This recipe is three years in the making. 2016 was the first year we tried an Impossible® Burger and the first year we traveled to Japan. Both events have manifested into low-key obsessions, with Impossible stealing our hearts as the most convincing meat alternative to date and Japanese culture influencing our everyday lives. These obsessions have culminated into one stand-alone dish, backed with hours of prep, a handful of unique techniques, and entire trips dedicated to “research” (aka eating as much food as humanly possible).
The world of Japanese curry is akin to an underground maze, with tens of roughly-traveled dead-ends, unexpected slippery slopes, and an exhaustive hike to completion. Let us be your tour guide.
Literally translated, dashi means broth or stock in Japanese. However, the term usually signifies a stock made from katsuobushi or dried bonito, a relative of tuna that’s cured, dried, and smoked until it reaches the consistency of a wooden plank. Considered the firmest food in the world, it’s no surprise that bonito has to be broken down into paper thin flakes to be of culinary use.
It’s crucial to understand just how umami bonito stock is, so that we can source the right ingredients to make a vegetarian alternative. Our resolution: dried shiitake mushrooms and seaweed. Mushrooms carry more umami than any other vegetarian food, and when you dry them, that depth is increased tenfold! On top of an ocean-y essence—crucial for mimicking fish—seaweed contains natural traces of monosodium glutamate, aka MSG, aka the seasoning deemed to be the essence of umami, and last but not least, another muse for white media to target colored business owners. Politics aside, MSG is as “natural” as refined salt, so if you’re gonna use one, drop your bias against the other. End rant.
It’s hard to compare curry from one culture to that of another, because they’re all so incredibly different. One of the biggest procedures that sets Japanese curry apart from the rest is that it’s built upon a roux, which seasons and thickens the stew. A roux is essentially culinary glue made from cooking wheat flour with fat, such as butter, until a smooth paste is formed. They’re special because they can be cooked to the point where they develop immense amounts of toastiness via Maillard reactions and slow caramelization of starches. This is a technique that Japanese cooks take advantage of, which is no surprise, given their cuisine is based around creating layers of incomprehensible flavor.
After the roux has reached peak smoothness, nuttiness, and color, we add a heavy dose of Japanese curry powder, which is basically garam masala plus a substantial serving of turmeric. The specific arrangement of spices differs from brand to brand and cook to cook, so to make things simple, we’re going with Japan’s most trusted curry powder, S&B. While I long protested the idea of a pre-made spice blend… sometimes you just gotta keep shit easy. Plus, by trying to arrange our own mix, we would likely use the wrong proportions, thus throwing off that quintessential Japanese curry flavor.
Repeat after me: you don’t have to make everything yourself to be a dignified cook.
Unlike many curries, Japanese curry is often just sauce served with fresh short-grain rice, and it’s usually more satisfying than some stew, chocked full of vegetables and meat. Toppings occasionally take the place of fillings, which popularly includes soft scrambled eggs, eggplant, and panko-fried meats, aka katsu.
Today we’re going with the sauce only option, because it just doesn’t need anything extra! It does however contain heaps of caramelized onions, which impart the broth with sweetness, depth, and, well, onion-y-ness. Alongside brown roux, caramelized onions are another key element.
This is our first time EVER using Impossible® Burger in the kitchen, and we’re not fooling around when we say it’s a revolutionary product. If there were plant-based alternatives of this stature for every animal product, no one would need to eat the “real thing” anymore. Upon trying our first menchi-katsu—fresh out the fryer, crispy on the outside, juicy, rare, and lightly red on the inside—we realized that this was worth our three year wait. Impossible® left nothing to be desired—they created the perfect plant-based meat.
Incase you’ve been wondering what the heck menchi-katsu is, let me clear the air. *Clears throat* Menchi-Katsu is a seasoned Japanese hamburger (often made with half pork, half beef) that’s been breaded in panko and deep-fried. Menchi means minced, as in minced meat, while katsu means cutlet, as in panko-fried dankness. Katsus are typical curry wingmen, as they provide crunch, meatiness, and chew to an otherwise soft meal.
There’s a list of priorities when it comes to serving Japanese curry and it goes a little like this:
- Short grain Japanese rice
- Fukujinzuke, aka sweet Japanese pickled vegetables
Those are the essentials. Cabbage is a normal counterpart to menchi-katsu, desired for its crisp freshness, while chili powder can be added to quench your heat-seeking habits, but everything else is frivolous.
We hope you guys enjoy this recipe, it’s:
- Comforting, hearty, and meaty
- Savory, balanced, and umami with a gentle sweetness
- Perfect for showing off!
If you like what your eyes are tasting, then share this recipe with your friends on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest at @noeggsorham! For more flame-emoji photos, geeky food talk, and mouth-watering dishes, subscribe to our email list. Tag us in a photo when you create one of our recipes at home so we can share it! Wide, shallow, and stunning pita-colored bowls by Carthage.Co, who brings ethically-sourced handmade stoneware from Tunisia to the west.
Impossibly® Irresistible… it’s okay not to laugh, we know we’re lame.
Impossible® Menchi-Katsu with Umami Japanese Curry (plant-based)
Juicy Impossible® cutlets fried in crispy panko breading and served over deep, sweet, and silky Japanese curry.
- 25 grams dried shiitake mushrooms
- 20 grams dried seaweed preferably kombu or kelp
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 peppercorns
- 32 oz (4 cups) water
- 1 ½ yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ fuji apple, peeled & cored
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- Homemade dashi
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar optional
- 84 grams (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons) Melt Organic butter
- 45 grams (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Japanese curry powder we recommend S&B or homemade
- ½ yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- pinch of salt
- 12 oz Impossible® Burger meat
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
- 2 quarts refined oil, for frying
- ½ cup all-purpose flour seasoned w/ a large pinch of salt & pepper
- ½ cup egg alternative*
- 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- Short-grain Japanese rice commonly sold as sushi rice
- Fukujinzuke sweet Japanese relish
- Thinly shredded green cabbage
- Dashi: Combine all the dashi ingredients in a medium pot over high heat. It’ll foam up rapidly as soon as it hits a boil, so keep an eye on it. Once it starts foaming, drop the heat to medium-low and place on a lid to maintain a steady simmer for 30 minutes.
- Kill the heat, let it cool for 10-20 minutes, and strain through a nut-milk bag or layers of cheesecloth, squeezing to release any excess liquids.
- Measure out your dashi (should be 1 ½ – 2 cups) and add enough vegetable broth to bring the total amount to 5 cups (about 3 cups of broth). Set aside.
- Stew: While dashi cooks, heat a large dutch oven or high-walled sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add in vegetable oil, thinly sliced onions, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown—about 7 minutes—then drop the heat to medium-low and cook until onions are sweet, greatly reduced in size, and caramelized; 30-40 minutes.
- Note: If they’re browning too quickly, drop the heat even lower. The goal is slow caramelization, not sautéing.
- Toss in ginger and cook until fragrant; 2-3 minutes. Pour in dashi mixture and gently scrape bottom of pan to release stuck-on solids. Grate in the apple, cover, and keep at a low simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Roux: Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add in flour once butter’s bubbly and stir constantly until mixture is smooth, tan in color, and nutty in aroma; 15-20 minutes. If it appears lumpy for the first 10 minutes, don’t worry—continue to stir and it will smooth out eventually. Mix in curry powder, stir for another minute, then turn off the heat.
- Switch to a whisk and vigorously stir in a ladle of simmering stew (onions are ok). As soon as it’s smooth, add in another ladle of stew, and continue whisking. Repeat until roux reaches a thick, gravy-like consistency; about 6 ladles.
- Stir roux mixture and ketchup into stew. Taste after adding ketchup and add in sugar as needed (we went with a full 2 teaspoons). Drop heat to low, place on a lid, and keep until menchi-katsu is ready, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Menchi-Katsu: Bring refined oil to 350° F in an electric deep fryer or large dutch oven over high heat.
- Heat a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, then add in oil, finely diced onions, and a small pinch of salt. Cook, tossing frequently, until onions’ browned around the edges; about 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool thoroughly before using.
- Combine Impossible® Burger, sautéed onions, and the rest of the Menchi-Katsu ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Breading: Take out three shallow bowls. Place panko in one, egg replacement in another, and seasoned flour in the third. Set up near fryer. Measure out four 3 oz balls of meat.
- Flatten meat ball into a thick patty, carefully dust with seasoned flour, then coat in egg mixture, then toss with panko, packing on as much as possible.
- Carefully drop cutlet into oil (we like to place it on a spider tool then submerge into oil) and cook until golden brown; about 1 ½ minutes. Transfer to a draining rig and repeat for remaining cutlets.
- Note: To ensure your patties don’t fall apart, make sure your egg replacement is the consistency of thick milk, not a paste, as these patties are fragile. If needed, add a little water to your egg replacement.
- Plating: Serve a ladle of curry alongside a mound of Japanese rice and top with Impossible Menchi-Katsu! Serve with shredded cabbage for a refreshing crunch and fukujinzuke to complete the Japanese curry-house experience.
*Most of the unfamiliar ingredients can be found at your local Japanese grocer or Oriental market!
*If using VeganEgg by Follow Your Heart, mix 1 loosely packed tablespoon of egg powder with 3 oz of cold water. It’s not exactly ½ cup, but it does the trick!
*Menchi-Katsu recipe adapted from Lady And Pups. Thank you for the awesome recipe Mandy!