This is curry – but not as you know it. While we're familiar with the meat plus vegetables in a spicy sauce set-up, curry dishes are usually celebrated for being soft and slow-cooked, the kind of dish that's smooth in every bite. But not the katsu curry – each bite is filled with character in this one. Crispy fried fillet dressed up in a golden breadcrumb coating that you can chomp through with a satisfying crunch contrasts beautifully with its silky aromatic sauce.
Cubo, Kokumi and MoschMosch are all masters in the art of the Japanese katsu. If you're looking for the complexity and depth of flavour of a curry, but need that hit of unashamed deep-fried indulgence, then this is the dish for you.
The schnitzel-style meat may be the star of the show, but its sauce is a cheering chorus line. Super-thick and embodying that elusive salty-but-sweet flavour, a traditional katsu curry sauce is a masterclass in diversity. Ingredients vary from recipe-to-recipe, but you'll find a few usual suspects in every line-up.
Onions, garlic, carrots, soy sauce, honey, plus a little ginger and chilli, create the sticky-sweet base for the spices – and garam masala, cumin and a couple of bay leaves are regulars here. Other favourites include crushed coriander seeds, a couple of cardamom pods, fennel, fenugreek and turmeric – which also adds to the katsu's famous yellowy-golden colour.
A tale of East meets West
As the story goes, Japanese curry was invented around 100 years ago in Tokyo during the Meiji Era – a time when the Emperor Meiji wanted to lead the country to become more modern, and so positively encouraged Western culinary influences to meet Eastern cooking traditions. As a result, the katsu curry was a fusion dish of British and Japanese creation, but it's now so widely consumed in Japan that it's considered a national dish.
Fast-forward to today and katsu curry's popularity is soaring in the western world. It's rich in flavour but low in heat. The sauce packs enough of a punch to satisfy the curry fanatics out there, but it is delicate enough to delight the palate of anyone new to the dish.
Take a twist on a classic
As is the beauty of the curry, each of our favourite Japanese restaurants puts their own subtle culinary take on tradition. At Kokumi, you'll find the sauce akin to a rich dark gravy, garnished with fresh salad and served with a pork cutlet. At Cubo, your chicken katsu curry is bursting with grilled carrots, aubergines, potatoes and okra.
And MoschMosch leads the way for the most vibrant variation – turmeric-heavy, and with the addition of courgettes, this is a bowl of bright sunshine. Opt in for some sides, too – edamame beans, kim chi, gyoza – as this is perfect dipping sauce for those little morsels.
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