Crispy outside and moist inside, and smothered with a thick sweet-salty sauce, tonkatsu is a good dish to introduce anyone to Japanese cuisine.
Tonkatsu was my introduction to Japanese cuisine. Before I acquired the taste for raw fish, tonkatsu was the only thing I ordered at Japanese restaurants. Tonkatsu is deep-fried breaded pork cutlets.
The cutlet can be fillet or loin but certainly not the Western pork chop cut with bone. I am partial to fillet cut from the shoulder — a little marbled fat makes tonkatsu more moist inside. You can have the cutlets prepared by the butcher or you can get a slab of pork and cut it at home. I prefer cutting from a slab so I can control the thickness better and make the cutlets of more uniform size too.
Once the pork has been cut, if the thickness is still not uniform, I pound the cutlets lightly with a kitchen mallet. A cutlet with uniform thickness will cook uniformly too. So pounding isn’t so much about looks as it is about smart cooking.
The cutlets are seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, dredged in flour, dipped in egg then coated with breadcrumbs.
The breading is panko (Japanese bread crumbs) which gives the crust extra crispiness that contrasts perfectly with the succulent meat inside.
Tonkatsu (Japanese Deep-fried Breaded Pork Cutlet)
For the tonkatsu sauce
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1/8 teaspoon grated ginger
For the pork
- 4 pork cutlets
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup panko you may need more
- oil for deep frying
- Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce. Taste, adjust to suit your taste and set aside.
- Lay the pork cutlets flat on the work surface. If the thickness is uneven, cover them with cling wrap and use a mallet to pound them until the thickness is uniform. You want them anywhere from half-inch to three-quarter-inch thick.
- Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
- Prepare three shallow bowls. Dump the flour in one, crack the egg into the second and pour the panko into the third.
- Lightly beat the egg.
- Start heating enough cooking oil in a frying pan to reach a depth of two inches (more is better). The oil shouldn’t be too hot to avoid burning the panko coating while leaving the innermost portion of the cutlet undercooked. The ideal temperature is around 145F. You can use a thermometer or eyeball it.
- While you wait for the oil heat up, prepare the cutlets.
- 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, in batches if your frying pan cannot hold all four together, until golden brown and crisp on the outside. If the cutlets are not completely submerged in oil, you will need to flip them for even cooking. Depending on the thickness of the cutlets, the cooking time can be anywhere from five to seven minutes.
- Cut the tonkatsu into strips and serve with tonkatsu sauce.