Image: Kawaii cat eating ramen
Anime crazy fans will attest to the glory of drool-inducing food scenes sprinkled throughout their favourite anime or manga. From the famed Ichiraku Ramen in the beloved Naturo, to L’s sugar munching ways in Death Note, and the various mouth-watering dishes found on Food Wars, but not forgetting the ladies man and sea chef/pirate Sanji in One Piece.
Even after a hard mental or physical battle, the essentials of eating are not forgotten. However, it seems that when it comes to taking the food plane from virtual reality into our human realm, the challenging Plisetsky’s katsu piroshki from Yuri On Ice might just be the reality check every budding chef needs. With that said, what we’ll take from this recipe is not the fried or baked filled buns known as piroshki, but instead we’ll travel into unravelling katsu, which can be deemed one of Japan’s finest food export.
More than sushi
Most people think ‘sushi’ when they think of Japanese culinary traditions that bring joviality to the tongue, and they’re not wrong. But there’s an as-yet largely undiscovered Japanese food export that is likely to be the next big phenomenon: katsu. Personally, we hope it stays in the shadow of sushi, so we have more time to privately revere this secret source of delight as part of inner sanctum dinner parties or food outings. This crumbed, fried-to-golden-perfection way of serving cutlets of anything from pork to chicken either alone in a bento box or lovingly slathered in a katsu curry sauce is so good, CNN says meat doesn’t get any better than this.
Katsu may be served with a citrus sauce called ponzu along with fine daikon. There are also regional variations, such as miso katsu, which is made with a miso-based sauce. The variation most loved locally and in other countries is probably katsu curry, although katsu sushi rolls and the beloved bento box – the katsu variation – competes strongly for popularity too. Food delivery companies like Deliveroo pride themselves on having many local Japanese restaurants in their listings that serve a freshly made meal, made in honour of traditional katsu.
Making this dish at home is easier than you’d think. If you don’t have panko crumbs, any fine breadcrumbs will do. Just make sure you have a decent soy sauce and curry powder or condiments on hand. This simple but tasty recipe from Independent.co.uk is just the place to start.
What exactly is katsu?
Katsu is a slivered cut of meat such as chicken, pork or even eel and fish that is coated in breadcrumbs, fried to a succulent finish, then coated with a sweet-salty sauce with just a pinch of piquancy to make the flavour profiles really sizzle. The meat or fish is salted and peppered thoroughly before being immersed in beaten egg and flour, then rolled in panko crumbs and deep-fried. The result is somewhere between the light tempura batter often used to coat prawns and other delicacies. History has it that katsu was originally made from beef, but as Japan opened up to Western influence, particularly after World War 2, the concept of deep frying it as well was added.
It goes to show that getting lost in anime isn’t the only way to be addicted to Japanese culinary culture.