We're not quite sure what it is about the humble katsu curry, but its sticky rice, thick sauce and crispy breadcrumb combination never fails to make us salivate like Pavlov's dog at the merest whiff. And we're not alone.
Londoners are queuing round the block daily for their katsu curry fix. Often filled with chicken but sometimes graced with pork, fish or veg, Japanese restaurants are serving up katsu curries in their hundreds to others under its gloriously savoury spell. Here are our favourites.
This three-floor Japanese restaurant in Chinatown has been serving Londoners for nearly 25 years. We love their extra-thick katsu curry sauce, sliding down the rice and packed full of stewed carrots and potatoes (that makes it healthy, right?). We love that you can ask for a bigger portion of sticky rice for no extra cost. We especially love that it is one of the few places in London you can find the elusive TOFU katsu curry. The breaded and sliced tofu steak is huge and a worthy change from the usual chicken and pork offerings.
Ten Ten Tei
Ten Ten Tei is an authentic, no-fuss place to get your quality katsu curry hit. Their prawn and pork dishes had us impressed not only for smattering cooked carrots throughout the curry sauce, but also for the side of pickled peppers. These tart, bite-sized treats (You Me Sushi serve their katsus with them too) are the complete taste opposite of the thick, creamy curry sauce and they're a tastebud-tingling delight to eat together.
Hare & Tortoise
Don't be fooled by the name. It may sound like a ye olde British pub but the Hare & Tortoise serves up quality authentic pan-Asian fare, including chicken and prawn katsu curries. They're simple and delicious, served in a huge bowl (you won't go hungry) and smothered in that wonderful savoury sauce. Service is brisk, but that just means you have time for a second portion before lunch is over.
Situated among the hundreds of restaurants in Chinatown, Misato has to fight for attention. But it succeeds. The presence of katsu curries (pork and chicken) captures our interest, while the price (£6.50!) draws us in and the flavour keeps us coming back. It's certainly not sophisticated, but it is tasty and hearty, and we appreciate the token side salad, even as it disappears under the curry saucealanche.
KIN serves chicken katsu curry in deconstructed form: bowl of rice, bowl of sauce, plate of panko-coated chicken. We end up bunging it all together within seconds but those who prefer more control over their portion sizes may appreciate the sentiment. It's the chicken that wins here - sublimely crispy and no oily aftertaste. Get there early - during lunch, the queue runs out the door.
Situated on Wakley Street, this new branch of Tanakatsu specialises in katsu, teriyaki and sushi. When it comes to the katsu curries, we applaud the variation. Not only is there chicken, pork and prawn, there's also... could it be true... a vegetarian option! The pumpkin croquette katsu curry's sweetness is a delicious accompaniment to the decidedly savoury sauce. We loved it, but the entire menu looks amazing. We'll be back.
Don't be put off by the unassuming exterior of this little Japanese spot. Ignore the TV flickering in the corner and the steady stream of take-out customers; simply pull up a chair at one of the tiny tables and work your way through the extensive menu of sushi, noodles and hot dishes. First stop? The katsu curries of course, and there are chicken, prawn and tofu variations to choose from. At £5 a pop we weren't expecting such tasty, fresh, crispy katsu dishes to arrive in front of us. Lucky, lucky Deptford.