Baked Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry
with Sugar Snap Pea Salad
FOODalogue for her Culinary Tour 2011. Joan has been travelling virtually wherever her imagination takes us. How about meeting her in any one of her itinerary stops and presenting your interpretation of the cuisine from that destination? Who wouldn't enjoy taking a journey around the world even if it is from the comfort of your favourite armchair?? We have already met up in Panama where we feasted on traditional dishes and visited the markets, caught our own salmon and alien looking King Crab in Alaska, and traversed the spice markets of Turkey. Next on our stop is...
If you were asked to think of one Japanese food, what would come to mind? Sushi, raw fish, tempura, tofu? That's what I would think of as well. With Japanese restaurants and Sushi bars popping up all over the world these days Japanese food is no longer considered mysterious. In fact, more and more we are recognizing Japanese food as one of the healthier cuisines. L'il Burnt Toast, the future dietitian, insists on eating sushi like it was going out of style!!!! The traditional Japanese diet is impressively low in cholesterol, fat, and calories, and high in fiber. No wonder residents of Japan have the highest longevity rate.
When it comes to describing Japanese cuisine in a few words, "natural" and "harmony" best fits the description. Many devotees of Japanese food speak of the importance of clean flavours and simplicity. Whatever dish you make, never disguise the natural flavour of the ingredients. Food must be in harmony with nature and the surroundings. Japanese food is refined and elegant, its preparation and presentation honed over the centuries so its flavours are pure and delicate. The cuisine is all about seasonal ingredients, visual presentation, and authentic flavours. Japanese cuisine has developed over the past 2,000 years with strong influences from both China and Korea. But it is only in the last 300-400 years that all the influences have come together to form what nowadays can be described as Japanese cuisine.
What's a trip to Japan without a culinary tour with Intrepid for their Taste of Japan Tour. Spend 2 weeks visiting the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, feasting on mountain views and traditional cuisine in Takayama, touring a 600-year-old market, combining Zen meditation with great food in Koya-san, challenging your taste buds with fugu pufferfish, experiencing Osaka's neon nightlife, and designing and devouring your own okonomiyaki in Hiroshima.
Like all other cuisines, Japanese food is a product of modern culture. For this challenge I bring to the table Chicken Katsu Curry, the traditional Japanese dish served since the late 19th century which was originally inspired by Western cooking. It is not one of the refined dishes I have been mentioning but there is harmony in flavours. It has enjoyed phenomenal success in recent years, with more and more people worldwide flocking to their local eateries to order this wickedly wonderful taste of Japan. What makes it stand out from other curries is that the meat is breaded and fried before having a luxurious silky curry sauce slathered all over it. It’s a family-friendly dish that doesn’t have to be unhealthy – just bake it in the oven instead of deep-frying to cut down on the oil and fat. I served my Chicken Katsu with some steamed Jasmine rice and a sugar snap pea salad. What I loved about this recipe is that I had all of the ingredients in my cupboards already! And as for the salad very refreshing, a great foile for this dish.
Before eating, say "Itadakimasu!" (ee-tah-dah-kee-mahss) which literally means "I humbly receive" and when you're done, say 'Gochisousama deshita!" (Goch-sou-sah-mah-desh-tah) which kind of means "thank you for the meal". I also ate every grain of rice rather than be been considered impolite, but hey this was too good to leave on my plate!!!!
**Baked Chicken Katsu Curry**
For the chicken
100g flour, seasoned with lots of salt and pepper
2 large free-range egg, beaten lightly
300g Japanese panko breadcrumbs
2 skinless/boneless chicken breasts
For the curry sauce
1 tablespoon groundnut or vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon medium curry powder
600ml chicken stock
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 bay leaf
half a teaspoon garam masala
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 F.
To Make the Chicken: Firstly you will want to check the thickness of the chicken. If it’s too thick at one end you will need to “butterfly” it by cutting the under edge of the fillets from the centre towards the outside, being careful not to cut it off completely, and then flatten it out. (Alternatively use a meat mallet to pound your breast into an even thickness). This is important so that the cutlet cooks evenly throughout! Pat the breasts dry with a paper towel. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
Set out two plates (with raised edges if you have them as all this can get a bit messy) and one bowl. Fill one plate with 100g of plain flour which has been well seasoned with salt and pepper, the other with 300g of Japanese panko breadcrumbs (letting a baguette go stale and then grating it works brilliantly too). Finally beat your eggs into a bowl.
One fillet at a time, place the chicken into the flour coating every visible part and crevasse of the meat, next move it to the egg bowl and gently drop it in, again coating it fully. Allow any excess egg to drip off before moving it to the breadcrumbs, covering it as much as possible with the panko. At this point you may be thinking that your cutlet is looking a bit undercoated. That’s because it is… One coating never seems to cut it.
So here is the trick to getting that “Perfect Chicken Katsu” DOUBLE COAT IT! This simply means double dipping and repeating a dip into the egg and then panko crumbs to form a proper layer of breadcrumbs which will not only be more tasty but will also help in the cooking process.
Place the breaded chicken onto a pan and bake for 20 minutes until cooked through (if poked with a sharp knife, juices should run clear). If you want the top to brown more, turn on the broiler for the last minute.
To make the sauce: Heat the oil in a small pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, then throw in the carrots and sweat slowly for 10 minutes with the lid on, giving the odd stir, until softened and starting to caramelise. Stir in the flour and curry powder and cook for a minute. Slowly pour in the stock until combined (do this gradually to avoid getting lumps). Add the honey, soy sauce and bay leaf and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, so the sauce thickens but is still of pouring consistency. Add the garam masala, then pass the sauce through a sieve (unless you prefer a chunky sauce).
When chicken is ready, let rest for 1 minute, then cut into slices. Drizzle with sauce and serve.
**Sugar Snap Pea Salad**
2 cups sugar snap peas, (8 ounces), trimmed
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch-long slivers
Cook peas in lightly salted boiling water in a medium saucepan until tender-crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water.
Whisk vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add scallions, bell pepper and the peas; toss to coat. Serve within 1 hour.
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