When people think about Japanese food often their minds go straight to sushi, then perhaps hibachi, but breaded fried pork cutlet or curry? Probably not.
In reality breaded fried pork cutlets (Tonkatsu) are extremely popular. They can be served in sandwich form between two slices of bread, over rice or alone with a side of cabbage. But where they really shine is draped over a mound of rice, doused in Japanese curry sauce and served with a heaping pile of shredded cabbage. This is Japanese cuisine.
Curry was introduced to Japan by the British in late 1800’s/early1900’s. At the time India was colonized by the British and they took their love of curry with them to Japan. Of course this curry gravy they introduced was influenced by British cuisine as well so the Japanese curry of today is a hybrid gravy/curry. Part English meat gravy, part Indian curry, all delicious.
If you stop into a Go Go Curry, a popular Japanese chain, in NYC you’re sure to find young Japanese students and expats indulging in a taste of home. I suggest you join them. Just look for the bright red and yellow sign with the gorilla on it.
This isn’t haute cuisine and it isn’t meant to be. It’s comfort food. Prices run from a mere $5 to $12. The Katsu curry ($7) is the fried pork cutlet and it’s awesome. The grand slam ($12) will get you a little of everything (shrimp, sausage, chicken, egg, pork).
The curry is mildly spicy and rich but I was shocked at how un-heavy it was. I don’t want to say light, because it wasn’t, but it wasn’t as dense as I expected. I swear it had Worcestershire sauce in it, which actually would make perfect sense. Nick concurred.
The pork was thin, crispy and tender and I know this is going to sound silly but the rice underneath was awesome. There’s something about rice and gravy combo that kept me going back for more. The cabbage adds a little crunch and lightens things up a smidge.
Don’t dine on swine? You might be out of luck. Although they have chicken, shrimp and sausage curry on the menu there’s pork in the sauce (I have to believe it’s what makes it so damn good).
Is it the 5th, 15th or 25th day of the month? Then it’s Go Go Day! You get a free topping like cheese or a boiled egg. I’m adding both next time.
So next time you’re jonesn’ for Japanese skip the sushi and think curry instead.