Exploring the rich tapestry of Japanese cuisine, I stumbled upon another delightful dish, besides korokke, that bridges the gap between East and West – tonkatsu.
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Baked tonkatsu recipe
Tonkatsu is a breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet, and its name is a combination of two words: “ton” meaning pork, and “katsu” meaning cutlet. It has a crispy and golden exterior and a tender and juicy pork interior.
Tonkatsu, I learned, has its roots in Western cuisine, particularly the European tradition of breaded and fried meats. The dish is said to have been introduced to Japan during the Meiji era (late 19th to early 20th century).
At the heart of pork katsu lies a pork cutlet, either from the loin or fillet (Hirekatsu), meticulously prepared to achieve a thin and even consistency. To make tonkatsu or other katsu, you coat it with flour, dip it in beaten eggs, and finally, cover it with panko breadcrumbs. Then, you deep-fry it, making it crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
The dish was accompanied by a special sauce, the Worcestershire sauce. It is often served with a rice bowl – Katsudon – a type of donburi, curry, raw shredded cabbage, or miso soup.
I’m all about finding healthier alternatives in the kitchen, and when it came to pork deep fried dishes, I preferred to cut back on the oil without sacrificing flavor. Instead of the traditional deep-frying method, I opt for a baked tonkatsu approach.
Rather than taking the plunge into a pool of hot oil, my pork katsu gets a spot in the oven. Of course, my baked pork katsu lacked that extreme crunch factor. While it was still crispy, it wouldn’t quite reach the crispy perfection achieved through deep-frying. In return, my katsu recipe is more convenient. I just needed to pop it in the oven, set a timer, and I was good to go. Here is how to make pork katsu with the oven:
Baked Tonkatsu – Japanese Deep-fried Pork Cutlet
- 4 boneless pork loin or fillet cutlets
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- Cooking spray or olive oil
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Season the pork cutlets with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Set up a breading station with three shallow dishes: one with flour, one with beaten eggs, and one with panko breadcrumbs.
- Dredge each pork cutlet in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip it into the beaten eggs, ensuring an even coating, and then press it into the panko breadcrumbs, making sure the breadcrumbs adhere to the meat. Place the breaded cutlets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a wire rack.
- Lightly spray the breaded cutlets with cooking spray or brush them with a small amount of olive oil. This will help them achieve a golden brown color during baking.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the pork is cooked through and the breadcrumbs are crispy. You may want to flip the cutlets halfway through the cooking time for even browning.
- While the tonkatsu is baking, prepare the tonkatsu sauce. In a small saucepan, combine ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly.
- Once the tonkatsu is done baking, serve it hot with the tonkatsu sauce drizzled over the top. You can serve it with a rice bowl or with raw cabbage.
Tonkatsu evolved over the years, becoming a staple of Japanese cuisine. Rengatei, one of the oldest Western-style restaurants in Japan, played a significant role in popularizing this breaded and fried Japanese dish.
It gained widespread popularity during the post-World War II period when it became more accessible to the general public. Tonkatsu restaurants and eateries began to flourish, offering variations of the Japanese fried pork cutlets dish and other Japanese katsu to suit different preferences.
- Chicken Katsu a.k.a Tori Katsu: A poultry twist on the classic, using breaded and fried chicken cutlets instead of pork.
- Gyūkatsu uses beef instead of pork for the cutlet.
- Menchi-katsu is made with a minced meat patty, typically pork, beef, or a mixture of pork and beef, seasoned with various ingredients.
- Hamu katsu provides a unique twist by using ham instead of pork loin or fillet. The saltiness of the ham pairs well with the crispy coating.
- Katsu-sando: The crispy cutlet is sandwiched between soft bread slices and often accompanied by shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce.
It’s fascinating to witness how tonkatsu, with its roots in Western inspiration, has become an integral part of Japan’s gastronomic identity.