by Devon Sponheimer
In the mood for something a little bit Japanese, but a little bit Western? Then a meal featuring Tonkatsu might just be your answer!
Tonkatsu originated in the late 19th century Meiji era and originally was just called katsu, featuring beef in lieu of pork. The meal was first served in Ginza, when Western culture arrived in Japan. According to legend, the “Tonkatsu” (or pork cutlet) we know today was developed in Tokyo in the 1930’s. Prior to this, the cutlet had to be cut apart with a knife and fork, but one genius chef decided to slice it into bite sized pieces for his diners so they could use chopsticks, making the Western dish more Japanese style. Chefs then took it a step further when creating a unique sauce by experimenting with western Worcestershire sauce, adding vegetables and fruit to create the tonkatsu sauce we have today!
Tonkatsu is made with pork fillet or pork loin, dredged in flour and egg and coated with panko bread crumbs prior to frying. This delicious deep-fried pork cutlet can be served on it’s own, topped with tonkatsu sauce (think a BBQ style sauce), spicy mustard, Japanese mayonnaise and shredded cabbage, rice and miso or in a sandwich (katsu-sando) or with curry. As mentioned in the donburi post, it can also be served on a big bowl of rice with an egg, known as katsudon.
Meal sets of tonkatsu tend to be cheap, costing around 1,000 yen each. It's a delicious meal that is easily available and extremely popular across Japan. Need that winning spirit? Students often eat tonkatsu prior to taking exams, as katsu is a homonym of the Japanese word for “victory”!
If you’re not a fan of pork, don’t worry tonkatsu can also be made with other meats:
- Chicken katsu
- Menchi katsu - made with mince meat
- Hamu katsu - made with ham
- Gyu katsu or bifu katsu - made with beef
- Saengeeonkkaseu - fish katsu (korean origins)
Now, lets take a look at how to make this delicious meal at home
This is the recipe my husband and I use when making tonkatsu for ourselves at home. We probably have tonkatsu once a week!
What you’ll need:
- 4 center cut pork chops (2.5cm or 1inch thick)
- All-purpose flour for dredging
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg beaten
- 128 grams (1 cup) panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- Oil for frying
- 1/4 head of cabbage shredded on a mandolin (optional)
- Steamed rice (optional)
- Tonkatsu sauce for serving (Worcestershire sauce can be substituted)
- Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise (optional)
- Spicy mustard (optional)
If you’re going to have cabbage, make sure you shed this first. Soak it in a bowl of ice water while prepping the rest of the meal. Also prepare your rice in either a rice cooker or on the stove.
- Add oil to a large pan over medium heat. The oil should be about 1.9cm (3/4in) deep.
- Next, trim the fat off of the pork and tenderise it with a meat tenderiser. Pound the cutlet until it is approximately 1.9cm (3/4in) thick.
- Salt and pepper each side of the cutlet.
- Prepare 3 shallow bowls: one with flour, one with egg and one with panko. Dip each cutlet first in the flour, then in the egg and then into the panko. Make sure you press the cutlet into the panko to get a nice, even coating. Repeat these steps with all cutlets.
- Once the oil reaches 170C (340F), put the tonkatsu into the oil. When the cutlet is golden brown on one side, flip and brown the other side. This will be about 5 minutes of cooking on each side.
- Once both sides are browned, transfer the cutlet to a paper towel lined plate and let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Once the meat has rested, serve it on a plate with the cabbage and rice, and top with the kewpie and tonkatsu sauce. The spicy mustard should be on the side for dipping.