Tonkatsu (豚カツ : A Fried Food Romance

The story in six words post yesterday, brought to mind a dish my dear samurai made on a regular basis.  It seems in spite of our disparate cultures, he the cultured Japanese scholar and me, the eccentric Tarheel belle, had something in common – a love of fried foods.  One of the first things I fixed for him was southern fried chicken.  He returned the favor by fixing for me, Tonkatsu – a crispy fried pork cutlet. Thus began several happy years of back and forth fried foods – a loving duel of food, hot oil, breadings, and seasonings.

Tonkatsu is a “ubiquitous cafeteria” food in Japan.  There are restaurants in Japan that specialize in Tonkatsu and quality can vary.  It can go from the simple to the sublime and sometimes,  sublimely simple. To be sublime and simple, it is important that the best quality ingredients be used. Tonkatsu can be served in different ways, usually with a sweet brown sauce.  One of my favorites is a sandwich made from the leftovers – a cutlet on a good bun with sliced tomato and lightly seasoned, finely shredded crisp cabbage.  My Samurai would add his inevitable Kewpie.

The name Tonkatsu clues us to its ancestry. Ton, means pork in Japanese, and katsu is an abbreviation of the English word “cutlet” (pronounced ka-tsu-reh-toh in Japanese).  Around the 18th century, the Portuguese introduced to Japan a food that is now known as “tempura”.  We can also look to the 19th century influence for the “cutlet” part.  Anyway, the recipe is below.  Enjoy! Fried Food Foodies – rejoice!  Gamers – get your chow on.

Tonkatsu Recipe

4 center cut pork chops, boneless. 1 inch thick, room temperature
All-purpose flour for dredging
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg beaten
1 C. panko crumbs
oil for frying

Prepare the pork by removing any extra fat or tough silverskin from the sides of the cutlet. Using a chef’s knife (I use my 8 inch) to tenderize the cutlets in a crosshatch pattern by using a drumming motion across the surface, then turning the meat 90 degrees and repeating. Do this to both sides of each cutlet until they are 3/4″ thick. Salt and pepper both sides of each cutlet, then dredge them in flour, making sure to get an even coat on the sides. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, add the panko. Add 3/4″ of oil into a heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium heat. Coat a cutlet in egg then transfer to the bowl with the panko. Shake the bowl to evenly coat the cutlet, then press on the cutlet to get a nice thick coating of panko. Flip and press on the other side then repeat with the rest of the cutlets. Once the oil is at 340 degrees F, use tongs or chopsticks to gently lower the tonkatsu into the oil. Be careful not to scrape off too much panko. When golden brown on one side, carefully flip them over and brown the other side. Continue cooking until the pork reaches 137 degrees F at its thickest part. Transfer to a paper towel lined wire rack and let it rest  about 5 minutes. Letting the meat rest allows the internal temperature to continue to rise to around 145 F while allowing the proteins to relax, reabsorbing some of the juices so they don’t run all over your plate.

You can serve the cutlets whole or slice. You can also use chicken cutlets for this recipe. Bottled tonkatsu sauce is available at Asian food stores and some grocery stores in the Asian food section. Homemade Sauce: I make my samurai’s sauce with Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, some A1, reduced sodium soy sauce, bit of freshly grated ginger and garlic.  NOTE:  leftover cutlets are a great gaming munch!

Tonkatsu 2            20120919-223139-tonkatsu-sauce-step-1[1]

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. seeker
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 00:12:05

    Yum, fried pork with bread crumbs.


  2. Maurice A. Barry
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 14:44:56

    I will be trying that soon 🙂


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