I remember my first visit to Wagamama’s in Soho c. 1994. In the days before the internet with online reviews, its credentials were confirmed by the queue on the wooden stairs that descended in to the bright basement. “Have you been here before”, was our brisk greeting as we were seated at a long bench in the starkly decorated, minimalist restaurant. Dining elbow to elbow with strangers to eat Japanese food was a relatively new concept, and an exciting/eccentric/weird experience for a Belfast teenager.
Fast forward nearly thirty years, and my love for this Japanese fast food restaurant that serves fresh, tasty, decently priced dishes has not wained. There are now 130 Wagamama’s in the UK, with two near me in Belfast. My kids are equally taken by Waga’s – including the fussy eater (halleluja) – whose go to on the menu is the chicken katsu curry. (It could be worth mentioning that the word wagamama (わがまま) is Japanese for “self-indulgent”, “self-centred”, “disobedient”, or “wilful” and is most often translated by the brand as naughty child).
The Kastu Curry is Wagamama’s most popular dish, and was bought 2.5 million times last year. If you ever sit near the service point it is hard not to notice the stream of Katsus being ferried out to diners. There’s even a mini kids version which comes complete with shredded carrot and cucumber, keeping parents happy that they’re getting their veggies.
You’d think that it would be hard to replicate at home. The rice and chicken component can be very simple – use ready cooked packet rice and shop bought breaded chicken fillets. Of course you can prepare these from scratch yourself using basmati or jasmine rice and bread-crumbing/crushed corn-flaking chicken breasts.
It is also possible to buy Katsu curry sauce in a jar, however this homemade adapted from the original Wagamama recipe is far superior.
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
- 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 100ml coconut milk
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp mild curry powder
- 300ml chicken stock
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
Soften the garlic, onion and ginger in the oil over a medium heat. Add the turmeric and curry powder, stir for about a minute. Add the flour, mix for another minute. Add the chicken stock a splash at a time, stirring to make the sauce. When all the chicken stock has been added, stir in the coconut milk, soy sauce and sugar. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, then blend with a stick blender (or whizz up in a foddering processor, I use my Nutribullet).
The original recipe says to sieve the sauce rather than blending to make it smooth, but it seems such a shame to remove the awesome goodness and flavour of the onions, ginger and garlic. Sure, it’s a diversion from the original recipe, but very much in keeping with the “naughty child” ethos of the Wagamama name, ha ha!
Also, by keeping the onions and garlic, as well as the turmeric and curry spices you will be making your gut microbiome very happy 🙂 and that’s a very good thing.