This Japanese Tofu Katsu Curry is the perfect vegetarian-friendly comfort food. Made in only 30 minutes, this dish makes a great bento lunch, too–if you have any leftovers from dinner, that is!
Guys, I have a serious problem. I just got back from Japan last week and am DYING to try every single Japanese recipe I can think of!
The versatility of Japanese cuisine is, simply put, extraordinary. From classic dishes such as shrimp tempura udon and sushi to beautifully reimagined adaptations such as matcha (green tea) mille crepe cake or this 3-ingredient Japanese cheesecake, there is no doubt in any foodie’s mind that Japan is considered something of a palette paradise.
Of course, if you happen to have dietary restrictions, tasting your way through Japan can pose a different challenge altogether. As a vegetarian, I had heard many stories about how dashi (a fish-based broth) is used in most traditional Japanese cooking, and many of my friends had warned me about the difficulty of finding suitable veg-friendly fare, so I promised myself I’d be open to trying dashi-made products if the need ever arose. But I had always loved Japanese food made in the States and had almost no trouble finding suitable vegetarian options, so I felt fairly confident that I wouldn’t have any trouble abroad. After all, isn’t that what tofu was for?
As it turns out, though, tofu–at least in the places where I went to visit, in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and the Shimane Prefacture–wasn’t ubiquitous at all. I might’ve seen the occasional cube of tofu bobbing up and down in my (very non-veg) miso soup, but aside from that I spent most of our free lunchtimes scouring Japanese restaurant menus looking for “safe” dishes such as omurice and yakisoba. Two nights in a row, I also ordered vegetable curry with rice that turned out to be super delicious, though my jaw ached for a bit more substance to chew on! That night, I quickly scribbled a note to myself about how great it would have been to have some tofu katsu (or cutlet) with that curry, and thus this recipe was born.
The best part of homestyle Japanese cooking is that it’s very simple to prepare and–as in the case of this Japanese Tofu Katsu Curry–few ingredients to assemble. All you need for the katsu itself is some tofu, flour, salt, pepper, eggs, and panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs):
Once you’ve cut and pressed your tofu dry, you prepare it for frying by coating each piece in flour and then dipping it in a beaten egg:
After that, you ignore the Porg sitting in the middle of your Photoshoot (!!!) and dip the egg-covered tofu in some panko crumbs before frying it in a pan filled with hot oil:
From there, you can cut up some vegetables and cook them with a store-bought vegetarian curry sauce. If you want, you can also serve the tofu katsu with an easy katsu sauce made of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and some sugar. And of course, Japanese-style rice (short-grained) is a must for any curry dish!
I’m still recovering from this trip but have more Japanese recipes up my sleeve already. Stay tuned to see what they are–and feel free to throw your favorite Japanese recipe suggestions my way, too, so that I can try them !
For the tofu katsu:
- 1 (1 lb.) package tofu, drained
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup panko crumbs
- Oil, for frying
For the katsu sauce:
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
For the vegetable curry:
- 2.5 cups water, for boiling
- 3 carrots
- 1 potato
- 110g prepared curry sauce mix (I used vegetarian-friendly S&B Golden Curry Sauce)
To prepare tofu katsu:
- Cut tofu into 1x2-inch rectangles, each 1/2-inch thick. Use a paper towel to pat tofu slices completely dry and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and pepper. Place egg into a second small bowl, and panko crumbs into a third small bowl.
- Place each tofu slice into flour, then dip into egg. Transfer carefully to panko crumbs and roll around to coat completely.
- Once all tofu slices are coated, heat a deep wok or pan over high heat and add oil (about one inch deep). Allow oil to get very hot--test heat by adding a drop of egg to oil. If the oil immediately begins bubbling, you're ready to fry!
- Use tongs or a pair of long chopsticks to gently slide each tofu slice into hot oil. Fry until tofu is golden brown and floats to surface. Transfer tofu quickly and carefully to a towel-lined plate so that towel can absorb any excess oil. Serve with katsu sauce (below).
For katsu sauce:
- Combine Worcheshire sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Drizzle across tofu katsu cutlets before serving.
To prepare vegetable curry:
- Add 2.5 cups of water to a medium-sized pot. Bring water to a boil over medium heat.
- Chop carrots and potatoes. Add carrots to boiling water and boil for 5 minutes, then add potatoes and continue boiling until tender. Drain vegetables and set aside.
- Turn off heat, then stir in storebought curry mix until completely dissolved. Turn heat back onto low, then simmer curry for 5 minutes until curry thickens slightly.
- Serve with rice and tofu katsu!