Whenever my son is offered a treat out to a restaurant, say for a birthday or good school report, before I’ve even finished the question he replies “Wagamama“. And he always orders the same thing: chicken katsu curry.
I’ve hard arguments with people on Twitter about Wagamama in the past; that it is lowest common denominator stuff, that it’s Westernised muck… they are aiming at global appeal to be sure. I can’t speak to its authenticity but I know I like what their kitchen serves up. My favourite dish by a long shot is yaki soba, and I must’ve had it a hundred times in and out of the restaurant.
But the katsu curry is really good too. Super-crunchy chicken and a spiky curry sauce, with fluffy rice to soak it up. I have got the Wagamama cookbook but this recipe isn’t in there, so here’s my interpretation which I think is pretty damn close. They have salad alongside theirs, I went with some more Autumnal veg in fitting with October diets. But it’s the curry sauce I’m absolutely overjoyed with, a dead simple and really tasty condiment that goes with so many things.
Chicken katsu curry (serves 4):
4 chicken breasts
100g panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons flour
Mugful basmati rice
1 star anise
3 cardamom pods
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 Knorr chicken stock pot
White wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Patak’s curry paste (whichever flavour you like)
400ml coconut milk (I like Maggi’s powder)
- You’ll need two frying pans and two saucepans on the go for this one. Sorry about that. You should also put the oven on a low setting, about 100°C and pop a baking tray in there.
- Get the large saucepan over a medium heat and add the rice, the star anise, cloves, cardamom and two mugfuls of water. Cover and stir occasionally while you get on with everything else.
- In another saucepan, gently fry the carrots for a minute in a little oil. Then barely cover the carrots with water and add half the stock pot. Simmer. After 5 minutes, add the peppers and when all the liquid is reduced add a punch of sugar and a dash of vinegar – check for seasoning.
- In a saucepan over a high heat, add the curry paste and cook out for a minute. Then add the coconut milk and the other half of the stock pot. Simmer until thick.
- Get a large frying pan, cover the base with oil and set it over a medium heat. Between two pieces of clingfilm bash the chicken breasts with a rolling pin until 1.5cm thick. Dust with seasoned flour, dip in egg then coat in breadcrumbs. Fry the chicken in batches as your pan allows, browning on both sides and transferring to the baking tray while you finish the rest.
- When all the chicken is cooked, the rice is fluffy (it will probably need some salt and pepper) and the veg is tender, serve with lashings of the curry sauce.
Give me a few minutes alone in someone’s company, and I’ll soon be asking them about their eating habits. A colleague, originally from Lahore, Pakistan was kind enough to give me a lift. We talked of food, of the curious Anglicisation of Indian cuisine and what he recognised of it. We discussed balti, dhal, obsession with gravy… and he mentioned that he’d never had biryani. A staple of his region, yet somehow it had passed him by.
I love biryani. Fairly often when left to my own devices I’ll make some spiced rice; to push it further in this version I added a chicken curry. It’s hilariously inauthentic, using cream cheese as the dairy ingredient but the tang you’d usually ascribe to yoghurt works great. Don’t be put off by the mountain of spices – it’s worth it.
This one’s for you, Waseem!
Chicken biryani (serves 2):
For the rice:
A pinch of saffron
3 pods green cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
100g white basmati rice
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 dried bay leaves
For the curry:
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 chicken breasts, diced
100g cream cheese
A fistful of roughly chopped coriander leaves
2 roasted red onions, chopped
- Cover the saffron with warm water and add a splash of oil to a pan with a lid over a high heat. Add the cardamom, cumin, cloves and bay leaves and stir-fry for 1 minute before adding the rice with a pinch of salt. After a further minute add 200ml water, the saffron and bring to the boil. Pop a lid on, turn the heat down low and leave for exactly 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile in another pan heat a little oil and add the garam masala, chilli, garlic, tomatoes, ginger and chicken. Stir fry and season with salt. When the chicken is coloured all over turn the heat down, add the cream cheese, a splash of water and pop a lid on.
- Whe the rice’s 10 minutes are up, turn the heat off and leave for a further 10 minutes. Don’t remove the lid!
- When the chicken is cooked through add the onions and stir thoroughly. Check for seasoning. When the rice is ready grind over a little pepper and garnish with the coriander. Serve the rice with the curry on top.
This is the rice from the chicken tikka masala recipe. I’ve broken it out to it’s own page otherwise I have trouble finding it!
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and bashed
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
1 cupful rice per person
- Fry the onion gently until softened, then add the garlic.
- Add the spices and stir, allowing them to warm.
- Add the rice and a generous sprinkle of salt, stir will to coat the rice in the spiced oil. Top up the pan with three times the amount of water to rice. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cover the pan and allow to simmer for ten minutes – do not lift the lid.
- Turn off the heat and leave for a further ten minutes, leaving the lid on.
- Stir through with a fork and grind over plenty of black pepper. If you have any left over from the curry, throw in some parsley too.