You wouldn’t catch your average Japanese housewife faffing around making a curry roux from scratch. Not when there are dozens of excellent ready made versions requiring little more effort than the mere flick of a kettle switch.
Katsu curry is a veritable thing of joy and one that’s warmed me through many a grim London winter but I must admit, I’ve always turned lazily to those ready made bars of S&B. So when an old friend from Osaka passed on her recipe, I was excited at the thought of seeing what actually went into this unique dish.
Curry was first introduced to the Japanese by British soldiers during the days of the Raj, and their twice removed version explains the use of ingredients like honey and fruit as well as the predilection for pork instead of the more traditional chicken or lamb.
Today “kare” is adored as a national dish, and turns up in everything from bread to soup and noodles. There are some fascinating regional versions back in Nihon, including Nashi pear curry, Hiroshima’s oyster curry, deer curry from Hokkaido and Nagano’s apple curry. However, on this island it’s the crispy breaded protein slathered in that spicy sweet sauce, more reminiscent of the chip shop than the curry house, that we’ve grown to know and love.
The word “katsu” is derived from “cutlet” and basically refers to any deep-fried boneless meat. Instead of pork I plumped for turkey, to delicious effect. Predictably enough the home made version blows those shop bought sauces out of the water. It somehow combines all the comforting, Fisher Price creaminess you’d expect, with a fragrant jab of fresh, spicy heat. An utter delight.
It might be a far cry from the stuff you’d find on a Hyderabadi hob, but somehow it never fails to comfort and soothe, which ultimately, is all a good curry needs to do.
4 turkey steaks
2 tbsp plain flour
1 egg, beaten
25g (1oz) panko breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for deep frying
Rice (preferably Japanese, but I find brown rice also works well)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
25g (1oz) butter
1 onion, sliced v.thinly
3 garlic cloves, grated/finely chopped
1 inch fresh root ginger, finely grated/chopped
2 tbsp mild Japanese curry powder or 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp Indian curry powder
4 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp mango chutney (Geetas is good)
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
400g (14 oz) button mushrooms, sliced
1 cooking apple, grated
1 carrot grated
1 stick celery, finely chopped
600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
- First make your curry roux. Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan over a very gentle heat. Add the onion and leave for about half an hour to forty minutes, until nicely caramelised.
- Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder and flour and stir well.
- Stir in the chutney, ketchup, soy sauce and honey. Taste and adjust as necessary (it should be hot, tangy and creamy). Set to one side.
- For the curry sauce, heat the oil in another pan and fry onion until translucent. Add mushrooms, apple, carrot, and celery and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until tender.
- Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Incrementally add the curry roux, until it’s all incorporated.
- You should be left with a viscous, glossy sauce, with the consistency of thick pouring cream. Add salt to taste, cover and simmer over a low heat.
- Season the turkey steaks. Dust with flour, then dip in the beaten egg and coat with the panko, firmly pushing the crumbs into any exposed areas.
- Heat the oil for deep frying. Fry the steaks for about 5 minutes on each side or until the meat is thoroughly cooked all the way through.
- Drain and arrange over a bed of rice. Spoon over the hot curry sauce and scoff immediately.