Friday, June 24, 2011

japanese baked chicken katsu curry

somehow i never had japanese curry until last summer, despite my abiding love for all things curry. it was a revelation and now i crave it regularly. while i also love indian and thai curries, there's something different and particularly addictive about the japanese style. it's kind of sweet, but not in a coconut milk way. it's spiced, but not spicy. i don't know - basically it's just really good and i wish i was eating some right now.

as the wikipedia link mentions, you can certainly make it from scratch, but people often use mixes.* i got this one from uwajimaya, which is an awesome asian market with all kinds of stuff, but it should be available at any asian market or at some supermarkets. i don't know that this is the best one around, but it was good enough for us. here is a link to a taste test of some - i will probably try another next time.

the traditional vegetables to put in the curry are potatoes, carrots, and onions (my onion was a farmer's market one, hence the little round slices at bottom right). i also added a sliced jalapeño this time and another time when i made it i used a small sweet potato as well. it's totally simple - just cut up the vegetables, as above, then cook the onion for a couple of minutes until it's translucent. then add the others and add however much water the curry roux box tells you to add. for mine, it was 3 cups of water for 1/2 the package. the curry comes in little blocks that you break up into the vegetables/water mixture once the vegetables are softish and basically done. then it thickens up and makes your house smell amazing.

you can add some kind of protein to the vegetables you use and have the whole thing over rice or noodles (which would be the best 15 minute meal ever), but i like making a version of chicken katsu to have with it. the curry can just sit for a bit while you make the chicken katsu, if you're doing that, or there is plenty of time to make that part while the chicken is baking.

usually katsu (which can be pork, beef, ham, chicken, etc) is breaded and deep-fried. i am kind of scared of deep frying things, and i don't have a thermometer for that kind of business, so i decided to just bread and bake some boneless skinless chicken thighs. Thighs are good for this because they are less likely to dry out than breast meat. also they are usually pretty cheap, even when you spring for the ones that are humanely raised and slaughtered.

the first time i made this i put the chicken into a plastic bag and smacked it a bit with the bottom of a heavy pan - i was trying to make it flatter so it would cook more evenly. i still think this is a good idea, but the next time i made it i didn't do that and we still ate it with gusto. so, your choice.

then you need to dip each piece in seasoned flour - just some salt and pepper will do. then have your station set up so you can dip into beaten egg (i used just one normal egg for a little over a pound of meat), then into seasoned (s+p again!) panko bread crumbs. the panko ones are great for this because they are bigger and scragglier than regular bread crumbs and they crisp up really well. i guess you could use regular bread crumbs, but panko is everywhere now so you should be able to find it easily in the supermarket (by the prole bread crumbs, probably. or in the asian section).

then just put them on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven for about 40 minutes or so. it depends on how thick they are, really. if you have a meat thermometer, use that to check the thickest part of the meat. otherwise, just cut into it and see if it is raw. if it is, cook it more! if this approach makes you nervous, probably you should spring for a meat thermometer.

you should probably make some rice at some point, too. we used jasmine rice that i just tossed in the rice cooker (best. invention. ever.), but you can use whatever kind.

sadly, i don't have a picture of the finished dish. this is for a number of reasons, such as that it was dark when we finally ate and also it is hard to take a picture of brown curry and vegetables and chicken and have it look pretty. so let's just say it looked exactly like this:

(imagine a very pretty katsu curry dish)

anyway, you get the idea. rice, vegetables in amazingly delicious curry sauce, crunchy chicken. it is the new favorite meal of our household and we love it lots. maybe you will as well!

*i should note that my friend who is half japanese was pretty strongly insistent on the need to make the roux yourself. but he has never given me a recipe to do so, so until that happy day comes, i'm sticking with this.

*ingredients* for like 6 servings? it depends on how hungry you are.
1 large onion (or two medium ones or whatever)
4 small carrots (or like 2 carrots and some sweet potato, etc)
some potatoes - i used four mediumish ones
jalapeño (optional)
1/2 package japanese curry roux mix

baked katsu chicken
~1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
~ 1/3 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
~ 1 cup panko bread crumbs (this is inexact, obviously, but you just want to really coat them well with the crumbs)

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