Chicken Katsu Curry. (Photo by Tressa Dale)

Chicken Katsu Curry brings back memories

Sometimes all it takes is a plate of food to transport you to the past. Just the sight of a familiar dish can whisk you far away and drop you off somewhere in your distant memories.

While perusing the “Asian” section at the grocery store last week, I saw a box of mild Japanese curry and was flooded with memories of lunches at the mall with my sister, north shore feasts after a day in the surf, and I just had to re-create it.

This meal is quintessential Hawaiian and is a common menu item all over the islands. I tried my best to make it taste just like I ordered it from a Zippy’s or an L&L, but without a deep fat frier, my fried chicken was not as crunchy as it could have been.

I think it turned out delicious anyway. This might seem like an odd combination of flavors, but trust me, a bite with a little rice, a little crunchy chicken, and a soft piece of carrot covered in curry sauce is sublime.

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 egg

About 1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Flour for dredging

Enough oil for frying — you need the oil to be at least deep enough to come halfway up the chicken breast

1 box mild (or medium or hot) Japanese curry

2 cloves minced garlic

1 large russet potato

2 large carrots

½ white onion

1 cup sugar snap peas

2 cups chicken stock

3 stalks green onion

2 tsp honey

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 cup short grain rice

Directions:

Use a sharp knife to butterfly the chicken breasts.

Set them on a strip of plastic wrap, cover them with plastic, then use whatever instrument you can find to flatten them until they are about 1 inch thick.

Remove the plastic on top and season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to fry.

Rinse and soak your rice for 20 minutes before cooking.

When you put your rice on to cook, start the curry by frying the garlic in a little oil until fragrant.

Add the potatoes, onion and carrots and stir fry for a couple of minutes, then add in the chicken stock.

Break the curry block into pieces and add to the pot. Stir until dissolved.

If the stock doesn’t cover the vegetables, or if the curry becomes too thick, add some water.

Cook over medium low heat — you don’t want the curry to boil or get too hot because the potatoes will disintegrate.

Prepare your frying pan, a pan with the flour dredge, a pan with the egg wash, and a pan with the panko.

When the oil is hot, coat the chicken in flour, then in egg, then in panko, and lay gently in the oil being sure to angle it away from you as you drop it in to avoid splashing.

Turn them over when you see the edges turning brown.

Keep turning and cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

When the chicken breasts are done, remove them from the oil and allow them to rest on a draining rack while you finish the curry.

Add the snap peas, honey and soy sauce at the end. You want the peas to be warm but not so cooked that they are mushy.

Slice the fried chicken into small pieces and serve on a plate of half curry and half rice.

Garnish with chopped green onion.

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