If you love “crispy” and have come to terms with the fact that crispy, if you’re not talking about crackers, usually means deep fried, then oh have we some manna for you. Tonkatsu is the Japanese word for fried pork cutlet, with “ton” (pronounced like a musical “tone”) meaning pork, and “katsu” meaning fried. It’s boneless, fried to perfection, and then served in crowd-pleasing ways.
Tonkatsu was only introduced at the cusp of the 20th century, and it took some decades after that for it to become the staple of the modern Japanese diet it is today. The preparation method is simple enough, with only one aspect of it being particularly Japanese in nature. First, the boneless pork chop (rarely will you see bone-in pork or beef in Japan) is seasoned with salt and pepper. After this, the chop is successively dipped in flour, egg, and finally (this being the Japanese part) panko bread crumbs. A few minutes of “crisping” later, and you’ve got a delectable, golden brown, super tender, admittedly fried, pork chop in front of you. From here, traditional service will have the kitchen chop it into one- or two-bite sized pieces, then send it out to the table with some special tonkatsu sauce for you to pour on or dip into as you please. The sauce is a Japanese take on some Western saucing staples, primarily being comprised of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, mayonnaise, and Japanese sake, with a bit of sugar, sesame seeds, and mustard added for good measure. A serving of raw, shredded cabbage is served, which helps “cut” the heavy flavors of the tonkatsu.
Another way to enjoy tonkatsu is as a “Katsudon.” Bite sized pieces of tonkatsu and quickly pan fried into a small omelet (the egg doesn’t envelope, but more like accessorize), then placed on top of a deep bowl of rice. This is a great lunch treat, and can be found cheaply and easily all over Japan.
Looking to try Tonkatsu in Tokyo?
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