No. 54: JapaCurry's Chicken Katsu Curry

Categories: SFoodie's 92

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.

​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

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This is really one of your favorite dishes to eat in San Francisco? That truck has only been around a few months...

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