It’s taken me about 15 minutes to get going on this post.. every time I get my hands into ‘type mode’, I stop, stare at the screen and get mesmerised by the soft fluffy rice ‘ball’.. I imagine the taste of the crunchy, salty panko breadcrumbs.. and oops.. I’ve done it again..
I LOVE Wagamama’s chicken katsu curry! I was first introduced to the chain 12 years ago.. and although my taste has changed greatly over the years.. my love for Wagamama’s most popular dish hasn’t. Countless Wagas gift vouchers, hundreds of ‘pit stop’ lunches, and several ‘indecisiveness breaking’ dinner moments have meant that over the years, I frequent the restaurant at least once a week! Meeting Mr G only added flame to the fire, as a huge Katsu Curry fan himself- our visits now take on almost a telepathic form.. ‘Katsu curry to share’ – beams thought.. ‘yes’… ‘ two Chilli Squids’.. beams thought ‘yes’ ‘Ebi Katsu’.. beams thought.. (and on a RARE occasion) ‘All the above with whatever new ‘side’ is on offer’ – ‘yes’.
If travelling around the UK; the Wagamamas App (yes there’s an app!) means I can always be directed to the nearest venue, and have that peace of mind that come with knowing I’ll be able to eat something I really enjoy. The one time I did veer away from my beloved Katsu, is still a day I remember.. sat in Brent Cross shopping Centre, looking like wounded animal, disappointed at my poorly picked bowl of soup and noodles (It had lots of things I’m not to keen on, but I should’ve looked properly), whilst Mr G licked the katsu curry sauce off his fingers.
Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself a foodie- will try anything once, and growing up in a multi-cultural home and with friends from different backgrounds, I have experienced a range of delicious new foods too, but when it comes to Wagas- a part from experimenting with the meal accompaniments, I only ever have Chicken Katsu Curry on my mind!
So it was with excitement and a little trepidation that I accepted an invitation to the ‘Way of Wagamamas evening’ on Tuesday night! – Could Wagamamas executive chef Steve Mangleshot and food psychologist Doctor Christy Fergusson, persuade me to move away from ONLY ever ordering my favourite dish, and could they persuade me to develop a new love for more dishes on the Wagamamas menu??
We started gently..
Steve explained that he was going to take us on culinary journey, starting from 0.. and leading us to 10. (Katsu Curry.. Katsu Curry..) Before we arrived the chefs has already made note of our favourite dishes, and Dr Christy explained in details WHY we loved them so. (Katsu Curry.. Katsu Curry..) I was shocked to hear that not everyone had the Katsu Curry down as their favourite dish, and before the evening began, this made me curious about what tastes and flavours I could be missing out on.
Now when it comes to the Chicken Katsu curry, it’s a dish made up of not only different flavours, but mainly different textures, the key for me being the crunchy, flaky, Japanese panko breadcrumbs! It’s the reason I also love Ebi Katsu (deep fried prawns in breadcrumbs) and studies have shown that your personality can greatly influence your taste buds. People who like a ‘crunch’ (pass the Tyrell’s) are often perfectionists, have a very high expectation of themselves, and will re-do projects if they are anything less than perfect! That is Mr G all round! I have seen him scrap designs, and have meltdowns on his quest to find that perfect shade of yellow for a flyer design! People who like a crunch are also sticklers for time (YES HE IS!!) and get excited by new projects..
We learnt during the evening that a thirst for salty foods is common in those who crave small rewards and immediate gratification (Me!) As a result, they are competitive and worthy adversaries (Erm..) “They’re ambitious and enjoy rewards in both business and pleasure,” (Okay.. yes!!)
The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ takes on a whole new level when you consider that research shows that people who enjoy bitter foods, tend to be harsher and more critical of others around them (I’m keeping quiet..) ultimately THAT predisposition could be linked to your genetics.
Although not bitter, Chicken Katsu Curry definitely had a tang and craving for citrus and tangy foods could stem from subconscious worries about your health, even if you’re not feeling sick. “People can be drawn to citrus foods not only because they feel better after consuming them, but also because they expect to feel better given the cognitive connection between drinking orange juice and fighting off illness’. – That’s me all over!
-I started to think maybe there is more to this food psychology malarkey after all..
Chicken Raisukaree: This was my first dish! One I had never tried, with SOME of the components of a Katsu curry sauce.. the curry flavour.. a subtle crunch provided by sesame seeds and fresh mange tout, although a lot creamier than my beloved tangy Katsu sauce. I enjoyed the dish thoroughly, and extra vegetables minus the deep fried katsu was definitely ‘lighter’ and one I would consider ordering again.
Firecracker : After seeing that I had polished off the Raisukaree (and even attempted some of the extra chillis) Exec Chef Steve went from naught to a million.. turning up the heat far beyond the promised 10.. (what happened to the journey??) This a dish for heat lovers! I am not a heat lover! I appreciate my taste buds and don’t enjoy the burning sensation of super hot peppers. Research from Penn State indicates that chilli/pepper lovers “… tend to like complexity and interesting tastes, and often score high in the ‘sensation seeking’ category on personality tests.” Sensation seekers like new experiences and thrills, whether it’s a new spicy food, a horror film festival or a death-defying roller coaster. – Well, I am not a thrill seeker, I’m not a fan of spicy food, don’t enjoy horror films and was tricked on going onto the last roll coaster ride I went on, by my sister, so right now that’s pretty spot on!
Prawn Kare Loman: Steve thankfully bought the heat level back down to 5, with a flavoursome Kare Loman. It might have been that my mouth was still on fire from the previous dish, as I still found it a little spicy, but after eating all the prawns and bit of the cooling cucumber- I ditched the noodles and coconut soup.. and waited for the next dish. With elements of a Thai curry, it’s something I would try again with a milder soup.
Chilli Men: Last but not least was the tomato based Chilli Men.. An onion and tomato based chilli sauce milder than the previous two dishes, reminded me of the base of many Ghanaian meals I have grown up eating and still enjoy. There was something nostalgic about the blended onion and tomato, enhanced with fresh vegetables, but with a new twist; served on a bed of noodles. I got that same carb-lovers ‘hit’ from the noodles as I’d previously experienced with the rice in the Katsu Curry, however with the familiar taste of ‘home’.
Will I be trying any of theses dishes again? Yes! Two (well it’s a start!!) The Chicken Raisukaree, and the Chilli Men, definitely opened my eyes to the fact that there are dishes on the menu with elements I can really enjoy, and also prompted me to be a bit more adventurous as there was nothing I DISLIKED. Plus, the fact that ALL dishes are made fresh from SCRATCH means you can play around with what’s already on the menu, requesting milder forms of the dishes, or increasing the heat if you’re brave enough- that is, after all, the way of Wagamama!