Want a taste of international travel without leaving your kitchen? Try making one of Japan’s most recognisable and perhaps best-loved dishes, katsu curry.

What is it?

Second only to ramen as Japan’s favourite food, katsu curry is a complete meal of pork cutlet doused with curry sauce served with rice and a side of shredded cabbage. This recipe is for katsu curry with pork, but chicken, as well as vegetables (flattened and coated in breadcrumbs), are also popular variants.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the curry sauce: 
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground 
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground 
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground 
1 tsp turmeric, ground 
1 tbsp curry powder 
1 tbsp vegetable oil 
1 medium onion, peeled and diced 
1 tbsp honey 
2 tbsp soy sauce 
1 tbsp rice flour or plain flour dissolved in 2 tbsp of water

For the pork cutlet: 
4 pieces pork loin (approx 500g/1lb) 
250g (9oz) Japanese panko or ordinary breadcrumbs 
1 large egg, beaten 
Plain flour for dusting 
Oil for frying

To serve: 
Plain boiled rice 
Finely shredded cabbage

A top-down view of a plate of katsu curry: a Japanese dish consisting of meat in breadcrumbs, rice and a thick curry sauce.
Katsu curry is commonly eaten with pork, but can also feature chicken or vegetables as the main component of the dish © Vassamon Anansukkasem / Shutterstock

How to cook

Step 1: Prepare the pork cutlet by flattening each with the back of a knife or a rolling pin to tenderise the meat. 
Step 2: Dust each cutlet with flour, dip in the beaten egg then coat with the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Step 3: To make the curry sauce, dry-fry the spices and curry powder in a saucepan for a few minutes to release their aromas, then add the oil, onion, honey and soy sauce and cook for a few minutes until the onions have softened.
Step 4: Add the flour mixture and cook until the sauce has thickened. Set aside.
Step 5: To cook the pork cutlets, fry them in a pan with oil over medium heat, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook both sides of each cutlet until the crumbs are golden. Drain the cooked cutlets on a wire rack or paper towel.
Step 6: Serve the pork cutlets with plain boiled rice, topped with the curry sauce and garnished with the shredded cabbage.

Shinjuku street in Tokyo at night. The neon lights from the shopfronts light up the street, which is full of people walking by.
A single whiff of katsu curry is enough to transport you to the bright lights of Tokyo © Jui-Chi Chan / Getty Images

Tasting notes

It might seem like a bit of a production line, buying a meal ticket from a vending machine and queueing up for seats at one of Japan’s curry houses, which are likely to serve only one type of katsu curry and have their own cult following. Crisp and juicy deep-fried pork cutlets served with gooey, mildly sweet but still pungent curry, rice to soak up the sauce and balance the crunch, and raw shredded cabbage to refresh the palate, make for a satisfying meal. Despite its richness, the Japanese enjoy katsu curry just as much in the summer as winter, believing spicy foods to be good for stimulating the appetite and wash it down with an ice-cold beer or soft drink.

Other recipes in this series:

Louisiana jambalaya
South Korean bibimbap
Kolkata kati rolls

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Spicy Food.

This article was originally published in April 2020 and updated in November 2020.

This article was first published Apr 1, 2020 and updated Nov 23, 2020.

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