I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen Japanese-Style Curry With Cap’n Crunch Tofu Katsu on a menu before, or if I will ever actually see it on a menu, but as strange as it sounds, it’s actually an incredibly delicious and well-balanced dish. I’m not necessarily expecting folks to follow this recipe to the letter, but I do hope it inspires y’all to play with their food a bit, and take chances with your cooking.
Disclaimer: If you watch the video, you’ll see that I wasn’t measuring anything, and I was adding everything by sight and by taste. That’s truly how I cook 90% of the time. This recipe is simply a guesstimate as to how much of each ingredient I used. Watch the video and see what I did, and then trust your palate as you taste and cook it for yourself.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
I firmly believe that restrictions breed creativity. Shakespeare restricted himself to writing in iambic pentameter, and look how that turned out. Nowhere is this theory more true than in the kitchen. “Restricting” myself to a vegan lifestyle, has helped me to create everything you seen on Monson Made This.
Beyond that, though. most of the food I cook and eat on a daily basis comes from me “restricting” myself to only cook with the ingredients that I have on hand, or to only use produce or ingredients that are on their last days. Some of my greatest meals and recipes have come from having to make the most of ingredients that are about to go bad.
It’s honestly my favorite way to cook, and probably my favorite way in life to stretch my creative muscles.
So, this week, instead of giving you a recipe that I had plotted, and thought-out, and tested, I decided to give y’all a little bit of a show. I decided to show you what it’s really like for me when I’m forced to use my creative to cook a meal using specific ingredients.
Some of my favorite YouTube personalities have done similar videos. Lauren Toyota from Hot For Food used to do her “Recipe?!” videos where she made a dish using what she had on hand. And Jasmine and Chris of Sweet Simple Vegan do their own version of vegan “Chopped” at least once a month on their channel.
Inspired by these folks, and of course the show Chopped, I decided to do my own take on the genre. I asked Ben choose four items for me to cook with, and then film the process of me making something (hopefully) delicious out of them .
Unlike other similar cooking competitions, my only competition was with myself and the ingredients. The deciding factor that decided whether I won or lost was whether or not Ben, who is rather picky, would actually eat the dish.
What Ben Chose
While I locked myself into a back bedroom (Ben’s office), Ben chose Pink Lady apples, S&B “Oriental” Curry Powder, canned black beans, and Cap’n Crunch cereal. The reaction that you see in the video when I lift the box is my honest reaction to those ingredients. Admittedly, I was a bit afraid that since he knew that he was going to have to eat the dish, that he would go easy on me. But he definitely didn’t.
Seeing the apple and the curry powder, I immediately thought about making a Japanese-style curry. I then thought about using the Cap’n Crunch as a breading for tofu because I vaguely remember Planet Hollywood famously serving Cap’n Crunch breaded chicken fingers. The black beans, oddly enough, were the wild card for me. I knew that they would be fine in the curry because I had used chickpeas and other beans in curries before.
What you see in this video is real. I quickly came up with a gameplan, and I thought about the other ingredients I had on hand that would help me complete this dish.
The “Must Use” Ingredients (contains affiliate links):
- Pink lady apple – My pup, Odie, loves apples, and I love hearing the sound of him crunching on them. I’ve also been OBSESSED lately with eating apples with peanut butter. So, I seem to always have apples on hand now, and there they were for Ben to use against me. You could easily use any other sweet apple, like Honeycrisp or Gala, but I would avoid anything that’s too tart.
- S&B “Oriental” Curry Powder – Japanese-style curry comes in many forms. Normally you can find it in roux “bricks” that you just add to simmering water or broth. I prefer this powder because you can control the amount of salt and oil that you use when making the curry. If you don’t have this Japanese-style curry powder, an Indian style curry powder, or Thai curry paste would work just as well.
- Black beans – Honestly, out of all of the ingredients that Ben chose, the black beans were the most difficult to place. If I had to choose another type of bean, I would probably use a chickpea instead. Although, thinking about it again, I actually really liked the texture, color, and flavor of the black beans in the curry.
- Cap’n Crunch cereal – Most people probably wouldn’t know that Cap’n Crunch is an “accidentally” vegan cereal. Normally America’s favorite cereals contain D3 which is derived from sheep’s wool, but surprisingly, the Cap’n doesn’t. Panko or regular bread crumbs would work just as well in this dish, but the sweet cereal was a great contrast with the other flavors in this dish. And it fried up to a perfect golden brown.
Pantry Staples (contains affiliate links):
- Granulated Mushroom Bouillon (mushroom broth powder) – I really consider this ingredient to be cheating because it makes whatever you use it in taste amazing. It’s the MSG. You could easily just use your favorite veggie broth instead of water or use a bit of your favorite vegan flavor of Better Than Bouillon.
- Full fat coconut milk – I like to keep the Thai Kitchen brand of coconut milk on hand for just such an occasion. It really helps round out the edges of curries and spicy dishes. I’ve experimented a bit lately with using other plant milks in its place, and although they do not have the same delicious, rich flavor, unsweetened soy or almond milk can be used instead.
- Chickpea flour – Chickpea flour, garbanzo bean flour, gram flour, besan… It’s all just ground up chickpeas. And it just happens to be my favorite vegan egg substitute, especially when frying and air-frying. For vegan cooking, it’s a must-have.
- Bragg’s Liquid Aminos – I don’t remember the last time I actually purchased “soy sauce”. At this point, I just prefer and I am just more familiar with the milder flavor of Bragg’s. So, anytime you see Bragg’s Liquid Aminos in one of my recipes, feel free to substitute-in whatever low-sodium soy sauce or tamari you have on hand. Just know that my recipes are not tested using a “full-sodium” soy sauce, so if you do want to use one in this recipe, you’ll have to adjust a bit for the increased salinity.
- Onion – Can you cook a savory meal without adding onion? I can’t.
- Thai green chili – I love the spice that a single Thai green chili brings to the party. You could sub-in maybe half of a jalapeno instead, use a red chili, or just leave it out completely if you’re not a fan of heat.
- Extra firm tofu – By default now, I just buy Extra Firm Tofu. It’s a great all-purpose tofu that can stand-up in any dish. When frying, like I did in this recipe, I wouldn’t recommend a tofu that’s any softer than “firm”.
- Fresh cilantro and green onion – I love the freshness that these herbs provide. Not a fan of either, leave them out, or use parsley or celery leaves.
Special Equipment (contains affiliate links):
- NutriBullet or blender – I have expensive blenders, but I seem to always grab my NutriBullet when I need to blend or grind something. For this recipe, you need something that can puree an apple, and grind up Cap’n Crunch.
- Tofu press or towel – I’m not sure why they are so expensive, but tofu presses are kind of amazing. If you want to buy one, this is the one that I have and love. There are others out there, but I honestly haven’t tried any other. There are ways to press tofu without it, though, including just slicing the tofu, and sandwiching it between cloth or paper towels.
- Deep fryer or large dutch oven – The small appliance that I use to deep fry the tofu in my video came from my grandparents’ yard sale. I have no idea what it is, or how hold it is, but I like it because it has a wide top that prevents oil from jumping out, and it has a deep center so that you don’t need much oil. If you don’t have what I have, you could use another electric deep fryer, or just fill a deep pot with 2 to 3 inches and use an appropriate thermometer to make sure it stays at the right temperature.
Japanese-Style Curry With Cap’n Crunch Tofu Katsu
The product of a "Chopped" style cooking channel, this dish is incredibly balanced, with sweet and savory components, and surprises in every bit.
- 1 medium-sized pink lady or similar apple, divided
- 1 cup water or broth
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 small Thai green chili, minced
- 2 tablespoons S&B "Oriental" (Golden) Curry powder
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Granulated Mushroom Bouillon, or vegan bouillon
- ½ to ¾ cup full-fat coconut milk
- ½ to ¾ cup black beans, drained and rinsed
- fed pepper flake to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 7 ounces (½ block) firm or extra firm tofu
- 1 cup Cap’n Crunch cereal
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ cup chickpea flour
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh cilantro
- green onion, thinly sliced
- cooked rice and/or bitter greens of choice
Cut your apple in half, and remove the seeds. Dice one half of the apple into ¼ inch cubes, and roughly chop the other half. Add 1 cup of water and the roughly chopped half of the apple to a blender. Puree and set aside.
Heat a saucepan to medium, high heat, and add onion, diced apple, and Thai green chili. Saute until the apple and onions begin to soften and brown slightly. Add the curry powder, and cook for another minute. Pour in the apple and water puree and deglaze the pan. Add the mushroom bouillon, coconut milk, black beans, red pepper flake, and salt to taste. Bring the curry to a simmer, and cook it just until it has thickened. If it doesn't thicken after about 5 minutes, mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Stir that slurry into the curry, and stir continuously until thickened.
Drain your tofu and place it in a tofu press. If you don't have a press, cut the tofu into ¼ inch thick slabs, and sandwich those slices between two clean cloth or paper towels. Allow the tofu to press or drain while you prepare the other ingredients.
Blend the Cap'n' Crunch into a course powder, and then transfer the crumbs to a pie plate or similar-sized platter. With a fork, stir in the garlic and onion powders along with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine chickpea flour, water, and Liquid Aminos. Stir or whisk together until there are not lumps.
If your tofu is not yet cut, slice it into ¼ inch slabs. Submerge each slab into the chickpea flour and water mixture, and then transfer them into the seasoned Cap’n Crunch crumbs. Depending on how big your dishes are, you may have to work in a few batches. Coat all the tofu in the Cap'n crumbs, and set aside.
Heat your deep fryer, or a large Dutch oven with about 3 inches of oil in the bottom, to 375 degrees F. Working in batches, fry the tofu for about 2 minutes per side, or until each piece is perfectly golden brown and crispy. Remove the tofu from the fryer and place them onto a drying rack over a plate, or onto a paper towel lined plate. Immediately sprinkle with salt.
Cook your rice or greens to your liking. Shingle the tofu onto a plate alongside your rice and/or greens. Generously spoon the Japanese-Style Apple and Black Bean Curry over the tofu. Top with fresh cilantro and sliced green onion.