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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No. 54: JapaCurry's Chicken Katsu Curry

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 12:20 PM

click to enlarge Chicken katsu curry, $8, from JapaCurry. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Chicken katsu curry, $8, from JapaCurry.

SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

click to enlarge SF_92.jpg

JapaCurry's jockeying for curb space Downtown might have started a dialog about mobile versus brick-and-mortar, but it hasn't spoiled the food any. The Japanese food truck's chicken katsu is one of the best things you can score on a San Francisco sidewalk these days.

For the deep-brown curry sauce (packed in a separate container from the clamshell box of rice and katsu), owner Jay Hamada engineered a neat mashup of ingredients and methods. Most days he goes through 80 pounds of onions, sliced thin, caramelized long enough to turn soft and pulpy. Hamada adds a mix of curry powder, extra hits of cumin and coriander, then blocks of Japanese curry roux, water, and a sort of double stock made from chicken carcasses simmered in commercial broth. The end result is semi-viscous, neither thin nor cornstarch-gloopy, that gets most of its body from those long-rendered onions, and has a taste that glows with ambient warmth quite apart from chile heat, moderate even if you opt for spicy (you should).

Texture is also key for the chicken katsu itself. Other local curry shops make a fatal concession to America's lust for breasts, but Hamada stays faithful to thigh meat, pounded, floured, egged, and panko'd. The crackly crispness survives even a steaming berm of rice and a long walk back to the office, survives even a dousing with curry sauce. A different kind of crisp comes via Kool-Aid-red fukujinzuke pickles ― traditional with curry ― shards of daikon and the odd bit of eggplant cut in toothpick-thin bits that squeak against the teeth.

JapaCurry: Truck parks at various locations Downtown and beyond; follow it on Twitter at @JapaCurry

[Want to learn about the origins of Japanese curry and other yoshoku dishes? Check out Jonathan Kauffman in a previous post on SFoodie, including a link to a 2009 piece he wrote for Seattle Weekly.]

Dishes in our series so far:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño

91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu

90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha

89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar

88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline

87: Outerlands' levain bread

86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt

85: Gyro King's spinach pie

84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi

83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu

82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tarts

81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée

80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle

79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña

78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

77: Cheesecake from Zanze's

76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel

75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra

74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch

73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup

72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk

71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille

70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery

69: Plow's crispy potatoes

68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye

67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe

66: Nakaochi at Ippuku

65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer

64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut

63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah

62: Cotogna's roasted carrots

61: Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffles

60: The Rebel Within from Tell Tale Preserve Co.

59: The Slanted Door's Whiskey Cocktail

58: Carnitas burrito from Taqueria San Francisco

57: Sakura mochi from Benkyodo

56: Birria at Gallardos

55: BBQ pork skewers at Fil-Am Cuisine

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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