Katsu Curry Don Invokes Memories of Japan
When I visited Japan in 2019, curry was one of my favorite dishes to order. Japanese restaurants almost always show pictures or models of the dishes, and the curry never failed to look delicious. I tried them all: curry rice, beef curry, and my favorite, katsu curry don. The curry sauce paired with the panko breaded katsu was fantastic, and the thin sliced pieces of katsu were the perfect size to dip in the curry, or load into a spoonful of rice and curry sauce.
History of Curry
Curry came to Japan during the Meiji era, in the 1870s. It became popular in the early 1900s after it was introduced to the Japanese Navy. Beef or chicken curry, paired with bread and pickled vegetables was the standard meal served aboard Japanese Navy ships. After it caught on in navy vessels, it began to appear in school cafeterias, and just like that, curry became a staple in Japanese culture. And it makes sense – it’s impossibly easy to make a huge pot of curry that will feed a ship or school worth of people. Not to mention the delicious flavor of the curry roux that seems to pair well with any meat or vegetable you choose.
Katsu: Chicken or Pork?
Katsu, in Japanese, simply means cutlet. It implies a cutlet of meat dunked in egg, breaded in panko, and fried. You can do this with any meat: chicken, pork, even beef, but the most common ones I saw in restaurants are chicken and pork. Pork cutlet is called tonkatsu and chicken is usually just called katsu or chicken katsu, while beef would be gyukatsu. Any kind of katsu will go great in curry, but I will be using chicken for this recipe. Chicken is especially good because it is lower calorie than pork, can be pounded thin for fast cooking, and has an easy to eat texture. I use chicken breast, but chicken thighs would also make a fantastic katsu. In fact, chicken karaage is a marinated and then breaded chicken thigh, and the extra flavor from the marinade would add even deeper flavor to this dish.
I have another recipe for pork tonkatsu that would go great with this meal.
But then what’s a Don?
To put it simply, a don is a bowl. So Katsu Curry Don is katsu curry served in a bowl. In Japan, the don is a type of cuisine. It’s a complete meal in a bowl, and it’s delicious. The bottom of the bowl is filled with fluffy rice, curry sauce is spooned onto the rice, and then a thin sliced, freshly fried katsu is placed on top. Like the Japanese navy, this could be served with pickled vegetables, or root vegetables like carrots and potatoes can be cooked into the curry. All piled high in a bowl, this meal will be one of the most satisfying of your life.
An easy weeknight meal
This meal is incredibly easy to put together, even when you’re tight on time. Japanese curry roux is sold conveniently packaged in concentrated cubes, usually 8-12 cubes per box. Usually the box contains 2 smaller packages inside, so that you don’t have to make the whole batch at once. At its simplest, you can combine the curry cubes and the amount of water suggested on the box in a pot, and you’ll have a delicious curry sauce almost instantly. To make it more of a complete meal, boil a couple of cubed potatoes, cut up carrots, and peas in the recommended amount of water, and then add the curry cubes once the potatoes are fork tender. Now serve that over the rice, with a katsu on top, and you’ve got a complete meal.
For my chicken katsu, I take a completely defrosted chicken breast, and pound it flat with my meat tenderizer. I slice it in half, to make 2 katsus, dunk each in a beaten egg, and pat them with panko. Then, in a heavy bottomed frying pan, I heat a couple tablespoons of oil, and fry the katsu for a few minutes per side. Since it’s pounded thin, the katsu fries very quickly. Once the katsu is fried, I like to remove it to a cutting board and use a big chef’s knife to slice it thin. Now it’s ready to go on top of the curry sauce and rice, and your katsu curry don is complete!
Katsu Curry Don Recipe
Katsu Curry Don
- 1 Frying Pan
- ½ Box Japanese Curry Roux
- 2½ Cups Water Follow curry box instructions if more or less water is required
- 2 Small Potatoes (cut into bite size pieces) or 1 large
- 2 Large Carrots (cut into bite size pieces)
- 1 Onion (cubed)
- 1 Lb Chicken Breast
- 1 Cup Panko
- 2 tbsp Oil
- 2 Cups Cooked Rice
- In a pot or sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp oil, then fry the onion until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add carrots to the onions and fry for another minute. Now add the potatoes and water. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
- Add the curry roux and stir well to combine. Use your spoon to make sure the curry roux cubes dissolve completely. Set the heat to very low and let the curry simmer while you fry the chicken.
- Place your chicken breast on a sturdy cutting board and cover it with a large piece of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken breast to be approximately ½ inch thick. Remove the plastic wrap and slice each breast in half so that you have 4 evenly sized pieces of chicken. If your pieces are not entirely even, you can divide the breast at the end.
- In a bowl, beat the egg with a fork. Separately, spread the panko evenly on a plate. Now dunk each piece of chicken in the egg, then place on top of the panko. Press the chicken into the panko so it sticks to the bottom, then flip the chicken pieces over to coat the other side. Don’t be afraid to use your fingers to completely cover both sides of the chicken with panko.
- In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp oil (canola or other high smoke point oil). Once hot, place each piece of chicken in the oil. Cook each side for 2-5 minutes, or until panko is golden brown. Remember, the chicken has been pounded thin, so it will cook quickly. Use an instant read thermometer to check that the chicken is 165F before you take it.
- Once the chicken is finished, remove to a cutting board, and let it rest while you fill the bowl. First, layer the bottom with about ½ cup of cooked white rice. Then spoon on ¼ of the prepared curry. Now, on the cutting board, slice the chicken crosswise into thin slices, and place on top of the curry in the bowl. If your katsus were not evenly sized, you can transfer the thin sliced chicken between bowls until each has an even amount. Now your Katsu Curry Don is ready to eat.Enjoy :)a