with curry sauce served with rice and a side of shredded cabbage. This recipe is for katsu curry with pork, but chicken, as well as vegetables (flattened and coated in breadcrumbs), are also popular variants.
Ingredients (serves 4)
For the curry sauce:
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
1 tsp turmeric, ground
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice flour or plain flour dissolved in 2 tbsp of water
For the pork cutlet:
4 pieces pork loin (approx 500g/1lb)
250g (9oz) Japanese panko or ordinary breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
Plain flour for dusting
Oil for frying
Plain boiled rice
Finely shredded cabbage
How to cook
Step 1: Prepare the pork cutlet by flattening each with the back of a knife or a rolling pin to tenderise the meat.
Step 2: Dust each cutlet with flour, dip in the beaten egg then coat with the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Step 3: To make the curry sauce, dry-fry the spices and curry powder in a saucepan for a few minutes to release their aromas, then add the oil, onion, honey and soy sauce and cook for a few minutes until the onions have softened.
Step 4: Add the flour mixture and cook until the sauce has thickened. Set aside.
Step 5: To cook the pork cutlets, fry them in a pan with oil over medium heat, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook both sides of each cutlet until the crumbs are golden. Drain the cooked cutlets on a wire rack or paper towel.
Step 6: Serve the pork cutlets with plain boiled rice, topped with the curry sauce and garnished with the shredded cabbage.
It might seem like a bit of a production line, buying a meal ticket from a vending machine and queueing up for seats at one of Japan’s curry houses, which are likely to serve only one type of katsu curry and have their own cult following. Crisp and juicy deep-fried pork cutlets served with gooey, mildly sweet but still pungent curry, rice to soak up the sauce and balance the crunch, and raw shredded cabbage to refresh the palate, make for a satisfying meal. Despite its richness, the Japanese enjoy katsu curry just as much in the summer as winter, believing spicy foods to be good for stimulating the appetite and wash it down with an ice-cold beer or soft drink.