Tonkatsu is a Japanese dish consisting of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet usually served with shredded cabbage and a tangy sauce.
That is a true statement, and just as accurate as saying a Stradivarius violin plays decent music.
Tonkatsu is the ULTIMATE expression of fried pork, Citizens! The Japanese have elevated and perfected this humble dish and I shall share its gospel with you. Tonkatsu actually originated in Japan in the 19th century and has been wildly popular since it was introduced.
First – the pork should ideally be from a black pig (called Berkshire in the U.S. and U.K. and Kurobota in Japan). This heirloom breed has delicious, juicy meat that is the most flavorful pork you can use – seek it out if you can!
Either a pork fillet (ヒレ hire) or pork loin (ロース rōsu) cut may be used; the meat is usually salted, peppered, dredged lightly in flour, dipped into beaten egg and then coated with panko (bread crumbs) before being deep fried.
Panko (パン粉) is a variety of flaky bread crumb used in Japanese cuisine as a crunchy coating for fried foods, such as tonkatsu.
Panko is made from bread baked by grinding the dough to create fine slivers of crumb, yielding bread without crusts. It has a crisper, airier texture than most types of breading found in Western cuisine and resists absorbing oil or grease when fried, resulting in a lighter coating.
Tonkatsu is always served with shredded cabbage – and with good reason (read all about it at my friend Mona’s blog here!). It just is. It is most commonly eaten with a type of thick Worcestershire sauce called tonkatsu sauce or simply sōsu (sauce) – yesterday’s recipe blew the doors off the ultra-secret recipe for true tonkatsu sauce.
Karashi (mustard) and perhaps a slice of lemon are also provided with the cutlet. It is usually served with rice, miso soup and tsukemono (pickles) and eaten with chopsticks. It may also be served with ponzu sauce (a citrusy sauce served with tempura) and grated daikon radish instead of tonkatsu sauce.
Given my elaborate recipe for Tonkatsu sauce yesterday (which you must try!), you know which side of the divide I fall on, Citizens! 😉
Tonkatsu is not hard to make – the secret is double frying the cutlet for ultimate crispness. Paired with my unmatched sauce, you have a feast worthy of TFD!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Japanese Tonkatsu – 豚カツ
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- 2 Boneless pork chops, preferably Berkshire or another heirloom breed (at least 1/2 inch thickness, preferably 1″)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 Tbsp. oil
- Fresh panko*
- Oil for deep frying
- Tonkatsu Sauce
- Finely-sliced cabbage
- * For Tonkatsu, I highly recommend you use fresh panko (aka “Nama Panko” – it’s fresh bread crumbs not dried). If you can’t buy fresh panko at a Japanese store, spray regular panko with water and leave for 15 minutes. When you select panko, look for packages with bigger flakes, as they are the most suitable for Tonkatsu.
- Get rid of the extra fat and make a couple of slits on the connective tissue between the meat and fat. The reason why you do this is that red meat and fat have different elasticity, and when they are cooked they will shrink and expand at different rates. This will allow the pork to stay nice and flat when deep frying and prevent it from curling up.
- Pound the meat with a meat pounder, or if you don’t have one, then just use the back of knife to pound. When using knife, crisscross by first pounding top to bottom then left to right.
- Mold the extended meat back into original shape with your hands.
- Dust with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl or plate, add ½ Tbsp. of oil for each egg you use and whisk them up. By adding oil, the meat and breaded coating won’t detach from each other while deep frying.
- Dredge in flour and remove excess flour.
- Dip in egg mixture.
- Dredge in panko. After removing excess panko, press gently. While deep frying panko will “pop up” so at this moment they don’t have to be fluffy.
- Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat and wait till oil gets 350F (180C). If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a chopstick in the oil and see if tiny bubbles start to appear around the tip of the chopstick. Alternatively, you can drop one piece of panko into the oil, and if it sinks down to the middle of oil and comes right up, then that’s around 350F (180C) as well.
- When the oil reaches to that temperature, gently lower Tonkatsu into the oil. Keep watching the oil’s temperature and make sure it doesn’t go over 350F (180C) or else it will look burnt.
- Deep fry for 1 minute on one side and flip to cook the other side for 1 minute. If your pork chop is thinner than ¾ inch, then reduce to 45 seconds for each side.
- Now take the Tonkatsu out and get rid of the oil by holding Tonkatsu vertically for a few seconds. Place on top of wire rack (if wire rack is not available, substitute with paper towel) and let it sit for 4 minutes. The hot oil on exterior is slowly cooking the meat as it sits. Please do not cut to check whether the inside is cooked or not. We need to keep it closed to retain the heat. While waiting, you can scoop up fried crumbs in the oil with a mesh strainer.
- After resting for 4 minutes, bring the oil back to 350F (180C) of oil again and deep fry Tonkatsu for 1 minute (about 30 seconds each side).
- Poke the meat with a chopstick and if clear liquid comes out then it’s done. Drain the oil by holding the Tonkatsu vertically again for a few seconds. Then leave it on top of rack/paper towel for 2 minutes. If you have to use paper towel, try to keep Tonkatsu in a vertical position so it does not get soggy on one side.
- Cut Tonkatsu into 3 large pieces by pressing the knife directly down instead of moving back and forth. This way the breading will not come off. Then cut again in between. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately with sauce and appropriate garnishes.
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- Cook Time: 0 hours
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