Ah, curry! Curry is definitely one of my favorite foods due to the numerous variations—Indian curry, Thai curry, Vietnamese curry, Burmese curry, Hmong curry… you name it! There’s thinner, soupier curries, and there’s thicker, heartier curries. There’s curry you eat with rice or noodles and there’s curry you can dip your fries in (or chips, if you’re British!). Regardless of which variation you try, curry is a dish that is warm, filling, and full of bold flavors.
One of the curries I make most frequently is Japanese curry because it’s the curry that is really hard to mess up. It makes for a nice filling dinner, and it carries well to lunch the next day. In college, I liked buying the boxes of the little curry roux blocks that lets you whip up a delicious Japanese curry in no time. You boil the veggies and cook the meat in this pot of water, then simply stir in and dissolve your block of curry roux. Super simple and fairly inexpensive since a box can run for $2-5 that you can use for multiple meals. In fact, check out this insane curry sale I saw at the Korean market the other day!
So why did I bother to make Japanese curry from scratch if the boxed version is so convenient and inexpensive?
Honestly? Laziness. The first time I made Japanese curry from scratch, it was because I didn’t want to put on real clothes to go to the store to buy a box. So instead of being like a normal person and going to buy a box of curry (which would probably take 10-15 minutes), I decided I was going to make some from scratch because it turns out that most of the things needed for Japanese curry are found right in your pantry. I found that Japanese curry from scratch may take a little longer than boxed curry, but it’s well-worth the effort because you can flavor it just how you like it—saltier, sweeter, richer, whatever!
The recipe I’m sharing with you is a result of lots of experimentation—bits and pieces from various recipes I’ve found online and feedback from friends I’ve made curry with. This curry will have quite a bit of sweetness from the caramelized onions, the apple, and the ketchup, but it won’t be sugary sweet since it’ll be balanced with the other savory flavors we’re adding. Here we go! (Just want the recipe? Click here to make the jump!)
First thing you want to do is caramelize your onions. You do not want to skip this step because it is crucial to making that rich, sweet flavor for your curry. It also helps give your curry that lovely classic brown gravy color. Slice up your onions as thinly as possible, then drop them into a pot with a little bit of oil and a sprinkle of salt. The oil helps start the onions start cooking, and the salt helps pull the water out of the onions to help them caramelize.
Cook these on a medium heat. There’s a lot of inherent sweetness in onions—you just need to coax the sugars out by cooking down the onion slowly. This usually takes me about 30 mins minimum. As you can see, as the onions start to break down, they start to brown up.
If you’re having trouble with the onions charring up and sticking to your pot, you want to turn down your heat since the onions shouldn’t be charring/burning. You can also add a little bit of water to your pot to release the caramelized bits from the pan. Soon, you’ll have a glob of onions like this!
You can add the onions to your curry like this, or if you want your curry sauce to be super smooth, just pop the onions and your grated apples into a food processor with a splash of water and blend till smooth. Then, you can add this blended mixed of onions and apples into a pot with your broth. I tend to like blending up my mixture but definitely not a crucial thing if you don’t have a blender/food processor.
Note on the apple! This may seem like a strange ingredient to add to your curry, but this is what helps give Japanese curry its unique taste. I learned this from my old roommate Jessica from my time in DC. Her dad always added an apple when making Japanese curry to give it another layer of flavor and sweetness, so she shared this little tidbit of info with me as we were cooking our pot of curry in our tiny apartment kitchen. Now, depending on what kind of sweetness you want, you can use a lot of different apples. I personally like fuji apples for their fruity sweetness. If you don’t like things too sweet, you may want to add a Granny Smith to add a bit of tartness instead. Don’t have an apple on hand? Most fruits can work really well—Asian pears, plums, peaches, apricots, etc. If you’re really, really stuck, fruit preserves of those fruits would work well too (although I wouldn’t suggest any berry-flavored ones).
While you’re cooking the onions, chop up the rest of your veggies.
For a basic curry, you can just stick with carrots and potatoes, but really, you can add whatever you like! I personally love adding mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, and peas to my curry mix. Toss the chopped veggies in a pot with the can of broth and bring it to a slow simmer. If you’re adding veggies that cook faster, just add them in later so they don’t overcook. Root veggies like potatoes and carrots are fine though!
Now onto the actual curry! To make the curry nice and thick, we’re going to make a roux, which is a mixture of fat and flour that helps thicken your sauce.
Before making the roux, have your broth ready to go. The addition of liquid to a roux is a very quick and sometimes temperamental process, so if you aren’t ready, you’re going to have a lumpy sauce, and no one likes flour lumps in their curry sauce! To start your roux, melt the butter then whisk in the flour. You want to cook the flour so it doesn’t have a raw flour taste once you make the curry sauce. Cook the flour until it’s starts looking a little crumbly (but don’t let it get too dry!) and is a toasty brown color. Not only does browning it add more color, but it gives you a nuttier flavor too.
(This right now is a little too light, and you’ll see in my finished product why you need to cook it a little longer so it’s brownish).
Right when it’s brown, add the curry powder to toast the spice a little. Whisk in the soy sauce and ketchup. Then ready your whisk because this part is going to happen really quickly! Take the pot off the stove and ladle a spoonful of broth into your roux and whisk vigorously. Once the liquid hits the roux, the broth will soak into the flour and allow it to expand. Continue to add in the broth a ladleful at a time while whisking the roux until all the broth is blended in. You’ll have a nice gravy-like soup once you’ve added all the broth. Add more soy sauce if you think it needs to be saltier. You’re done with the curry!
You can leave the curry on low heat to keep it warm while you work on the tonkatsu. First, let’s heat up some oil. Put in about 1/2 an inch of oil into a small skillet and heat it on medium.
Then let’s bread the tonkatsu! Put a pork chop onto your cutting board and place a piece of plastic wrap to cover it.
Then use a meat mallet (or back of your chef’s knife) to thin out the cutlet to about a 1/2 inch. We’re doing this to just even out the cutlet and let it cook a little faster so the panko won’t burn before the meat cooks all the way through. Then sprinkle salt on both sides of the meat and rub it in. Coat the meat in flour until completely covered.
Shake off the excess flour, dip the pork into the beaten egg mix, then cover in panko.
Once covered in panko, put a small bit of panko into your hot oil pan. If it starts to bubble, you’re good to go! If it sizzles and burns quickly, your oil is too hot, so you’ll want to turn down the heat. Once your oil is ready, slide the pork chop into the hot oil. The oil should bubble and simmer around the pork chop.
After about 2-3 minutes, you should start seeing the panko be a nice golden brown. Carefully flip the cutlet over and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Then remove the cutlet from the oil and let it drain on a cooling rack to cool for about 5 minutes. Once it’s cooled, cut into slices by pressing the knife straight down (don’t saw back and forth) so the crust doesn’t fall off.
Pro-tip! If you don’t want to waste your leftover egg after you dip your pork chop, ladle a small bit of warm (KEYWORD: WARM) curry into your egg mix and whisk until combined. Then stir that mixture into your finished pot of curry. It’ll add a tiny extra bit of richness to your curry and saves you from wasting that bit of egg! Just make sure your curry doesn’t reach a rolling boil or else the egg will scramble and the curry sauce will look a little lumpy (but it’ll still be tasty!).
Now you’re all done with the cooking! Use your chef’s knife to carefully place the tonkatsu onto your bed of rice (or noodles if you want curry noodles!), then ladle the curry onto your rice and meat. Dig in!
NOTE: Notice how my curry is a little more yellow than brown? That’s because I didn’t brown my roux enough so make sure to brown your roux! 🙂
For the curry:
- 1 medium sized onion, sliced
- 1 tsp of oil (I used canola)
- 1 small Idaho russet potato, diced
- 1 small carrot (or a handful of baby carrots), cut into chunks about the same size as the potatoes
- 1 tbsp of Soy sauce
- 1 tsp of ketchup (or tomato paste)
- 1 can of Beef broth (or water)
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1.5 tbsp butter
- 1 small Fuji apple, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- cayenne pepper (optional, if you want spicier curry)
- Rice or noodles to serve
For the tonkatsu:
- 1 boneless pork loin chop
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- flour to coat
- 1/4 c panko
- oil to fry (canola, vegetable, etc)
For the curry:
- Slice onion as thinly as possible. Add to a small pot on medium heat with the teaspoon of oil and a pinch of salt. Allow onions to caramelize, and stir the onions occasionally, adding water if needed to prevent scorching.
- Cut up desired vegetables into cubes about the same size. Toss into pot with beef broth on medium heat. This will warm the broth and the vegetables will be done (and not too mushy or still raw) once you finish the curry. Note: Vegetables that cook quickly like peas and bell peppers should be added near the end of cooking rather than now.
- Grate your apple and add it into the pot with the broth and vegetables.
- Once your onions are done (should be nice and mushy), you can either leave them as is, or throw them into a blender/food processor with some broth to smooth out the sauce. Then, toss them into your broth pot.
- Start your roux by melting the butter on a medium heat. Once melted, add your flour and whisk to combine.
- Cook until mixture becomes a bit crumbly and a nutty brown color, then add your curry powder and cook it for 10-15 seconds to help bring out the flavor in the spices.
- Add your ketchup and soy sauce and whisk! (or else your sauce will seize up)
- Take the pot off the stove for a moment and ladle in a bit of broth to your roux mixture and whisk vigorously. The broth will bubble and the roux will thicken very quickly. Continue adding in broth one ladle at a time and continue whisking. Do this until you’ve added in all of the broth.
- Add in the veggies from your broth pot and leave your curry on a low heat to keep warm.
For the tonkatsu:
- Heat some oil in a small pan on medium heat. Since we’re shallow frying the cutlet, you’ll need about 1/2 an inch of oil in your pan.
- Place your pork chop on a cutting board. Put a piece of saran wrap over the meat and use a meat mallet (or the back of your knife, i.e. the non-cutting metal side) to flatten the pork out to about 1/2 an inch.
- Salt your meat on both sides with the 1/4 tsp of salt and rub it in.
- Dip the pork chop in flour, then shake off the excess flour.
- Dip the flour-covered pork chop in the egg mixture, then coat in panko.
- Test the oil to see if it’s hot enough yet by adding in a small panko crumb. If it bubbles, you’re good to go. If it bubbles vigorously, you should turn down your heat and wait a minute or so for the oil to cool down a bit. If it doesn’t bubble, your oil isn’t hot enough yet.
- Once your oil is ready, add the pork cutlet. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip over and cook for another 2 minutes. You should have a nice golden brown cutlet if the heat is right.
- Bring cutlet to a clean cutting board. Let it rest for about 2 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut directly down into the pork (don’t saw back and forth) to avoid removing the breading.
Then it’s time to eat! Place the tonkatsu over a bed of rice or noodles, then pour the curry sauce on top. Dig in!
Questions? Concerns? Want me to take a crack at a specific dish? Feel free to write me a message below in the comments!