Usually a chicken dish, this baked-not-fried panko-crusted tofu sits atop homemade, aromatic Japanese katsu curry sauce for a lunch or dinner to please and delight vegetarians, vegans and meat-lovers alike. A silky side of miso aubergine slivers and yuzu-splashed spinach round out this palate-pleasing recipe.
It is with my head hung in shame that I belatedly post this tribute to one of my favourite places on Earth, Japan. After promising late last year that I would give you a photo post, filled with funky-fab food, a rainy-day cat parade, exquisite 3-D latte art, eye-catching architecture, wondrous city gardens, the iconic Mt Fuji, and myriad other serene yet exciting things I experienced, I pop into your inbox with just a recipe.
But what a recipe.Up there with crisp tempura, silky miso soup and dragon rolls in the popularity stakes, Japanese panko-crusted katsu curry is really quite easy. Not quick. No. But easy. It’s the homemade curry sauce that makes it.
I just had to bold that. 🙂
Although you could “cheat” and buy a ready-made Japanese or Chinese curry sauce, I would urge you to take the well-spent time to cook then, perhaps, sieve this sauce for an unbelievable lunch or dinner treat. The curry sauce is balanced, full of vegetables and no funny preservatives.
My katsu curry is not a midweek meal, but it is good for a small gathering on a Saturday night, with maybe a warmed jug of best sake to celebrate getting through another week. Feel free to shortcut any appetizers or sides, but freshly-made rice and miso-slicked aubergine slivers go the extra mile to make this a very special meal. You could even pep up some cooked frozen veg with a splash of yuzu or a light dusting of shimichi togarashi. Then throw some mochi on the table for dessert, put your feet up and pat your tummy.
The first time I made this sauce was to pair with panko-dredged hake fillets, which I pan-fried in organic rapeseed oil to a golden brown. As I grabbed it with my chopsticks, the interior fell away in steamy, aromatic flakes and into the sauce-drenched rice: Japanese comfort food realised.
This organic tofu version gives you a baked and crispy jacket over a soft, slightly chewy interior. Total heaven.
If you are as inept with chopstick as I, hunks of tofu will fall into the saucy rice, subsuming the extra step of dipping before eating.
Subsume and consume to your heart’s content. Enjoy.
Before you get to the recipe, Instagrammers go and check my @food_to_glow Instagram page for your chance win a Passel of Edibles and Usables from my trip to Tokyo!
I scoured the markets for interesting bits to parcel up and send anywhere in the world to a lucky winner. Included from my perusal of kitchenware-heaven Kappabashi Street is a dinky wooden chopping board, tiny ceramic plate with painted rabbits, mini sushi rice mat and paddle, onigiri shapers, beautifully patterned cloths, as well as dried ume plums, yuzu powder, roasted tea, and of course, matcha. In all there are 18 items. Go over now to see how to win. The giveaway closes on February 27th at midnight, GMT. Good luck! Or should that be “Ganbatte ne!”
Crispy Baked Tofu Katsu Curry
Usually a chicken dish, this baked not-fried panko-crusted tofu sits atop homemade, aromatic Japanese katsu curry sauce for a lunch or dinner to please and delight vegetarians, vegans and meat-lovers alike. A silky side of miso aubergine slivers and yuzu-splashed spinach round out this palate-pleasing recipe. Enjoy! xx
350-400g firm organic tofu – see steps below to make it perfect for baking
2 tbsp plain flour (gluten-free is fine)
Teacup/1/2 cup aquafaba, lightly whisked or 1 large egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs or home-dried, white crustless breadcrumbs
Japanese sansho pepper, ground OR Sichuan pepper (they are both tingly peppers) – optional
Oil for baking parchment, if you wish
Katsu Curry Sauce
1 tbsp oil
1 baking potato, diced to 1 cm square, or so
2 medium onions, skinned and chopped (finely if not sieving)
1 medium-sized carrot or parsnip, trimmed and diced
5 garlic cloves (3 if quite large), bashed, skinned and finely minced
2 cm piece of gingerroot or turmeric, chopped
1 tbsp flour
1 rounded tbsp best medium-hot curry powder
1 level tsp garam masala
800ml light vegetable stock or broth
1-2 tsp date syrup or honey (maple isn’t right here) OR 2 tbsp no-sugar applesauce!
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 rounded tbsp tomato ketchup
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp rice vinegar or lime juice, to taste
1. First, the tofu. Depending on the size and thickness, slice the tofu block in four rectangular slices (cut these in half again to make triangles) or eight square slices. Then, wrap pieces firmly in a tea towel and place on a cutting board or tray. Lay a couple of books on another tray and place on top of the tofu. This step is necessary to press out the water. Leave for half an hour out on the countertop. You could speed things up by applying pressure on the tray from your hands. Unwrap and slice each half into four triangles.
2. While the tofu is de-gorging, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium flame. Tip in the onion, potatoes, carrots or parsnip, garlic and ginger or turmeric and saute for about five minutes.
3. Add the flour, curry powder and garam masala, and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Pour in the stock, date syrup, soy sauce and ketchup. Pop in the bay leaves. Mix everything lightly and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to let the aromatic sauce simmer until thickened, stirring. This should take about 15 minutes. Add in the vinegar or lime and cook for one more minute. If you wish (I tend to), pass the chunky sauce through a large-holed sieve (not colander – too wide) into a clean pan and keep warm. Or mash the veg really well. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed.
5. Put the oven on to 180 fan/200C/400F. Line a baking tray with unbleached baking parchment and oil it if you wish.
6. To finish prepping the tofu, sprinkle the flour and panko crumbs onto two separate plates. Pour the whisked chickpea water or beaten egg into a shallow bowl. I place my coating ingredients in the order of using: flour, liquid, crumbs.
7. Dip each tofu wedge into the flour, liquid then panko crumbs until well coated. If you want to use the Japanese pepper, sprinkle it on. Place the pieces on the tray and bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping at the halfway point.
Serve with warm curry sauce (remove the bay leaves!), boiled rice (white or brown) and a selection of vegetables, or even a salad. I sauteed aubergine (eggplant) slivers, adding a spoon of brown miso and a squirt of lime towards the end. I also wilted some spinach and added a little tiny dash of perky, zesty yuzu juice (available online, Japanese grocery stores and in some Chinese grocers).
RIPE FOR PINNING!