Tonkatsu was my introduction to Japanese cuisine. Interestingly, it’s not even traditional Japanese but a yoshoku dish — one of the many Westernized dishes invented in Japan during the Meiji era when Japan opened its borders and culture to Westerners and their ways.
Is tonkatsu the same as tonkotsu?
Tonkatsu is what is you see in the photo above and described in the paragraph that precedes it. It is a dish of fried breaded pork which is the Japanized version of schnitzel. Tonkotsu is a pork-based ramen broth.
What pork cut is best for tonkatsu?
A boneless and tender cut is best. Cutlets made from the the loin is especially good but I find the ultra lean tenderloin to be a bad choice.
How thick should the cutlet be? Personally, I prefer the cutlet to be anywhere from half an inch to three-quarters of an inch thick. Thicker than that and there’s a chance that the pork will still be undercooked by the time the breading turns golden and crisp. Thinner than that and you get really sad tonkatsu.
How we cook tonkatsu at home
I start by pressing the pork cutlets between stacks of paper towels to remove surface moisture. This helps the initial coating of flour stick to the meat better. If the cutlets are of uneven thickness, I place them between sheets of cling film and pound them out with a kitchen mallet.
Then, I sprinkle both sides with a little salt and pepper. Seasoning at this point is optional but I really don’t like relying on the dipping sauce alone to flavor the dish. I prefer my tonkatsu to be tasty all the way.
Then, I prepare my “assembly line” — three shallow bowls for the flour, beaten egg(s) and panko. In case I need more of any of the three, I keep the flour and panko containers, and an extra egg within reach.
I start heating at least three inches of oil in a wok while I prep the pork. Each cutlet is dusted with flour, dipped in beaten egg then smothered with panko. I prefer to prep all the cutlets before I start frying instead of prepping the first batch, frying then prepping the next batch, and so on. Why? To prevent the cooking oil from getting too hot while prepping the second and subsequent batches.
With all the pork cutlets prepped, I start frying in batches. As each batch finishes, I lay the cooked tonkatsu on a rack so that air can circulate around them. That helps them stay crisp longer.
- 4 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
To fry the pork
- Press the pork cutlets between stacks of paper towels to remove surface moisture.
- Sprinkle both sides of each cutlet with salt and pepper.
- Prepare three shallow bowls. Dump the flour in one, crack and beat the egg in the second, and pour the panko into the third.
- Start heating enough cooking oil in a frying pan to reach a depth of three inches.
- While you wait for the oil heat up, mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
- Dredge each pork cutlet in flour; shake off the excess.
- Dip the floured cutlets in the beaten egg.
- Roll the wet cutlets in panko.
- Fry the pork cutlets over medium heat (about 325F), in batches if your frying pan is smallish, until golden brown and crisp on the outside.
- Optionally, cut the tonkatsu into strips and arrange on plates.
- Serve the tonkatsu with the sauce and shredded cabbage on the side.