Last week, I succumbed to the wicked flu that has been going around, and let me tell you it was a doozy. Four solid days of feverish symptoms followed by a bonus week of lingering aches and general fatigue.
When I finally had enough energy to get out of bed and turn the stove on, the first thing I thought about making was this Japanese-style curry. It's hearty and warming in all the right ways and easy enough to prepare on those wobbly post-fever legs.
It's also perfect for using up all those vegetables you had ambitiously bought the day you fell ill, which then sat waiting patiently in the bottom of the refrigerator for you to recover and get cooking again.
Do yourself a favour and cut all the vegetables before starting the rice and cooking this recipe. The chicken katsu is nice to have if you are feeling up for it and have the ingredients on hand, but this delicious stew can just as easily be enjoyed without it.
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2 cups uncooked Japanese short grain rice
2-1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon salted butter
6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 medium-sized yellow onions, peeled and sliced thinly
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons garam masala powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder, if you like it spicy
2 cloves garlic, microplaned
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and microplaned
1 medium sized eggplant or 2 Japanese eggplants, cut in half and sliced into 2-cm-thick pieces
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
1 rib of celery, sliced
Sweet potato, peeled and diced
Green beans, stems removed, cut into thirds
4 cups vegetable stock (can also easily substitute chicken or beef stock)
1 small fuji apple, peeled and cored and grated on a microplane into a paste
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons salted butter or ghee
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon garam masala powder
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 tablespoons Bull-Dog sauce (Bull-Dog is a Japanese-style barbecue sauce, but if not available substitute Worcestershire sauce)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon togarashi (togarashi is a Japanese spice mixture, but if not available, substitute 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
4 chicken breast fillets, pounded evenly to 1 cm thickness
1 cup vegetable oil
The easiest way to do this is to use a rice cooker, but if you don’t have one on hand, follow this method.
Rinse the rice three times in cold running water. Strain well over a fine mesh strainer.
Place the rice into a medium-sized heavy-bottom pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the water and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
Bring the soaked rice and water to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook for 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to sit and steam with the lid on for another 10 minutes. For best results, resist the urge to peek under the lid while the rice is cooking.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large heavy-bottom pot. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, sliced onion and salt. Stir often to avoid sticking and cook until the onions have softened completely and become evenly caramelized. Around 30-45 minutes. Add garam masala, cayenne (if using), garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 minutes until fragrant.
Meanwhile, in a separate pan, sauté the eggplant with 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat until softened and shiny. Add more oil if necessary. Remove from the heat and add to a large pot along with the caramelized onions and the potatoes, carrot, celery, sweet potato and green beans. Add the vegetable stock and microplaned apple. Simmer over medium heat for around 20 minutes or until the potato is cooked.
Meanwhile, prepare the curry roux.
In a small pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk and cook until the roux bubbles and forms a thick paste, and begins to turn a light brown colour. Add the garam masala and continue to cook for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and add the ketchup and Bull-Dog sauce. Whisk to combine. A crumbly paste will result. Add 2-3 big ladles full of liquid from the curry pot and whisk until a smoother, pourable paste develops. Add more liquid from the curry pot if necessary. Add the resulting paste to the large curry pot that contains the cooked vegetables and remaining liquid and stir to combine. Allow to simmer together and thicken for another 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Combine the flour with the salt, pepper and togarashi. Place the flour mixture, eggs and panko breadcrumbs into separate shallow dishes. Dredge the chicken in flour, then dip into the egg, followed by the breadcrumbs, making sure each pounded filet is covered evenly on both sides.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Carefully lay two filets down in the hot oil and cook until golden brown and chicken is fully cooked, around 3-4 minutes on each side. Carefully remove cooked filets from the hot oil and place on a paper-towel-lined tray to soak up any excess oil. Cut each fillet into strips and serve immediately.