FOLLOW
WDC ON
INSTAGRAM

We post new recipes and tips regularly each week, so keep updated and don’t forget share your food with us!

#whatdadcooked

Wagamama and the Rise of Katsu Curry

Posted by

The Wagamama in Wigmore Street opened in 1998 and was the chain’s third London restaurant.  The chain has since gone global with over 140 outlets – so it’s difficult to imagine how ground-breaking this restaurant once was. I worked in Harley Street and made repeated visits to the Wigmore branch for lunch. It was so popular there were always long queues, it made us feel like we were waiting our turn at a cheap canteen for local office workers. And this was exactly the intention behind the concept – to be an economic ‘non-destination’ venue.

Everything about the restaurant was new: long utilitarian tables, hip waiters, whizzy handsets and scribbles on your place mat. There were exposed kitchens with noisy wok burners and leaping flames. And there were unfamiliar Japanese menu items with all those m’s, y’s, and k’s…

But the one thing that made all these ideas gel was the food. Japanese ramen bars were the inspiration (also ‘non-destination’ establishments). Much of the appeal of Wagamama is the quick-cook, stir-fry, fast-food approach and Asian food is ideally suited to this style of cooking and eating.

The menu needed to be explored. On my first visit I had a bowl of rice and a gyoza starter. On subsequent visits I added a bowl of edamame beans. Then I tried variations of ramen. I went through a few versions of yaki soba, but then got stuck on one particular dish: it came on a plate with a hefty mound of rice moulded in the shape of half a cacao bean, smothered in a sludge of grey-ochre sauce and served with fried chicken in breadcrumbs: Ah, chicken katsu curry…

KERB (26)
Katsu House in Camden’s KERB food market.

How clever of Wagamama to take a few Japanese recipes and turn it into millions – over £229m in 2016. But I wonder how much of their revenue is attributable to katsu curry? According to an article in the Evening Standard, Wagamama sells around 43,000 katsu curries a week – that’s a lot of katsu!

Katsu – and other types of curry – were developed in Japan in the late 19th Century and now one of the nation’s favourite comfort foods, popular in school cafeterias, restaurants and home kitchens across Japan.  This style of cooking, recently dubbed Japanese ‘soul cooking’, can now be found, thanks to the lead taken by Wagamama, in pop-up take-aways in town centres, shopping malls and street markets all over the UK. Today, katsu curry could be vying with fish ‘n’ chips as the British take-away of choice. The Japanese curry is milder, thicker and sweeter than other curries. But it seems this local adaptation also suits a universal palate – it’s easy to eat, tasty and a perfect accompaniment to deep-fried chicken and pork.

Wagamama may have paved the way for leading-edge conceptual restaurant design and left its legacy for ground-breaking innovations in food retailing, but for my money, Wagamama will be remembered for just one thing: katsu curry.

Learn how to make Dad’s Katsu Curry here.

Katsu-0516-2

Post a Comment

Sweet Corn Memories

Growing up in Southern California in the 60s, our family was fussy about its corn…

Continue reading

Notes on Quick and Easy Cooking

I’ve recently posted a series of ‘quick and easy’ 30 minute recipes which have unexpectedly made me think again about the hyped-up online food industry – and my own cooking.

Continue reading

British Pie Banquet at The Thomas Cubitt

In case you didn’t know, this week is ‘British Pie Week’ – a fact that might have inspired The Tomas Cubitt gastro-pub to celebrate by hosting a British ‘Pie Banquet’ earlier in the week.

Continue reading

Pass the Gravy Please!

Gravy is a perfect sauce; meaty, smooth, stimulating to the palate – and it makes our food taste better.

Continue reading

Annatto, the Most Versatile – and Unknown – Seed in the World

Annatto is a jewel of a seed. It’s used for just about everything and red as red can be…

Continue reading

Why a foodie should walk down… Clerkenwell Road

Clerkenwell Road is part of a route linking east and west London, yet with its quiet passages and historic square it has the character of an intimate neighbourhood. It’s also home to a variety of foodie venues serving Clerkenwell’s creative community. Here’s some of our favourites.

Continue reading

Why Has Pho Become So Popular?

Vietnamese market stalls and restaurants are cropping up everywhere – and with them the hugely popular pho soup.

Continue reading

And what, exactly, are you supposed to do with a thousand-year-old egg?

This was one of many questions I had on my mind during my latest foray into London for January’s Time Out article.

Continue reading

Ode to an Omelette Pan

Those of a certain age will remember the post-Elizabeth David halcyon days of home gastronomy…

Continue reading

10 Coffee Shops to Stop by on your Foodie Travels

We’ve been searching for the top foodie streets in London, but all that walking around requires a coffee break (or two)! Here’s What Dad Cooked’s top 10 favourite coffee shops.

Continue reading

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Foodies100


Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. Recipes and photos created by Mr. WDC.