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Monday 18 February 2019

Wasabi Chicken Katsu Curry with Rice

Since I've not posted in a few months, I figured it was about time to put something up... and, in the absence of any new cooking (other than what's been going up on Instagram), it's going to be a conveniently quick post about a conveniently quick ready-meal.

It seems that the restaurant chain Wasabi Sushi & Bento have started producing packaged ready-meals, for cooking either in the oven or the microwave and, of the five boxes currently available, I found two options in my local branch of Sainsbury's: Chicken Katsu Curry and Sweet Chilli Chicken. Considering the number of own-brand Chicken Katsu Curries I've picked up in various supermarkets over the years - and having been thoroughly disappointed by all of them - I figured that I owed it to myself to try one that carries the brand of an actual restaurant chain that I frequent.

Approaching it with low expectations, I elected to cook it in my microwave - instructions are given for 700w and 900w, so I had to pick a mid-point for my 800w model - since cooking it in the oven requires one to decant the contents of the plastic packaging within the waxed cardboard box into separate, oven-friendly containers, to be covered over with foil (or lids where available). Since that would only add to the washing up I'd have to do later, the simple act of piercing the film lid and sticking the plastic tub in the microwave seemed like the most logical option.

It takes about 6-7 minutes to cook, and then has to be transferred to a plate, bowl, or my personal preference, the platey-bowl, which is a bit of a mission, as the rice and chicken have to be served up before the sauce can be poured on from the container... This still seems a little faffy for my liking, and I wonder if putting the sauce into a sachet, to be laid over the top of the rice and meat for shipping and storage purposes, might be the better plan. Nevertheless, here's the end result:

The first major difference between this and the average supermarket-bought Chicken Katsu Curry is the presence of large chunks of potato, carrot and onion in the sauce. In most others, there are no solid bits of veg at all and, on those rare occasions they are present, they tend to be fairly small. Straight away, this product looks better than the average supermarket fare.

I must confess that I was a little underwhelmed by the size of the katsu breadcrumb-coated chicken piece, and was a little concerned initially that the portion of rice was also on the small size. Conversely, when the sauce was poured over, it looked as though there was far too much, and that it would swamp the chicken and rice. Upon reflection, I'd say it's not as excessive as I first thought, but I could still stand to lose a few spoonfuls, while the quanity of rice is just right. A bit more chicken wouldn't go amiss, but the overall portion size is pretty good.

As to flavour, I find the sauces in most supermarket ready meals are Katsu Curry flavoured, rather than having the bite and spiciness of a true Katsu Curry. I'm happy to report that this bucks the trend completely. I can't quite remember how it compares to what a Wasabi restaurant would serve, but it's so much better than anything else I've bought from a supermarket. The chunks of veg in the sauce add to the texture and make the overall package that little bit more filling in the absence of a larger portion of meat, and I found this package very satisfying. The rice, sensibly, is plain but cooks very well in the package, while the chicken is prone to drying out at the edges. It doesn't become inedible or rubbery, just more difficult to cut, so perhaps I should try heating the package in two stages, reorienting it on the turntable halfway through.

Weighing in at £4.50 in store, or £4 via the website, it's in the same ballpark as Sainsbury's own 'Taste the Difference' line, but unlike the supposedly high-end own-brand, I really could taste the difference versus Sainsbury's cheaper, own-brand Chicken Katsu Curry tubs.

In fact, it's got me thinking that I should look into Katsu Curry sauces generally - either buying it ready-made or seeking out a recipe - and trying to make something like this myself, it get a better idea of how to get the spiciness just right. The only downside is that Courtney, being veggie, would not appreciate a chicken Katsu, so I'd need to identify an alternative... Perhaps Quorn or Tofu would suffice...

I've also tried Wasabi's Sweet Chilli Chicken box, which is nothing special overall, but the sauce again has a real kick to it. I think I'll need to seek out a bigger branch of Sainsbury's if I want to look at the rest of the line...

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