Many cuisines have a version of a breaded fried cutlet, and the Japanese version, called Tonkatsu, or katsu for short, is a pretty terrific take on the theme.
It’s considered an East-meets-West Japanese comfort food, usually made with pork, sometimes chicken, that has been sliced or pounded thin, dredged in four, then beaten egg, then rough Panko breadcrumbs and fried. Sometimes tonkatsu is deep-fried, sometimes more reservedly sautéed in a pan, which is really what I can justify in my home kitchen.
I am such a little sushi addict that when I go out to a Japanese restaurant (which comprises about 84% of my restaurant experiences, such is my great sushi love) I never order anything but raw fish – and a salad. I never ever glimpse at the cooked part of the menu. So I’ve missed out on quite a bit of great Japanese cuisine, which makes me sad, but also determined.
And conversely, if I am yearning for the flavors of Japanese food at home, I am not making sushi. Not at all. I live in NYC where good not-too-pricy sushi is available in may places speckled around the city (and on lazier nights, on places that will deliver in 30 minutes or less). And while I have made it once or twice (and actually very recently with some friends from PureWow at Morimoto which was SO much fun – though I left without them offering me a job….not sure why….)
Anyway, I much prefer a professional making my sushi than my amateur self. A bucket list item wold be spending some real time learning from a real sushi master. But that’s not happening today.
SO (I’m quite long-winded today): me cooking Japanese food at home = cooked food = tonkatsu = deliciousness.
It is usually served with slivered cabbage or lettuce and rice, and often a tangy/sweet/salty sauce called, appropriately enough, Tonkatsu sauce. The play of the tender meat encased in a crunchy crust is unsurprisingly good. The sauce is very distinctive, and I love the way the shreds of crunchy cabbage or lettuce disperse the intensity of the sauce.
And it’s hard to go wrong when you serve things of this nature and texture over a bed of fluffy rice (white is the only way to go here, in my opinion).
Final tonkatsu fact: While Tonkatsu originated in Japan, and is certainly still considered a classic Japanese quick bite, versions of this cutlet are also very popular in Korea. On my bucket list now is a pan-Asian tour of tonkatsu. I clearly am going to need a bigger bucket.
More Japanese-Inspired Recipes
- Japanese Restaurant Salad Dressing
- Japanese Meatballs with Ponzu Glaze
- The Easiest Shortcut Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup
- Chicken Yakitori
- ½ cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin rice wine; optional
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 8 4-ounce boneless pork cutlets or chicken cutlets
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs beaten
- 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
- Vegetable, peanut or canola oil for pan frying
- Hot cooked white rice
- Very thinly slivered green cabbage or crisp lettuce such as iceberg or romaine hearts
- Lemon wedges
- In a small bowl mix together the ketchup, Worcestershire, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and mustard. Set aside.
- Place the pork or chicken cutlets, one at a time, into a heavy-duty zipper top bag and use a rolling pin or meat mallet to gently pound them into cutlets 1/4-inch thick. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the flour, eggs, and panko in three separate shallow bowls. Dredge each cutlet one at a time in the flour, the eggs, then the panko (if you use one hand to work the meat into the dry ingredients, and one for the eggs, you will have cleaner hands). Set on a wire rack as each is coated.
- Heat 1/4-inch of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place two or three cutlets into the pan, making sure there is space between each of them so they can brown well. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until the outer coating is nicely browned and the meat is cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate as they finish. Repeat with the remaining cutlets, adding more oil as needed and allowing it to become hot between batches. You can use 2 skillets if you want the cooking process to go more quickly.
- Slice the katsu into thin strips and serve over hot rice with the cabbage or lettuce, lemon wedges and Tonkatsu sauce.
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