The History of Japanese Curry

Katsu Curry has become a popular dish amongst millennials in the past few years and is now truly mainstream – it must be if Slimming World has created a low-calorie version of the dish for their 2019 calendar.

But Katsu is actually a term for the meat served with a curry sauce. The term refers to a piece of panko-crumbed meat – usually chicken – that is served with a Japanese curry sauce on a bed of rice. Sometimes the sauce also contains all sorts of vegetables including potatoes, carrots and onions.

The very first katsu curry was invented in Japan in 1899 at a restaurant in Tokyo called the Rengatei.

It was originally made using pork cutlets. However, curry itself made its Japanese debut in the Meijii era (1868 – 1912) by the British under the time of the colonial rule of the British Raj. Over a century later, it has become integral to Japanese cuisine, so much so it’s believed to be the country’s most popular dish.

Nowadays, most Japanese families use a roux block like Yutaka’s to make their katsu sauce. Its taste is a traditionally familiar one – much milder than some of the hotter Indian curries the British palate has opted for in recent times.

It’s a curry that our grandparents would have made and been more familiar with. In fact, you can find a recipe that is akin to Japanese curry  in Mrs Beeton’s very famous cookbook that is still in print these days – the1861 British cookbook: Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

The recipe for curry powder is in section 449 and notes that it’s  based on one created by Dr. Kitchener. William Kitchiner was the author of The Cook’s Oracle, which was published in 1822.