Mellow enough for the spice-shy but full of flavour, Japanese katsu kare has fast become one of the nation's favourite curries. And the katsus from wagamama, Reading's Coconut Bar & Kitchen and London's Tombo are guaranteed to get the thumbs up all-round. Find out what went into making this fusion dish the stuff of legends – and the secrets behind its enduring global popularity.
Japanese flavours, via Britain and India
While it bears the curry moniker, katsu is far removed from its Indian and Thai counterparts. It's got a sweeter, fruitier flavour thanks to a base of caramelised onion, garlic and carrot. Then, it's spiced with mild curry powder and soy sauce, and sweetened with some sugar or honey.
Looking back, it's unsurprising this Japanese favourite is such a hit with Brits as it was, in fact, the British who introduced curry to Japan. Back in the late 1800s, when India was under the colonial rule of the British Raj, the British Navy used to eat curried stew to help stave off illnesses. The Japanese Navy adopted the practice, and the food soon spread – and local tweaks to the recipe eventually created a sauce which was entirely different to the original dish.
Fast-forward a few decades and curry started appearing on loads of café menus. It was traditionally served with deep-fried pork covered with panko breadcrumbs, known as tonkatsu, but today chicken is more commonly used – especially in the West.
Serving up sauce with a deep-fried, crispy cutlet isn't just limited to meat, so there's plenty of fish, tofu or vegetable options available too. Plated up with rice, salad and a side of vinegary pickles, all the flavours work together to create an incredible dish.
At wagamama, where katsu curry has reached legendary status, you'll find tender chicken breast or yasai – sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash – coated breadcrumbs, fried until crispy and smothered in homemade aromatic curry sauce. Served with sticky rice and salad, it's hearty, moreish and insanely popular.
Seafood fans have the chance to partner prawns with this rich and fruity sauce at Coconut Bar & Kitchen, Here, jasmine rice and salad add the finishing touches to this perennial Japanese favourite.
Traditionalists will go crazy for katsu at Japanese joint Tombo where their katsu curry rice bowl is available with pork or chicken. Tombo's pork or chicken cutlets come doused with sweet and mild curry sauce on a bed of multigrain rice, and with a side of fukujizuke red pickles. Bon appétit – or, as they say in Japan, itadakimasu.
Need to satisfy your katsu curry craving? Order one now through Deliveroo.