Written by Kumiko Toya
Japanese families often eat Tonkatsu, particularly around competitions and examinations. My mother always cooked me Tonkatsu for good luck, and now I do the same for my kids before their sports competitions and important tests. The lucky status of Tonkatsu came from its name, a homonym for the Japanese word katsu, meaning “to win”.
But superstitious reasons aside, Tonkatsu is simple yet so comforting and delicious!
Tonkatsu is one of the most popular forms of yōshoku (Western food incorporated into traditional cuisine) in Japan. A thick slice of pork loin is breaded in flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs, then deep-fried until crisp on the outside, and juicy on the inside.
💡 What is Panko?
The name panko translates to the Japanese word “breadcrumbs”. They are flakier in texture and coarser than regular breadcrumbs. Panko is used in Japanese-style dishes to provide a crispy coating to fried food. They have recently gained a popularity in the U.S. and can be found in most grocery stores.
When you have left over crusts at hand from making fruit sando for example, you can make wonderful panko at home! Shred the crusts removed from a loaf of bread in a food processor to make coarse crumbs. You do not need to dry or toast the shredded crumbs! Just use it in recipes as is.
Tonkatsu is a favorite food item for Japanese style bento, too.
Tonkatsu and a big pile of shredded cabbage are inseparable. The Vitamins and soluble fiber present in cabbage helps to maintain the health in the stomach. When eaten with deep-fried Tonkatsu, the cabbage aids in preventing heartburn and keeping the blood sugar levels stable. The refills of shredded cabbage are usually served free in restaurants when you order a Tonkatsu dish in Japan.
This week, we are sharing how to make a great Tonkatsu!
HOW TO MAKE TONKATSU
4 Slices Pork Loin (around 1 inch thick)
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Pepper
¼ Cups All-purpose flour
1 Egg, beaten
1 Cup Panko breadcrumbs
3 Cups Canola oil, for deep frying
4 Lemon wedges (Optional)
4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons Ketchup
Karashi (Japanese Mustard) or Dijon Mustard (Optional)
1. Tenderize the pork loin with a meat tenderizer. Push the pork back into its original shape.
2. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
3. Place the beaten egg, flour, and panko breadcrumbs in three separate bowls.
4. Dip the pork into the flour to coat. Shake off excess.
5. Dip into the beaten egg, letting excess drip off, then dip into the panko breadcrumbs, patting to coat evenly.
💡 Use one hand to run through the beaten egg and the other hand to coat with the panko breadcrumbs in order to avoid the egg-breadcrumb mixture caking onto your hands!
6. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil to 330F to 340F (165C to 170C). Add the breaded pork to the skillet and cook until the underside is golden, then flip and fry the other side, about 3 minutes per side.
7. Place on a wire cooling rack for 5 minutes to rest.
8. Use a knife or a shredder to shred the cabbage.
9. Combine the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl and whisk well to make the sauce.
10. Serve Tonkatsu on plates with a side of the shredded cabbage. Drizzle the sauce over the Tonkatsu before eating. Serve karashi (Japanese mustard) or Dijon mustard on the side if you prefer.
Don’t be shy about frying up extra Tonkatsu because you can make Katsudon the day after the Japanese feast!
💡For those who are unfamiliar with Katsudon, it is a hearty rice bowl dish in which rice is topped with sliced Tonkatsu, onions, and eggs in a sweet and salty sauce. The word “don” in Katsudon means “a bowl” and also all the meals served in a bowl. Don meals have many variations and one of the typical Don is “Tendon,” Tempura on rice. Another is “Gyudon,” beef on rice. Don is so quick and tasty that it is called the fast food of Japanese cuisine.
HOW TO MAKE KATSUDON
2/3 Cups Water
½ Onion, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons Soy sauce
1½ Tablespoons Mirin (Optional)
1 Tablespoon Japanese sake (Optional)
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Wafu dashi powder (Substitutable to ⅔ cups of chicken stock. Use the chicken stock instead of the water if that is the case.)
Enough cooked Rice for two bowls
2 Shiso (Perilla) leaves or chopped Scallion
1. Lightly beat the eggs. Avoid overmixing otherwise it will lose its fluffy texture.
2. Bring the water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the sliced onions and simmer until the onions are tender.
3. Add the stock mixture and bring to boil again.
4. Carefully place the sliced Tonkatsu on top of the onion.
5. Pour 2/3 of the lightly beaten egg around the Tonkatsu. Do not stir. Cook until the eggs are just about set but still slightly wobbly.
6. Add the remaining egg over the Tonkatsu. Cover and remove from the heat.
7. Wait for 30 seconds. (Wait for 1 minute if you prefer the eggs to be set.)
8. Slide the broth, egg, and Tonkatsu out on top of a bowl of rice. Sprinkle with Shiso leaves or scallions and serve.
“Ebi Fry” (“Fried Shrimp”) is one of the most popular yōshoku dishes for kids! Preparation is the same as Tonkatsu.
Kushikatsu (“fried food on a skewer”) is a very popular street food in the western part of Japan. Skewer any meat, chicken, or seafood of your choice along with some veggies and deep-fry, using our Tonkatsu instructions!
Katsu Sando (“Tonkatsu Sandwich”) is another Japanese deliciousness taking advantage of leftover Tonkatsu! Make sure the Tonkatsu is drizzled with sauce on both sides.