When I was in Japan, one of the best meals I had there was…. Tonkatsu!
Tonkatsu is breaded and fried pork cutlets (ton meaning pork, and katsu being an abbreviations of the word English word cutlet). Crispy out the outside, tender on the inside, and accompanied by refreshing raw cabbage and tangy tonkatsu sauce, this simple, but comforting dish is perfect for any occasion.
I frequently find tonkatsu in anime, and in recent series, our favorite characters can be seen chowing down on it in Mirai Nikki and Uchuu Kyoudai. In both series, tonkatsu is paired with soup and cabbage, though in Mirai Nikki, Yuki’s meal is homemade by his mom, while in Uchuu Kyoudai, Mutta’s lunch is a set meal from a cafeteria.
Either way, just writing about this is making me hungry…. On to the recipe, already!
About the recipe:
Tonkatsu can be served in a number of ways, but if eating it as a main meal, it is served with thinly shredded cabbage, miso soup, and tonkatsu sauce. Breading the pork can be a bit messy, but I have found that flouring all of the pork first before its pass through the egg and breadcrumbs helps to keep my fingers from accumulating so much of the breading ingredients. It also helps to keep bits of flour, egg, and breadcrumbs from contaminating each other.
Usually, tonkatsu is deep fried in oil, but since I don’t own a deep fryer, I like to pan fry my breaded pork cutlets. Because the meat is quite thin, I usually have no problems evenly browning the entire piece of pork, sides included. If you own a deep fryer, by all means use it, but if not, you can still make this meal successfully.
After frying your tonkatsu, make sure to place on a paper towel-lined plate so as to blot some of the excess oil, helping the breading be less greasy and keep its crispy texture.
To serve, eat with shredded cabbage, miso soup, rice, and tonkatsu sauce.
Tonkatsu can also be eaten in a sandwich (katsu sando), mixed with an egg, onions and peas over rice (katsudon), with Japanese curry (katsu kare), in a maki roll, or even as part of bento.
Also, tonkatsu can be made with chicken (chicken katsu), or even prawns (ebi-furai).
About the ingredients:
For this recipe, I like to use pork tenderloin, cut it into medallions, and pound it using a meat pounder to a desired thickness. Pounding the meat not only evens out the thickness of the pork, ensuring a more even cooking, but also tenderizes the meat. If using this method, cover your cut pork with plastic wrap before pounding, so as to protect the meat from becoming mushy. Gently, but firmly, use a meat pounder to adjust the thickness of the meat.
I have also used center cut, boneless pork chops, and sometimes the same cut, thin cut. The thickness of the meat depends on your personal tastes. I like mine thinner than thicker, so about a half an inch thick suits me well. If you wish to make your tonkatsu thicker, three quarters of an inch thick would be a better choice. Be careful not to make them too thick though, or else the pork will not cook through completely.
Panko refers to Japanese breadcrumbs. The word is derived from a combination of pan meaning bread (a word borrowed from the Portugese word for bread) and ko, which is the ending for the word flour in Japanese.
Unlike regular breadcrumbs, which are fine in texture and include the crusts of the bread, panko is shredded into larger flakes and does not include bread crusts. This larger crumb allows for a crispier coating when breading, as well as a lighter and airier texture because it doesn’t absorb as much oil when fried.
Panko can be found in most grocery stores these days, but if you don’t have any in your panty, you can always use regular homemade or store-bought breadcrumbs, though the texture will not be as nice.
Tonkatsu is generally served with finely shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce. It’s similar to Worcestershire sauce, except slightly sweet and of a thicker texture. I like to use store-bought sauce (specifically the Bulldog brand), and it’s available in most Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find tonkatsu sauce in your local grocery store, you can make your own by mixing ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.
If you would like to serve it with cabbage, make sure to slice it quite thinly, and then soak it in cold water for at least an hour before eating. Soaking the cabbage helps to get rid of its characteristically strong “cabbage smell”, as well as keeps it crisp for your meal.
Makes 4 servings
- 1 lb pork tenderloin or center cut boneless pork chops
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 Egg, whipped (add additional egg if needed)
- 1 – 2 cups panko or breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper
- Oil for frying
1. Cut and, if necessary, pound pork into desired thickness, between a half and three quarters of an inch thick.
2. Place flour, whipped egg, and panko into three separate bowls. Into the flour, liberally mix in salt and pepper.
Dredge each piece of pork in flour, then coat in the whipped egg, and lastly cover with panko, gently pressing the breadcrumbs into the wet egg to adhere.
3. Heat a pan with oil on medium high. Fry the breaded pork until golden brown on both sides, and the pork is cooked through. Alternatively, deep fry the pork in a deep frier. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate.
4. Serve with rice, thinly sliced shredded cabbage, miso soup, and tonkatsu sauce.
Source: Blue Variance