If there’s one dish which I crave when in the UK, it’s katsu. It’s beginning to feel very much like the winter now in Oxford, and there’s nothing more delicious than a nice, warming dish like katsu. So when I was visiting Giraffe (George St., Oxford), my heart skipped a beat when I spotted that it was on the menu. Under the heading of ‘Bowls for the Soul’ was ‘Katsu Chicken’:
Breaded chicken and noodles in a mild peanut & coconut sauce, with bok choy, tenderstem broccoli and wok-fried vegetables
Katsu chicken and noodles? A peanut & coconut sauce? A stir-fry? This pan-Asian mixture intrigued me: at first I laughed out loud because it sounded so funny. But I accepted that it was British-Japanese food with an intriguing twist, and after I ordered the dish I was thrown back to memories of a delicious meal of tonkatsu which I had in Ikebukuro last summer.
The tonkatsu’s coat of fried breadcrumbs was perfectly crunchy, the meat was succulent, the cabbage was crispy, and the tonkatsu sauce was deliciously thick. It was served with sticky rice, miso, and pickles. Part of the appeal of ordering a staple Japanese dish like tonkatsu is that if you go to a regular restaurant, it will always be presented in the same manner. The meal will vary in quality depending on where you are eating, but you will expect it to be prepared and presented in a certain way. I find this standardisation comforting. Well, that’s if you’re in Tokyo…
In Oxford, at Giraffe, it was a different story! What arrived was a dish which was far from the one I knew. However, after a few cautious mouthfuls, I already appreciated the interesting twist which Giraffe put on the chicken katsu. In fact, I would order it again! It was not the traditional Japanese dish which I anticipated when seeing the name, but the sharp, spicey tastes of the stir fry were a pleasant contrast to the peanut and coconut sauce. It worked. The chicken did not have enough breadcrumbs so it did not have a very katsu-like texture, but it was a yummy, warming dish overall, and I would recommend trying it if you’re looking for something new to tickle your tastebuds.