Katsu curry is a beloved dish that has made its way from Tokyo to the rest of the world.
This simple yet flavorful combination of breaded meat, rice, and curry sauce has captured the hearts and taste buds of many. But what exactly is in that curry sauce? What gives it its unique taste?
In this article, we’ll explore the ingredients and flavors that make up katsu curry sauce. From the sweetness of sautéed onions and grated apples to the umami of cocoa powder and curry spices, we’ll take a deep dive into what makes this sauce so delicious.
So sit back, grab a fork, and let’s explore the wonderful world of katsu curry sauce!
What Does Katsu Curry Sauce Taste Like?
Katsu curry sauce is a unique blend of flavors that is both sweet and savory. The sauce is made up of a combination of curry powder, turmeric, chicken stock, coconut milk, and soy sauce. These ingredients are then combined with onions, garlic, and ginger to create a rich and aromatic sauce.
The sweetness of the sauce comes from sautéed onions, grated apples, and honey. This sweetness is balanced out by the slight spice of peppers, chilies, and ginger. The sauce also has a deep roasted flavor that comes from the addition of cocoa powder.
The spices used in katsu curry sauce are mostly Indian, such as curry powder and garam masala. However, the sauce has a distinct Japanese flavor that sets it apart from other curries. This is due to the use of soy sauce, which brings a delicious umami flavor to the dish.
The Origins Of Katsu Curry Sauce
Katsu curry sauce is said to have originated at Ginza Swiss, a yōshoku restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, in 1948. The dish was created in response to a complaint from a frequent patron of the restaurant, Shigeru Chiba, who found it too bothersome to eat curry and katsu separately. This led to the creation of the combination dish known as katsu curry.
The original katsu curry sauce recipe used by Ginza Swiss is still advertised on their menu as the “original curry” and “Chiba-san’s curry”. The sauce is made with a blend of Indian and Japanese spices, which are combined with onions, garlic, and ginger to create a rich and aromatic flavor.
The sauce is also known for its mildness in comparison to other curries found around the world. It has a light brown color and a sweet flavor that comes from the addition of grated apples and honey. The sweetness is balanced out by the use of peppers, chilies, and ginger, which add a slight spice to the dish.
The Key Ingredients Of Katsu Curry Sauce
To make katsu curry sauce, there are several key ingredients that are essential to achieving its unique flavor. These ingredients include:
1. Japanese curry roux: This is the base of the sauce and is a blend of spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. It gives the sauce its distinct curry flavor.
2. Chicken stock: This adds depth and richness to the sauce. For a vegan version, vegetable or mushroom stock can be used instead.
3. Grated apple: This provides natural sweetness to the sauce that is balanced out by the savory flavors.
4. Honey: This is another sweetener that adds complexity to the sauce and helps balance out any spiciness.
5. Soy sauce: This ingredient brings a delicious umami flavor to the dish and is a staple in Japanese cuisine.
6. Ketchup: This adds a touch of tanginess and sweetness to the sauce.
7. Black pepper: This adds a subtle heat to the sauce without overpowering the other flavors.
8. Ginger and garlic: These aromatics add depth and complexity to the sauce.
9. Vegetables such as onion slices, carrots, and potatoes: These add texture and flavor to the dish.
10. Cocoa powder: This may seem like an unusual addition, but it gives the sauce a toasty, nutty flavor that makes it taste like it’s been simmering for hours.
By combining these ingredients in just the right way, katsu curry sauce achieves a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors with a hint of spice and deep umami notes. It’s no wonder it’s such a popular dish in Japan and around the world!
The Sweetness Factor: Sautéed Onions And Grated Apples
One of the key ingredients that add sweetness to katsu curry sauce is sautéed onions. The onions are slowly cooked in a mixture of flour and butter until they become golden brown and caramelized. This process brings out their natural sweetness and adds depth to the flavor of the sauce.
Another ingredient that adds sweetness to katsu curry sauce is grated apples. The grated apples are added to the sauce towards the end of cooking, and they bring a subtle fruity sweetness that complements the savory flavors of the curry. This trick is often used by Japanese home cooks to enhance the flavor of store-bought curry roux.
The combination of sautéed onions and grated apples creates a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors in katsu curry sauce. This sweetness is not overpowering, but rather a subtle undertone that adds complexity to the dish. It is important to note that this sweetness is not unique to katsu curry sauce, but rather a characteristic of Japanese curry in general.
The Umami Factor: Curry Spices And Cocoa Powder
One of the key ingredients that gives katsu curry sauce its unique flavor is the use of curry spices and cocoa powder. Curry powder is a blend of spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and black pepper. These spices are known for their earthy and warm flavors that add depth to the sauce.
In addition to the curry powder, cocoa powder is also added to the sauce. This may seem like an unusual addition to a savory dish, but it actually enhances the flavor of the curry. The cocoa powder gives the sauce a toasty and nutty flavor that makes it taste like it has been simmering for hours.
Another important ingredient that contributes to the umami factor of katsu curry sauce is soy sauce. Soy sauce is rich in glutamic acid, which gives the sauce a savory taste known as umami. This flavor is often described as a meaty or savory taste that adds depth and complexity to the dish.
Other Flavor Enhancers: Soy Sauce And Worcestershire Sauce
Soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce are two flavor enhancers that can be used to add depth and complexity to katsu curry sauce. Soy sauce is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, and it brings a rich umami flavor to the dish. It is made from soybeans, wheat or barley, water, and salt, and it has been used for over 2,500 years.
Worcestershire sauce, on the other hand, is a condiment that originated in England but has become a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It is made from fermented malt vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, and garlic. It has a powerful umami flavor that is sour from tamarind and vinegar yet sweet from molasses and sugar and has a bit of a spicy finish.
When using soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce in katsu curry sauce, it’s important to use them sparingly as they are both strong flavors that can overpower the other ingredients. A few drops of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce can go a long way in adding depth and complexity to the dish.
Variations Of Katsu Curry Sauce Around The World
While katsu curry sauce is a Japanese dish, it has become popular around the world and has been adapted to suit different tastes. In Thailand, for example, katsu curry sauce is often made with coconut milk and red curry paste, giving it a spicier and creamier flavor. In Korea, the sauce is made with gochujang, a fermented chili paste, which gives it a sweet and spicy kick.
In the United States, katsu curry sauce is often made with a blend of Indian and Japanese flavors. This includes the use of curry powder and garam masala, as well as soy sauce and mirin. The sauce may also be sweetened with brown sugar or honey.
In the UK, where katsu curry is a popular dish, the sauce is often made using a pre-made roux mix that can be found in supermarkets. This mix contains flour, oil, and spices such as turmeric and cumin. The roux is then combined with chicken stock and soy sauce to create a thick and flavorful sauce.