How to Make the Perfect Chicken Katsu
What Is Chicken Katsu Curry?
Chicken katsu curry, a traditional Japanese dish served since the late 19th century, was originally inspired by Western cooking (youshoku). It exploded in popularity in recent years, with more travelers flocking to Japan's local eateries to order this dish.
You don't have to pay the high prices that some restaurants charge to enjoy this delectable dish. Other than the curry paste that can be purchased ready-made, the main component of the “katsu” (cutlet) is relatively easy to make. Let's start!
- 100g flour, well-seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
- 300g Japanese panko breadcrumbs
- 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
- 100ml ground nut or vegetable oil
- Steamed Japanese rice with Japanese pickles, to serve
- Check the thickness of the chicken. If it’s too thick at one end, you will need to “butterfly” it by cutting the under the edge of the filets from the centre towards the outside. Be careful not to separate the halves completely. Then, flatten it out. Alternatively, bashing it a bit with a tenderizer should do the trick. This is important so the cutlet cooks evenly!
- Set out two plates with raised edges and one bowl. Fill one plate with plain flour that's been seasoned with salt and pepper. Add the panko breadcrumbs to the second plate. If you don't have panko breadcrumbs, grating a stale baguette works well too! Beat the eggs in the bowl.
- Place the chicken in the flour one filet at a time. Coat every crevice of the meat and then gently dip it in the beaten eggs. 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.
- Here is the trick to get a perfect katsu: give it a double coat! This simply means you dip the chicken back into the eggs and then the breadcrumbs to form a proper layer of breadcrumbs. It will not only be tastier, but it will also help the cooking process. Once again from the top: flour, egg, breadcrumbs, egg, and breadcrumbs.
- Now that you’ve coated all your chicken with lots of panko, you’re ready to fry. Get some oil in a pan and let it get hot. If you can't tell how hot the oil is from cooking experience, it is highly advisable to get a cooking thermometer! Too hot, and the bread coating will burn while the chicken doesn't cook. Not hot enough, and the cutlet will become soggy and oily rather than crisp and cooked. The ideal temperature is 170°. Don’t skimp on the oil. You want the whole cutlet to be submerged when you put it in. You will need to turn it over at least once to ensure it cooks properly, as the underside will get hit with most of the heat. If you have a deep fryer, that’s even better! Just don’t reuse the oil from last night’s fish and chips or you will end up with fish-flavoured katsu curry.
My Thoughts on Curry and Katsu
- Sauce: If you really want to go to the hassle of making the curry sauce using ingredients, you can find recipes for the sauce online. I never thought of preparing the curry from scratch, as there are plenty of great Japanese curry roux makers selling their products at my local Asian supermarket. House Foods makes a great curry roux called Vermont Curry that comes in three different spice levels.
- Runny Curry: The one thing I will mention on the subject of the sauce is that, personally, I hate runny curry on my katsu! It not only tastes watery, but it also makes the katsu soggier than it would be than if a thick, velvety sauce had been poured over it. If you added too much water to your roux and can't get it to thicken, add some cornflour (or even better, another cube or two of roux to maintain the flavour) to it. You can toss in a potato, a carrot, and some onion as you see fit if you want to get some veggies in there as well.
- Meat: If you don't want to use chicken as the meat, try using pork or beef!
- Cheese: Personally, I also love adding grated cheese as a topping. Yes, cheese! I have yet to see this as an optional extra in Western restaurants, but it is a common extra topping in Japan (and a great one at that)!
- Complete the Meal: Serve with Japanese rice and Japanese pickles. Fukujinzuke is definitely the best type of Japanese pickle for this top dish.
Douzou o-meshi agare! (Enjoy!)