In a world where most home cooks use “instant” bricks of curry roux to make their Japanese curry, I make a damned good one from scratch. But part of the no recipes philosophy is to never settle for “good enough”.
In a never ending quest to make good dishes better, I’m adding, subtracting, adjusting and substituting ingredients virtually every time I make a dish. “Better” is such a subjective word though, and in my world it just means “better suited for the mood I’m in”; and just like pizza, there are an infinite number of variations for just about any dish. So why tie yourself to one kind, when another may suit the weather (or your particular mood) better on any given day.
Some may see my philandering as infidelity towards my original Japanese Curry Rice, but one bite of this darker more seductive Kuro Curry (カツカレー) and you too will understand. “Kuro” literally means black in Japanese and while some restaurants take this literally, adding ingredients like squid ink to get a black curry sauce, I just add a lot of dark colored ingredients that give this Japanese-style curry a richer more intense flavor.
Using black pepper instead of cayenne gives this curry a tingly stomach warming heat. Red wine gives the sauce a fruity complexity while taking the color down a couple of notches. Star anise adds mild notes of black licorice without being overwhelming. Black cardamom adds some smokiness which is complimented by the black garlic oil, which adds a touch of bitterness and the woody umami of charred garlic. The chocolate adds a nutty flavor and gives the sauce a velvety texture. If this curry were a person he’d be dark and brooding on the outside yet full of passion and creative energy on the inside.
It’s not entirely clear who the genius was that first put tonkatsu and curry rice together, but it’s a match made in heaven with the thick, sweet curry enrobing a pork cutlet that’s crisp on the outside, and tender and moist on the inside. Along with a pile of hot rice, it’s an unlikely threesome that could only have come together in a culinary melting-pot like Japan.
For all you vegetarians wondering why I’ve tagged this post as a vegetarian recipe, it’s simple. The other elements that go into this curry sauce have enough flavor that you can omit the pork, and serve it atop a mound of vegetables like I’ve done in the photo above with grilled green beans and Japanese eggplant.
- Heat the oil in a large chef's pan over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the pork then add them to the pan in a single layer. Let them meat brown on one side, then use tongs or chopsticks to flip them over and brown the other side. Transfer the pork to a bowl and turn the heat down to medium low. Add the onions and cover with a lid for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue caramelizing the onions until they are dark brown and glossy (about 1 hour).
- Add the browned pork, wine, water, carrots potatoes, salt, tonkatsu sauce, tomatoe poast, apple puree, cardamom and mayu then bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer partially covered until the carrots are tender (about 45 minutes).
- Meanwhile, make the roux by melting the butter over medium low heat. Add the flour cook while stirring until the mixtures turns a golden brown. Add the garam masala and black pepper and stir to incorporate (it will turn into a paste). Remove from the heat and set aside until the carrots are tender.
- Make the tonkatsu, or grill some vegetables to serve the curry sauce on.
- Finish the curry by ladling some of the liquid the meat and veggies have been cooking in into the roux and whisk until there are no lumps. Pour this mixture back into the other pot and gently stir until the curry is thickened. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. When you're happy with it, add the peas and chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and incorporated.
- Slice the tonkatsu and plate with some cooked rice. Pour the sauce all over the tonkatsu and part of the rice