Tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet) (豚カツ)
Tonkatsu is a dish in which pork is coated with flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs in that order, and then deep fried. Its roots originally go back to the Côtelette of French cuisine, but Japan's 'tonkatsu' recipe has developed separately and is therefore considered a Japanese dish. It has also been introduced as a Japanese dish in Western countries. (For more details, please refer to 'Katsuretsu' (cutlet).
Tonkatsu, in a broad sense, is one of the fried dishes that uses pork called cutlets of Western cuisine. There are dishes in the style of pork cutlets in various countries around the world. However, tonkatsu in Japan has become part of Japanese cuisine: it is often cut into smaller slices to make it easier to eat with chopsticks and is served with miso soup and tsukemono (Japanese pickles). Restaurants specializing in tonkatsu have signs with 'Tonkatsu' (pork cutlet) in Hiragana and their atmosphere and dishes are usually in the Japanese style. The following is a narrow definition of 'tonkatsu,' which has spread in areas centering in Japan.
Tonkatsu is often enjoyed with tonkatsu sauce, chuno (moderately thick) sauce (both are made from Worcester sauce), salt or soy sauce, etc. It is also sometimes eaten with mustard and lemon slices. Lately, a variety called the Japanese style, which is served with grated daikon radish and ponzu sauce (soy sauce containing citrus juice), has gained popularity. In the Kanto area, when someone simply states "Katsu," it often refers to tonkatsu.
Names sometimes vary as they are named after the part of meat used; when pork tenderloin is cooked it is called 'hirekatsu' (fillet cutlet), while when pork loin is used, it becomes 'rosukatsu' (loin cutlet). There is another form of tonkatsu that uses thinly sliced meat put together as if it were one slice of meat.
A homophone of 'Katsu' (a pork cutlet) means 'to win,' and some people eat cutlets believing in omens. However, as tonkatsu is made of fibrous pork which takes time to be digested, and is then deep fried making it even harder to digest, it is not very suitable for eating just before sporting events or examinations. If one were to dare eating it, the desirable timing is said to be around dinner the previous day.
There are various theories about the origin of the name "Tonkatsu."
One theory states that Katsuretsu-an, which was established on Yokohama Bashamichi in 1924, started the dish.
Another states that Shinjiro SHIMADA, who had retired from being Kunai-sho Daizen-shiki (the Office of the Palace Table of the Ministry of the Sovereign's Household), opened a Western-style restaurant called "Ponchi-ken" in Ueno in 1929, and was the first to serve it.
Yet another states that Rakuten in Ueno, which opened in 1932, started it.
Or, that 喜利八 set up in Asakusa in 1933 invented it.
Prepare a cut of pork loin that is three to four centimeters thick and weighs about 150 grams, and cut it at a slant with a carving knife. Trim off the excess fat.
Pound the meat with a mallet, and when it becomes twice as large as its original size, carefully shape it back to its original form.
Salt and pepper the meat, cover it with flour, then dip it in beaten eggs and breadcrumbs separately. Pat the excess flour off with your hand, as too much flour can cause the coating to come off.
Heat lard in a large sauce pan up to around 120 to 130℃ (the temperature should be lower than for Tenpura), and fry the meat. If the temperature is too high, only the coating will harden and the meat will remain undercooked. On the other hand, if the temperature is too low, the coating will not have its trademark crispy texture. To prevent this from happening, prepare two pans with lard at high and low temperatures, fry the meat first in the high temperature pan for several seconds, and then fry it in the lower temperature pan for about 10 minutes, by doing so it will be thoroughly cooked and will also retain its crispy texture.
There are plenty of dishes derived from tonkatsu and all sorts of variations have been confirmed.
Katsu sando (deep-fried cutlet sandwich)
This is a sandwich with bifukatsu (deep-fried beef cutlet) or tonkatsu flavored with Worcester sauce and so on. In the Kansai region, as bifukatsu are often used in katsu sando, tonkatsu sandwiches are sometimes called "Tonkatsu sando" to distinguish them. The bread used is mostly sandwich bread but sometimes koppepan (similar to a hot dog bun) or hamburger buns are used.
Hitokuchi katsu (bite-size deep fried pork)
This is a variation of tonkatsu in which the meat is cut into small pieces of three to four square centimeters. This is often one of the accompanying dishes in a bento (a boxed lunch).
Kushi katsu (pork cutlets on skewers)
This is a dish with tonkatsu and onion slices put one after the other on a skewer that is then deep fried. It is different from what people in the Kansai region such as Osaka Prefecture consider kushi katsu.
Katsudon (bowl of rice topped with deep-fried pork cutlet)
This is a kind of rice bowl dishes in which tonkatsu and slices of onion cooked with egg in the warishita stock (the basic seasoning in Japanese cuisine prepared with soup stock, sugar, and soy sauce) are served on rice.
In some parts of Kyoto, tonkatsu is placed on the rice and the egg is added on top of that. In this case, the dish is often served with Japanese pepper.
Katsu-sara (cutlet plate) is a dish in which the above-mentioned tonkatsu cooked with egg in the warishita stock is served by itself on a plate, not on rice. It is also called Katsuni.
When served in an earthen pot, it is called 'Katsu Nabe.'
Sauce katsudon (bowls of rice topped with pork cutlets with sauce) is a local dish in places like Gunma Prefecture, Fukushima Prefecture, Komagane City in Nagano Prefecture, Fukui Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture. Over a bowl of rice, a layer of shredded cabbage is placed, then tonkatsu which is either dipped in or covered with a special sauce or Worcester sauce is placed on top of that (those in Fukui Prefecture eat this without the cabbage).
In these areas, katsudon refers to this 'sauce katsudon' and the dish with tonkatsu cooked with egg in soup stock is differentiated as 'Nikatsudon.'
Tare katsudon is also called Shoyudare katsudon (bowl of rice topped with cutlet with soy sauce). A dish from Niigata Prefecture. This is a dish in which a thin tonkatsu blanched in soy sauce based "tare" sauce is put over rice. No eggs or cabbage are added to this tare katsudon, which is no more complicated than a tenpura rice bowl. There is a double-decker variation with another tonkatsu placed between two layers of rice.
People outside Niigata Prefecture sometimes mistake this for a sauce katsudon because of its appearance. (As some books are based on this misunderstanding, careful attention is required when reading them.)
Oroshi katsudon is a bowl of rice with tonkatsu and grated daikon radish on top. Japanese seasonings such as shichimi togarashi (a mixture of red cayenne pepper and other aromatic spices) or white soy sauce are added.
Domi katsudon (Demi katsudon) as well as Katsumeshi, which is described below, is tonkatsu on rice with demiglace (a type of brown sauce) over it.
The name means a katsudon with 'demiglace.'
It was developed in Okayama Prefecture and is sometimes enjoyed with ramen (Chinese soup noodle).
Katsu Kare (bowl of rice topped with cutlet with curry)
This is a dish with tonkatsu on rice served with curry sauce over it. Or sometimes, just curry and rice with tonkatsu on top. Another variation is katsu-hayashi (hashed beef and rice) in which the sauce for hashed beef and rice is used instead of curry sauce.
This is tonkatsu on rice over which sauce (mainly demiglace) is ladled. In general, bifukatsu is used for this dish but tonkatsu is sometimes used as well. It is a local dish from Kakogawa City, Hyogo Prefecture.
In areas around Nagoya City, tonkatsu is generally served with a special sweet sauce made with haccho miso (bean paste).
Escalope (meat thinned with a mallet)
This is a dish where tonkatsu with demiglace sauce is placed over rice fried in ketchup or buttered rice with bamboo shoots. This is a famous dish from Nemuro City, Hokkaido.
Mille feuille Katsu
Sliced pork back ribs are stacked and then deep fried.
There are some different names for the same dish: 'mille feuille tonkatsu,' 'miru katsu,' 'kimu katsu' and 'gen katsu.'
Tonkatsu ramen (pork cutlet with Chinese-style noodles)
In this dish, tonkatsu is put in a bowl of ramen as an ingredient. The soup, noodles and other things may vary depending on the restaurant and area. It is common in Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture.
Tonkatsu chazuke (pork cutlets on rice with hot green tea)
A bowl of chazuke (boiled rice with tea poured over it) and a plate of tonkatsu are served separately. It is up to the individual whether or not he or she puts the tonkatsu in the chazuke, which is similar to Hitsumabushi (Nagoya style eel on rice). The rice is served with green tea or soup stock.
At Japanese restaurants in Taiwan, similar dishes are provided under the name of 'Tenpura Chazuke.'
Combinations with other cooking
Turkish rice is a dish in which tonkatsu, pilaf and spaghetti are served together on one plate. It is common in Western-style restaurants in Nagasaki Prefecture, however, because it is a local dish, it can rarely be found in other places. However, there are dishes with the same name in Osaka City and Kobe City.
There are desserts that include tonkatsu such as 'Tonkatsu Parfait' and 'Tonkatsu cake,' etc.
Tonkatsu and pork cutlets outside Japan
The dish spread to South Korea when the country was under Japan's rule, and as the Korean language does not have a similar sound to 'tsu,' it is called 'Tonkasu' there. At present, it is such a popular dish that it appears in TV dramas but, in terms of shape, the meat is pounded into a thin piece, becoming rather like a 'pork cutlet' in Western Cuisine. Recently, thicker Japanese style tonkatsu which tend to be juicier started to become common in places like Seoul City. Also, in Taiwan, they can be found as one of the accompanying dishes in a bento in Japanese style convenience stores, while 'pork chop and rice,' a similar dish to katsudon, has also gained popularity.
Meanwhile, in Western countries, 'pork cutlet' is very common at restaurants as well as at home. Styles of preparing pork cutlets vary considerably: Some are covered in bread crumbs and deep fried like the Japanese style tonkatsu, whereas others are fried in a frying pan with a small amount of oil. In Japan, sometimes, pork cutlets prepared in the Western style are called 'Poku Katsuretsu,' distinguishing them from the Japanese style. Quite a few Japanese restaurants overseas have tonkatsu and katsudon on the menu. Meanwhile, if one were to order a pork cutlet in restaurants other than a Japanese style ones, the dish would be something very much different from the Japanese style tonkatsu. In Chinese cuisine, pork cutlets cooked in the culinary style called 'Paiku' (pork ribs) are common and they can also be found in ramen restaurants and Chinese restaurants in Japan.
Varieties in the past
There was a variation called 'choko ton,' tonkatsu with a chocolate bar inside and another called 'matsumoto don,' a variety of katsudon, in which onion slices were replaced with shredded burdock and yam.