I will tell you right up front. I have never been to Japan, I know very little about Japanese food and I don’t like sushi, so I haven’t explored the local Japanese offerings in depth. I will also tell you my interest in this dish comes from a place I don’t normally get inspiration. I first had this at a fast-casual Japanese restaurant in London that I stopped in to get out of a downpour. It was delicious. Then I saw it as a heat-and-eat meal in the grocery a day or so later and, I admit, I bought it. It too was pretty darn good. So I decided there had to be a way to make the recipe at home, so I started searching the internet. Lots of the recipes that came up were from British websites, which reinforced my sense that katsu is becoming a pretty standard dish in the UK (once something reaches the grocery store shelf, you know the trend has taken off). I discovered several things in my research. First, in every recipe I found, the chicken is breaded and fried. That’s what makes it so delightfully crispy and crunchy. Second, a lot of the curry sauce recipes I found used packaged mixes or ingredients not readily available at home, plus I am not a big fan of packaged mixes.
I wanted to make this an accessible recipe. Frying is a rare thing for me. The mess and the prep and the lingering smell. I fry chicken and fish on the burner of the outdoor grill sometimes, but it is certainly not something I do for a weeknight meal, so I wanted to make a baked version of chicken katsu that was still brown and crispy. And I cobbled together some ingredients and instructions for the curry sauce from some websites written in Japanese and translated (poorly) and few ideas from the English versions. The curry sauce is fantastic, perfect with the crispy chicken and rice, but also delicious served with Japanese noodles.
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons curry powder
- 2 ½ cups chicken broth
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 3 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- salt and pepper
- 2 eggs
- Pour the canola oil in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and carrot and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables start to soften, then cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is very soft and slightly golden and caramelized, about 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle over the flour and curry powder and stir to coat the vegetables, then pour in the chicken stock. Add the soy sauce and honey. Stir to dissolve the flour, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in the garam masala, then use an immersion blender to just blend the sauce. You don’t need to go for smooth here. Pour the sauce through a strainer into a glass bowl, rinse out the pan and return the sauce to it. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is thickened a little, but still pourable. Season with salt to taste. The sauce can be kept warm over low heat while you make the Katsu, or made a day ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerate. Gently reheat the sauce over low heat.
- Put the breadcrumbs in a large dry skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they are consistently golden. Turn over and stir constantly to prevent burning. They don’t have to be completely browned, just mostly toasted. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
- Cut the chicken breasts in half and place each half between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until evenly thin, about ¼ inch thick. Mix the flour with a generous amount of salt and black pepper on a flat plate. Beat the egg with a little splash of water on a second plate and spread the panko out on a third plate. Dip the chicken pieces in the flour and shake off any excess, then dip in the egg and allow the excess to drip off. Press the chicken breast into the panko crumbs, making sure both sides are fully coated, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all the chicken.
- Bake the chicken for about 20 minutes until crispy and coked through, then serve with a drizzle of curry sauce, with extra sauce in the side for dipping. Serve with rice.
- This recipe makes a more sauce than you think you will need, but it is delicious stirred into rice and I want it with every bite of chicken. Leftover sauce is great tossed with noodles and vegetables.
- If you want to be more traditional, don’t toast the panko, but coat the chicken as directed, then fry in about 2 inches of hot vegetable oil.
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