Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Food #15: Tonkatsu

Growing up in Japan, we didn't, as far as I know, try really hard to recreate all the food we'd loved in the states. Nor did we go completely Japanese in our eating. I think most days were mostly "American": peanut butter sandwiches in the lunchbox, meatloaf for dinner, that sort of thing. I remember that orange juice was fiendishly expensive, so we only drank it when someone who had PX privileges bought us some. It was a gift item, like bringing someone a bottle of wine when you come to dinner.

But sometimes we ate Japanese food, and when we did it was most often some interesting food that was delivered in lacquered boxes brought on the back of a bicycle. I love that picture in my head. Sushi, tempura, and tonkatsu all came via bicycle deliverymen, and they were all good. I've only just rediscovered the tempura of my youth at a local Japanese restaurant--it tastes just how I remember it, light and crispy and exquisitely delicious. I could eat sweet potato and zucchini tempura all night.

Sushi is pretty widely available and I don't really eat raw fish sushi anyway, nor did I when we lived in Japan. In fact I've never seen the classic "no fish" Japanese sushi here in the states: sweetened, cold, scrambled egg on rice. Mmm. (not so much.) I'm perfectly fine with California rolls and even imitation-crab rolls the rare times I eat sushi, though now that we've discovered good tempura I may actually try the sushi at the same restaurant. Just to see.

But I've never found tonkatsu again. I thought maybe I had, again at the little Japanese place, but katsudon is not the same thing at all. Tonkatsu, for the uninitiated, is deep fried pork cutlets. Why this is Japanese, I don't know, but it is delicious. Typically it is served on a bed of shredded cabbage, which may be lightly doused with lemon juice. That's it.

The other night I did a little googling and figured out how to make my own tonkatsu, and it was so tasty, I'll be doing it again soon. I didn't have any cabbage in the house so I made a shredded salad to go with that was a big hit as well, so I'll include that here too.

For the tonkatsu (to serve four)
Four boneless pork loin chops, pounded to about 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups panko (or other breadcrumbs, but panko would be traditional)
2-3 cups peanut oil

Trim the pork chops of all visible fat and, as noted above, pound them between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Dredge in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, pressing the breadcrumbs into the surface of the meat. Put the breaded pork chops on a plate, cover, and refrigerate for 20 minutes to an hour.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan until a piece of bread sizzles when dropped in. Fry the chops two at a time, for about 4-5 minutes per side, until they are golden and crispy and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and serve sliced into four or five crosswise slices.

You might want to make this dipping sauce to go with. I made half a recipe, since my kids don't really eat condiments (except Nick eats ketchup, which is what he used for a dipping sauce. Sigh.)

You may serve them over shredded cabbage if you like, or make this easy shredded salad:

Grate four or five carrots (whatever fits in the food processor feed tube at once), and thinly slice two or three cups of baby spinach leaves. Or you could use cabbage, if you had it: up to 2-1/2 cups or so.

Dress in a marinade of:
2 tbl. vegetable oil
2 tbl. rice vinegar
1 tbl. soy sauce
2 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
a few drops Asian sesame oil

Throw some chopped peanuts or toasted sesame seeds on top, if you like.

(dressing adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home)


mom said...

It makes my mouth water, just to read it!

Lilian said...

Oh well, I can't eat the Tonkatsu, but I also am crazy about tempura, yummm!