Japanese Curry – when inauthentic is as good as it gets

In Recipes on February 27, 2017 at 3:31 am

Japanese curry is a hearty and satisfying comfort food, enjoyed not only in Japan but all around the world. You can get beef varieties, chicken varieties, pretty much any variation that can be made with curry sauce and ladled liberally over fluffy white rice. My all time favourite is Chicken Curry Katsu Don. This is a delicious thick curry containing vegetables, always chunks of potato and carrot but other vegetables can also be added and topped with a cutlet of crumbed and fried chicken. Of course, the dish is delicious because of the crumbed chicken on top but it is the curry sauce that gives it a distinctive and thoroughly Japanese taste. The Japanese were introduced to curry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century via British visitors from what was then the British Raj or colonial British India. Like other British/Indian hybrid creations, think kedgeree, chutney, Worcestershire sauce and Clive of India or Keen’s Curry Powder, the curry introduced to Japan was not an authentic Indian recipe but a recipe filtered through Western palates. The curry is milder and less complex than Indian recipes and often has quite a sweet flavour.The major difference between Indian and Japanese curry is in the cooking method and the spice blend. Indian curries are generally made from a base of fried onions, chillies, ginger, garlic and other aromatics with a complex and individual blend of spices added depending on what type of curry you are making. Japanese curry is made from fried onions, blended commercial curry powder and flour cooked with oil to make a roux. Most Japanese don’t bother with this process anymore and just buy the already mixed curry cubes that are readily available all over the country and make for a quick and satisfying meal on the run.


Japanese Curry Cubes

The curry cubes are also easily found in most Asian grocers here in Melbourne and in most other Western cities. The first time I made Chicken Curry Katsu Don I found some in my local KFL supermarket in Sydney Road, Coburg. My latest batch I made with my son using curry cubes he brought back with him from his recent trip to Japan.


Hearty and delicious Japanese comfort food

Chicken Curry Katsu Don


2 large skinless free range chicken breasts

Seasoned flour for coating

Egg and milk for dipping

Japanese Panko breadcrumbs for coating

Sunflower oil for frying

4 large potatoes (peeled and cut into chunks)

4 carrots (peeled and cut into chunks)

1 litre of water

4-5 Japanese curry cubes

Cooked white rice for serving


Halve the chicken breasts and butterfly each half. Using a meat mallet gently beat out the pieces of chicken until they are approximately 1cm thick. Coat with flour, dip in the egg mixture and finish with a coating of the Panko breadcrumbs. When all pieces are crumbed place on a plate and refrigerate to ‘set the crumb’. Meanwhile, place the vegetables in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until the vegetables are about half cooked. Break the curry cubes into the water and reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove the crumbed chicken breasts from the refrigerator and heat 1.5-2cm sunflower oil in a heavy based frying pan until bubbles form around a wooden spoon handle when inserted. Gently fry the chicken cutlets two at a time until golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain well. Continue cooking the curry and vegetables until the sauce thickens. To serve, place some white rice in the bottom of a bowl, ladle over the vegetable curry and top with the sliced chicken cutlet.

Hint: Serve with Japanese pickles, tonkatsu sauce and half a hard boiled egg

From China with Love

In Recipes on September 2, 2014 at 11:59 pm

As a teacher of English to international students I am lucky enough to meet people from many different countries and cultures.  My students at the moment are largely from Vietnam, India, Thailand and China.  They all know that I am interested in food so we often discuss their different cuisines in class.  Sometimes they bring  the other students and I food to sample so when my ex student Jingjing decided to do her presentation on authentic spicy crab and dumplings (and promised to bring samples) we knew we were in for something special.  We were not disappointed.  Following an excellent and informative presentation, Jingjing unpacked hot spicy crab and pork dumplings.  A fellow student was sent to the Chinese restaurant around the corner for some rice and that was my lunch for the day sorted.

A couple of months later, when Jingjing had begun studying at university and was no longer my student, she was good enough to come around to my house to cook a delicious and generous meal for my friends and family and, in the process, allow me to observe her cooking techniques in the kitchen.  She arrived on the day accompanied by a couple of friends and a number of large bags containing seafood, vegetables, tofu, sauces and noodles.  Within ten minutes she had taken command of my kitchen and was chopping away while her friend rinsed crabs in the sink.  Another friend was soaking wood ear mushrooms and goji berries.  In rapid succession (Chinese cooking is fast) Jingjing presented us with spicy crab, glass noodles with prawns and baby octopus, Shanghai chicken wings, wok tossed spicy cabbage, wood ear mushrooms and Ma Po tofu.  We hurried to keep up with notes and utensils but were soon admonished to sit down and eat by the cook who did not want her food to go cold.  We all ate way too much but fortunately, due to the more than generous servings, there was still plenty left when Jingjing finally sat down to join us.  Thanks to Jingjing and her friends for a great evening and a fantastic meal.  Here’s the recipe for Jingjing’s spicy crab.

Jingjing’s Spicy Crab

Jingjing's delicious spicy crab

Jingjing’s delicious spicy crab


5 blue swimmer crabs, cleaned, legs removed and cut into 5cm chunks

2 good knobs of ginger, julienned

2 large green capsicums, de seeded and cut into chunks

1 long red chilli

1 long green chilli, both de seeded and cut into chunks

1 red onion thinly sliced

5 celery stalks. chopped into chunks

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

3-4 spring onions, chopped

4-5 dried chillies

potato flour 

1/2 cup peanut oil

2 tbs oyster sauce

1 tbs light soy sauce

2 tbs chilli sauce

1 bunch fresh coriander


Coat crab bodies and legs in potato flour.  Heat 1/2 cup peanut oil in a wok until sizzling.  Fry crab in batches until golden.  Remove and set aside.  Then add the red onion, ginger and dried chillies, stir fry for a minute.  Return the crab to the wok and add the remaining chopped vegetables and garlic.  Stir fry for a minute or two.  Add chilli sauce, soy sauces and oyster sauce.  Toss well to coat.  Cook for a further two minutes adding a little boiling water if it becomes too dry.  Add one bunch coriander (chopped) and serve immediately.

Cleaning crab

Cleaned crab

The vegies were chopped within minutes

The vegies were chopped within minutes

The spicy Ma Po Tofu paste that Jingjing used

The spicy Ma Po Tofu paste that Jingjing used


Shakin’ my bobotie!

In Recipes on March 2, 2014 at 8:08 am

Bobotie is a dish that originated in the Cape Malay community in what is now Capetown in South Africa.  The Cape Malay community was originally composed of Javanese or modern day Indonesian slaves who spoke Malayu, hence the name Cape Malay.  The community began in the 1600s as an outpost of the Dutch East India Company.  The original inhabitants were later followed by large numbers of Indian slaves.  They also intermarried with other slaves from South East Asia, Madagasgar and native African groups.  Bobotie is based on an Indonesian dish made with meat and eggs before being baked in a water bath.  Later, probably due to the Indian influences, curry powder and chutney were added.  Bobotie has been popular in South Africa since the 17th century and it is a dish that is still commonly found on South African tables today.  My friend, Fionna is originally from South Africa.  She sourced this recipe from an elderly South African relative who still lives in the country.  Recently she cooked it for myself and some other friends.  The result was delicious.



Yummy bobotie


2 large onions (finely chopped)

25 ml sunflower oil

3 tsp curry powder

knob of fresh ginger (peeled and finely chopped)

2 large cloves garlic (finely chopped)

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp turmeric

a handful of chopped dried apricots

1 kg minced beef

2 thick slices bread (soaked in milk)

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tbs apricot jam

125 ml fruit chutney

juice of 1 lemon (you can also add the finely grated zest)

3 -4 fresh bay leaves

20 ml tomato puree


2 free range eggs

250 ml milk

pinch sea salt


Fry onions in the oil until translucent, add curry powder, dried herbs, cumin, ginger, garlic and turmeric.  Fry until fragrant.  Add the meat, soaked bread (roughly torn) sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Fry for 10 mins. or until the meat is lightly browned.  Add the chutney, apricot jam, lemon juice and tomato puree.  Simmer until all ingredients are well amalgamated (about 10-15 mins.)  Spoon into a large baking dish.  Top with the bay leaves.  Whisk the eggs, milk and salt for the topping.  Pour over the meat mixture.  Bake at 180ºC for 30 mins.


We used Halal beef mince which is vastly superior to any mince you will find in the supermarket