I’m no stranger to a good katsu curry. I love Japanese food, and katsu is always a go-to when I’m eating in high street Japanese chains like Wagamama or Yo! Sushi.

It’s even part of my dinner repertoire at home – I make it regularly with crispy fried tofu or, if I’m feeling lazy, oven-baked vegetarian breaded chicken.

When I saw that Wagamama had released its famous katsu recipe for the world to try at home during lockdown, I had to give it a try.

While I knew it wouldn’t be the same without the amazing crispy seitan or gigantic side of edamame that I’d usually tuck into if I was eating at Wagamama, I figured the DIY recipe would be close enough to the real thing.

I was totally wrong.

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I was a bit dubious when I saw the recipe contained two heaped tablespoons of curry powder as its main flavour base, and supposedly only needed 100ml of coconut milk – how would that make a creamy, flavoursome dish?

I should have listened to my gut when I realised how different the Wagamama recipe was to my normal katsu dish, which contains carrots and honey for sweetness as well as more coconut milk and less curry powder, but for the sake of journalism I began to cook to Wagamama’s instructions.

For those interested, here are the ingredients:

  • 2–3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2.5cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 heaped tablespoons mild curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 300ml chicken or veg stock
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, to taste

Ingredients assembled

I started off by chopping, crushing and grating the onion, garlic and ginger, and adding them to a pan with hot vegetable oil. Easy.

Once the onion had softened, I added my two heaped tablespoons of curry powder, one teaspoon of turmeric and stirred to release the aromatic flavour.

I then added the flour, which was supposed to thicken the sauce, before pouring in the veg stock and coconut milk.

In the video, the Wagamama chef says you can add ‘as much or as little’ coconut milk as you like – the 100ml was just a guide.

I tried sticking as closely to the recipe as possible, adding just a quarter of a can, and let it simmer for an unspecified amount of time.

After about 10 minutes I decided to taste the sauce. It was not good. The curry powder hadn’t blended in properly, and the sauce was not creamy at all – it just tasted bitter, salty and powdery, and I wasn’t getting any of the delicate ginger or garlic flavours.

Perhaps I should have added more garlic and ginger at the start, but it was too late for that now. It was time for damage mitigation.

As someone who’s taught themselves to cook, through watching my mum work her magic in the kitchen as a child and lots of failed experiments at university, I’m no stranger to fixing my mistakes while cooking.

Luckily it doesn’t happen too often anymore, but Wagamama’s vague instructions meant I had to get my thinking hat on.

It was too late to do much about the quantities of curry powder or lack of garlic and ginger, so I just added a lot more coconut milk in an attempt to make the sauce more creamy and less salty.

I left it to simmer and infuse while I made my crispy fried tofu.

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Wagamama’s video only included instructions for making crispy chicken breasts, but as a vegetarian this wasn’t an option.

Instead I applied the same instructions to a block of tofu I had in the fridge: cutting it into chunks, rolling it in flour, beaten egg and panko breadcrumbs, then deep frying for as long as I saw fit.

Now the tofu was crispy, the katsu looked creamier, and the rice was cooked – it was time to assemble my plate and tuck in.

Have you tried making Wagamama’s katsu curry? Share your experience in the comments here.

Ready to eat: Tofu katsu curry served with cucumber for a fresh crunch

The verdict

Honestly, I feel like Wagamama led us down a dark alley here. They want us to enjoy their food at home, but they don’t want us to never go back to their restaurants ever again.

My meal was an average-at-best approximation of a Waga’s katsu curry: it tasted fine, but the sauce was runny thanks to all the extra coconut milk I needed, and lacked the complexity of flavour I’d normally expect.

I still devoured the whole plate, and I was very impressed with my crispy tofu if I do say so myself, but I’ll be sticking to my BBC Good Food vegan katsu recipe next time.

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