Kid-friendly Crispy Japanese Eggplant "Katsu" Curry Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Crispy Japanese Eggplant "Katsu" Curry

Recipe: Crispy Japanese Eggplant "Katsu" Curry

Crispy Japanese Eggplant "Katsu" Curry

by Dylan Sabuco
Photo by Shyripa Alexandr/Shutterstock.com
prep time
10 minutes
cook time
15 minutes
makes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Crispy Japanese Eggplant "Katsu" Curry

Have you ever craved something crunchy, savory, and utterly comforting? That's the joyous realm of Crispy Japanese Eggplant "Katsu" Curry. Inspired by the crispness of katsu (KAHT-soo) and the comforting allure of curry, this Sticky Fingers Cooking version reinvents the classic katsu, using succulent eggplant in place of the usual pork or chicken. Picture crispy cubes of golden-brown eggplant bathed in a sweet, salty, and sticky glaze served over Steamed Sesame Rice. Dare I say, it's a family favorite in the making?!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • chop :

    to cut something into small, rough pieces using a blade.

  • fry :

    to fry in a pan in a small amount of fat.

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • measure :

    to calculate the specific amount of an ingredient required using a measuring tool (like measuring cups or spoons).

  • scramble :

    to stir or beat eggs, blending the whites and yolks together, before cooking the eggs or dipping meat or vegetables into them so flour and breadcrumbs stick better when breading and frying.

  • stir :

    to mix together two or more ingredients with a spoon or spatula, usually in a circle pattern, or figure eight, or in whatever direction you like!

Equipment Checklist

  • Cutting board
  • Kid-safe knife
  • Paper towels
  • Measuring spoons
  • Small bowls (2)
  • Whisk
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Large sauté pan
  • Spatula or tongs
  • Medium bowl
  • Medium saucepan
  • Blender
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Ingredients

Crispy Japanese Eggplant "Katsu" Curry

  • 1 large eggplant **(for NIGHTSHADE ALLERGY sub 1 block extra firm tofu OR 12 small mushrooms)**
  • 1/3 C vegetable oil, divided **
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp grated ginger root (or 1/4 tsp ground ginger)
  • 5 T cornstarch, divided (1 T for sauce and 4 T for the breading)
  • 4 T panko breadcrumbs **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free panko breadcrumbs)**
  • 1 egg **(for EGG ALLERGY sub 1 T flaxseeds + 1/4 C warm water—more info below)**
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 C soy sauce **(for GLUTEN/SOY ALLERGY sub coconut aminos)**
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/2 tsp mild chili powder **(for NIGHTSHADE ALLERGY sub curry powder)**
  • 1 T granulated sugar

Food Allergen Substitutions

Crispy Japanese Eggplant "Katsu" Curry

  • Nightshade: For 1 large eggplant, substitute 1 block extra firm tofu OR 12 small mushrooms. Substitute curry powder for mild chili powder.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce.
  • Egg: For 1 egg, substitute 1 T flaxseeds + 1/4 C warm water. Stir and soak flaxseeds in warm water for 5 minutes or until fully absorbed and thickened.
  • Soy: Substitute canola oil or other nut-free high-smoking point oil for vegetable oil. Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce.

Instructions

Crispy Japanese Eggplant "Katsu" Curry

1.
intro

Katsu (KAHT-soo) is a dish that comes from Japan. Generally, it means breaded and fried food coated in a thick, sweet, and salty sauce called tonkatsu sauce. This SFC version will use eggplant instead of the traditional pork or chicken. Dice, bread, and fry the eggplant and smother it in thick, sweet garlic sauce atop a bed of Steamed Sesame Rice for a perfect dinner for you and your family.

2.
dice + measure

Large dice 1 eggplant into ½ -inch-thick cubes. Set the diced eggplant on a plate or cutting board lined with paper towels. The paper towels underneath the eggplant will absorb some of the water inside the eggplant. Wet eggplant doesn’t turn golden brown! Measure 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon ginger, 4 tablespoons cornstarch, and 4 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs into a small bowl. Whisk the dry breading ingredients together.

3.
fun food facts

The cooking method we are using today to cook the eggplant is called stir-frying. To stir-fry, you simply need a wok (or our skillets), high heat, and a big drizzle of oil. Then, as the food sizzles in the pan, you stir constantly until it is browned and delicious. This cooking method was invented in Ancient China during the Shang Dynasty. It was necessary to invent a new cooking method because all cooking was done over a super hot fire instead of the stovetops of today. These fires would burn food cooked in a traditional skillet. The wok has sloped edges so food can be stirred and pushed to the sides where there is less heat from the fire. Stirring constantly also helps maintain a balanced level of heat. While you stir-fry today, pretend your skillet is a wok and teach your kiddos a little lesson about stir-frying.

4.
crack + scramble

Crack 1 egg into a different small bowl and whisk to scramble the egg.

5.
bread + stir fry

Heat **1/4 cup oil* in a large sauté pan over medium heat (may need a few tablespoons more oil depending on skillet size). While the oil is heating, dip each piece of eggplant into the egg (be sure to shake off any excess drips of egg), then dip the egg-covered eggplant into the panko mixture (again, shake off any excess panko). Once all of the eggplant is breaded, start carefully laying the eggplant in the pan. It will sizzle for 5 minutes on each side before turning golden brown. When golden brown, remove from the pan and reserve in a medium bowl.

6.
mince + measure

Mince all 4 garlic cloves and combine with 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 pinch of salt, and 1 pinch of black pepper in a medium saucepan.

7.
sticky science

Sugar and water, when boiled, make simple syrup. When boiled, the water turns to steam (leaving the pan), and the sugar becomes thicker and stickier. This concept is used all around the globe to create sticky, sweet sauces. This recipe will combine syrup and soy sauce to make tonkatsu sauce.

8.
simmer + blend

Simmer the ingredients for 5 minutes over medium-high heat until the garlic is soft and the sugar is dissolved. (Tip: For a less spicy sauce, cook the garlic a little longer.) Blend this mixture in a blender or using an immersion blender until smooth. Return the sauce to the saucepan and add the katsu eggplant. Stir for 30 seconds and serve! "Tanoshimu" or "Enjoy" in Japanese!

Surprise Ingredient: Eggplant!

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Photo by BearFotos/Shutterstock.com

Hi! I’m Eggplant!

"I'm the star of this dish, the exciting Eggplant! You might think of me as a vegetable, but I'm actually a berry! Not only that, but I'm large and oblong (that's a long oval shape), and I'm purple! Some of my eggplant cousins are short and plump, and have white streaks, but we all wear the same perky green cap, and we're all good to eat!"

History

  • The eggplant was called the Mad Apple for hundreds of years before people were actually brave enough to try eating it. People worldwide thought it was poisonous, so it took a long time before someone was brave enough to take a bite.
  • Eggplant is widely believed to be native to India. In fact, it is known as the King of Vegetables in India. Eggplant still grows wild in India!
  • Chinese emperors enjoyed eggplant way back to as early as 600 BC. How's this for an interesting fact: Ladies of China found it fashionable to stain their teeth black way back in 600 BC, and they would use eggplant skins to make a black dye for their teeth!
  • Eggplant eventually made their way around the world with global explorers, but people used them more for table decoration than food for hundreds of years because they were afraid they'd be poisoned if they ate them!
  • One story tells that when eggplant was brand new to France, King Louis XIV wanted to impress guests at his royal table, so he had his gardeners plant eggplant in his garden. Do you think his diners were impressed? They were not! They described the eggplant as "fruits as large as pears, but with bad qualities." 
  • King Louis XIV cooked them and served them to his guests anyway, without them knowing. And they didn't get sick! This is because he had done his research first and found out that once eggplant mature, they are safe to eat and are actually quite delicious!

Anatomy & Etymology

  • Eggplant are technically berries, not vegetables! Are you surprised? What are some other fruits commonly mistaken for vegetables? How about cucumbers and tomatoes?
  • Did you know that eggplant and tomatoes are related? That's right—they both belong to the Nightshade family, along with potatoes and peppers. 
  • The standard eggplant is oval or pear-shaped, glossy-skinned, or purple. However, there are many different varieties of eggplant around the world. For example, eggplant can be white, green, round, small, long, purple-and-white speckled, cream-colored, or deep purple.
  • With eggplant, bigger isn't necessarily better. The smaller the eggplant, the sweeter it tends to taste.
  • Eggplant does have seeds, but once they've developed seeds, their flesh becomes pretty bitter. That's why it's best to harvest eggplant before their seeds become too big. 
  • Europeans gave these berries the name "Eggplant" in the middle of the 18th century because the variety they knew looked exactly like Goose Eggs! 
  • Another name for eggplant is "aubergine" (ober-zheen), adapted from the original Arabic name al-badinjan.

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • When buying eggplant, look for smooth skin, even color, heavy-in-the-hand, and no bruises. Squeeze the eggplant gently with a finger and then let go. If the eggplant is fresh, it will bounce back again. The stems should be bright and green. 
  • Store eggplant overnight at room temperature and plan to use it soon after bringing it home. If you are storing it for longer than a day, wrap it in a plastic bag and place it on a shelf in the fridge. 
  • The skin of the eggplant is edible, but many recipes advise peeling the skin before cooking because the flesh is sweeter and more tender, while the skin can be tough. 
  • Eggplant is a very watery vegetable, and this is why many people like to salt their sliced eggplant before frying them to remove some of the excess moisture. They also used to be much more bitter, so people would add salt to them to cut the bitterness. Eventually, growers bred the bitterness out of the plants. 
  • Eggplant can be roasted, baked, fried, sauteed, grilled, braised, stir-fried, and stuffed. The only way we wouldn't suggest eating eggplant is raw. While it is not harmful in small doses, eggplant is so much more delicious when cooked. 
  • Eggplant is in peak season from August to March—they love hot weather!

Nutrition

  • The color of a fruit or vegetable tells us what nutrient it contains (nature is amazing!). Orange vegetables and fruits have special nutrients. So do green vegetables. Purple eggplant also contain a nutrient that gives them their color: anthocyanin. It's an antioxidant also found in red or purple grapes, blackberries, blueberries, plums, red cabbage, red onions, and prunes. 
  • Brains! Did you know that the brain is made up primarily of fat? Eggplant has a unique nutrient that's been shown to protect the fats in our brain. When we safeguard the fats in our brain, we make it possible for brain cells to send signals back and forth to each other—which is a very good thing! We need our brain cells to talk to each other!
  • Fiber! We often talk about fiber when we reveal our Surprise Ingredient, and that's because vegetables and fruits contain a lot of fiber. Eggplant are no exception. What does fiber help with? Digestion! And which body parts are responsible for digestion? Many, but namely our stomach and intestines. We definitely want to keep those running in tip-top shape!

 

What is Katsu?

Photo by Sergii Koval/Shutterstock.com
  • "Katsu" (KAHT-soo) is a shortened form of the Japanese word "katsuretsu," which means "cutlet." A cutlet is a piece of meat pounded thin and often breaded before being fried in oil or grilled. 
  • In Japan, the dish is "chicken katsu," using chicken breast or thigh breaded with flour, panko breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper, and then fried in oil. "Tonkatsu" (pork cutlet) is another version that uses pork loin or filet. 
  • Katsu is served with tonkatsu sauce, which is similar to Worcestershire sauce. It is a brown vegetable and fruit sauce and may include tomato, prune, apple, lemon, carrot, onion, vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices.

Let's Learn About Japan!

Photo by yamasan0708/Shutterstock.com
  • Japan is an East Asian island country with more than 6,800 islands! However, there are five main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu (called "Hondo" or "mainland"), Kyushu, Okinawa, and Shikoku. 
  • The country is governed by a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy, with an emperor, a prime minister, and a legislature. 
  • Japanese is the official language, with English becoming more widespread in business and education. 
  • Japan lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," contributing to its island geography. There are more than 111 active volcanoes, and Japan has the most earthquakes every year. Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain and volcano in Japan at 12,389.2 feet. 
  • Tokyo is Japan's capital and largest city. Japan's total area is 145,937 square miles, and its population is over 125.5 million. 
  • The Japanese word for Japan is "Nihon" or "Nippon." The Japanese or "kanji" characters used for its name mean "origin of the sun." This is the source of Japan's nickname, "Land of the Rising Sun." The red circle in the center of the Japanese flag represents the rising sun, or "circle of the sun." 
  • "Kanji" is a Japanese writing system that uses characters derived from Chinese writing. Each character represents a word or words. 
  • Ancient warriors of Japan were known as Samurai and were highly skilled swordsmen and fighters. 
  • Japan's national flower is the cherry blossom. The symbolism of the cherry blossom is abundant in Japan. The cherry blossom tree is also known as the Japanese cherry or "Sakura" (which means "cherry blossoms").
  • Haiku poetry originated in Japan. Haiku consists of just three lines, with the first line being 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, and the 3rd line 5 syllables. 
  • Shigeichi Negishi, a Japanese engineer, created the first karaoke-like machine in 1967, using 8-track tapes and booklets for the lyrics. However, he was not successful in distributing his "Sparko Box" machines. 
  • Then, in the early 1970s, a Japanese musician, Daisuke Inoue, marketed tape machines, taped music, and amplifiers to bars to accompany regular people who wanted to get up on stage and sing, and his karaoke business model took off. 
  • Japan produces the most robotics globally. The ASIMO is a human-like robot created by Japanese engineers of Honda Motor Company in 2000. The acronym stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility.
  • Sumo wrestling is Japan's national sport, and like sumo, other martial arts originated in Japan, including karate, judo, kendo, jujutsu, and aikido. Western sports such as baseball, basketball, and soccer are also popular.
  • Since the 8th century, Coming of Age Day has been a holiday to celebrate a young person reaching the age of maturity—20 years old in Japan. Their special day serves to encourage them as they realize their adulthood. 
  • The Japanese tea ceremony is considered a traditional art in Japan, and some practice it as a hobby to share with family and friends. Tea was brought to Japan from China in the 9th century by a Buddhist monk. It is said that the ritual of drinking green tea began as a way for the monks to keep awake during meditation.
  • Japan has about four million vending machines, the highest per capita worldwide. The machines sell everything from hotdogs to underwear and soup to umbrellas!
  • In addition to sushi, other Japanese dishes include "soba" (thin buckwheat noodles), "teriyaki" (broiled or grilled seafood or meat with a soy sauce glaze), "tempura" (battered and deep-fried seafood, meat, and veggies), and yakitori (skewered grilled chicken). 
  • Many kids and adults enjoy bento boxes, which are lunch boxes filled with sushi and other snacks. Bento boxes are an experience with texture, shapes, and flavors!

What's It Like to Be a Kid in Japan?

  • Most school children in Japan wear uniforms, and their school breaks are shorter than in other countries. 
  • Kids have to learn 1,026 basic kanji characters by the time they finish sixth grade.
  • Parents and schools teach kids to respect their elders, teachers, and each other.
  • Primary school kids eat lunch together in their classrooms. A few students are assigned to get the lunches, serve them to their classmates, and return the dirty dishes to the school kitchen. Every student prepares themselves for lunch by cleaning their desks and washing their hands. In some schools they even put on a lunch uniform—a white garment and hat—to protect their clothes.
  • Some of the sports and martial arts kids participate in are baseball, soccer, swimming, judo, kendo, and karate.
  • School lunch may consist of rice or noodles, soup, fish or meat, fruit, salad, a cup of tea, and always a bottle or carton of milk.  
  • Two popular sweet treats kids in Japan like are "mochi," a molded cake made of rice, sugar, cornstarch, and water, sometimes with a sweet red bean filling, and "Pocky," a brand of chocolate-coated biscuit sticks.

The Yolk's On You

What do you call an eggplant that fell off the kitchen counter? 

A faceplant!

The Yolk's On You

Where do chickens grow? 

On egg-plants!

Lettuce Joke Around

How do you encourage a condiment to win a race? 

Yell "Curry, ketchup!" ("Hurry, catch up!")

The Yolk's On You

What's purple, delicious, and fun to decorate for Easter? 

A hard-boiled eggplant!

THYME for a Laugh

What do you get when you mix curry and porridge? 

Courage!

The Yolk's On You

What did the turmeric say to the cumin? 

"Curry up...we're late!"

THYME for a Laugh

"Knock, knock!" 

"Who’s there?" 

"Curry." 

"Curry who?" 

"Curry me in the front door....I’m exhausted!"

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