A lot of people think Japanese food is just raw fish. Whilst sashimi is one of my favourite things to eat, this notion couldn't be further from the truth.
My husband's favourite food from Japan is tonkatsu. A pork cutlet which has been dredged in flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs before being deep-fried till it's crisp and golden yet still juicy and without a whisper of grease.
Like tempura, Japan's more famous fried food, tonkatsu actually came from Portuguese traders in the 19th century, and was originally considered to be yoshoku - or Western food - but it has now been firmly adopted as washoku - Japanese cuisine.
Tonkatsu is made with boneless pork loin steaks or chops (with a ribbon of fat if possible), though I sometimes go left-field and use pork loin slices cut for shabu-shabu which makes for a daintier dish.
With a tussock of thinly-shredded cabbage, a dab of yellow mustard, a drizzle of fruity tonkatsu sauce, some pickles and some hot sesame rice, a meal of fresh-fried tonkatsu is irresistible.
- 2 pork loin chops or steaks (~200g each)
- 1 egg
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Plain flour
- Flavourless oil for deep-frying
- Quarter of a white or tenderheart cabbage
- Yellow mustard
- Tonkatsu sauce
- Black or white sesame seeds
- Rice to serve
- Shred the cabbage as finely as possible and then soak in cold water.
- Wrap the steaks in clingfilm and bash them with a rolling pin, but you're not trying to tenderise - just thin them out a bit.
- Lay out one plate of flour, one plate of breadcrumbs and a bowl of beaten egg.
- Season one steak generously with salt and pepper. Then dredge it in flour, dip it in the beaten egg, then flour again, then egg again. Lastly coat the steak evenly in the panko breadcrumbs and place on some greaseproof paper. Prepare the other steak in the same way.
- Drain the shredded cabbage and put to one side to dry.
- Heat three inches of oil in a deep frying pan or wok - check if it's ready by throwing a couple of panko crumbs in and if it goes brown, it's ready.
- Place one steak in the oil gently and, turning a couple of times, fry until it goes golden brown - this should take about 6 minutes. Drain on a wire rack or paper towels while you cook the other.
- Then serve the tonkatsu immediately with the shredded cabbage, pickles, mustard, tonkatsu sauce for drizzling and rice sprinkled with sesame and salt (gomashio).
A tonkatsu sandwich (or sando) is a thing of beauty.
Simply place the fried tonkatsu in between two thick slices of buttered white bread with the shredded cabbage, plenty of tonkatsu sauce, a squeeze of mustard and a squirt of Kewpie mayonnaise.
Or go get one from Tsuru Sushi.
Home-made Panko Breadcrumbs
If you can get panko breadcrumbs, perfect, but if not, you can make your own as follows:
- Shred four slices of stale white bread in a blender so the crumbs are larger, flaky and more ragged than normal breadcrumbs,
- Spread the crumbs across a baking tray and bake at 150 C till dry but not brown - then leave to cool.
- Use for tonkatsu or store in a sealed sandwich bag - will keep a few weeks.
Home-Made Tonkatsu Sauce
Tonkatsu sauce is a fruity brown sauce similar to barbecue sauce which adds an essential tangy dimension to the dish.
The brand that everyone uses is Bulldog and you can get this from the Japan Centre and certain other Asian stores, but here's my recipe for home-made tonkatsu sauce.
- 6 tbsp ketchup
- 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground garlic
- 1 tbsp pomegranate syrup or apple sauce (optional)