Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tonkatsu Last Night

Tonkatsu, shredded cabbage and carrot, wakame miso soup, peanut butter beans, plain rice and a couple of umeboshi (pickled plums)

Leave it to the Japanese to clone another country's dish and make it internationally popular. I'm talking about pork schnitzel, a traditional Austrian/Italian dish which the Japanese hijacked and called tonkatsu. Easy to cook and immensely delicious to eat (if oil is not your phobia), tonkatsu is simply thin slices of pork (or chicken, but that would be chicken katsu) breaded and deep-fried until golden. If served on a bowl of rice, it is katsu don. The traditional accompaniment is plain rice, thinly sliced cabbage and some pickles and a miso soup.

tonkatsu sandwich
If there are leftovers, I keep them for making sandwiches the next day, heating them up in the toaster oven. Tonkatsu sandwiches are very delicious and satisfying.

I usually use pork loin although some people may prefer the shoulder. Pork loin can be tough and dry, but you can overcome that by cutting the meat thinner, about 10 to 12 mm, and break up the fibers by whacking at the meat with a metal (do they come any other way?) mallet. Don't over-mutilate the meat though or the texture will be soft and 'powdery'. You can also use chicken breasts, and if you are lucky enough to live in a country with veal, you can use that too. I like to season the meat lightly with salt, pepper and soy sauce only but if you prefer to make your tonkatsu more flavorful, you can add minced garlic or garlic powder and even fish sauce.

About the panko or breadcrumbs, I am happy with our local Tastie brand which is cheaper and finer. Go Japanese if you must, but be prepared to pay 2-3 times more for plain old dry bread crumbs.

For the best tonkatsu, or anything deep-fried, the secret lies in the temperature of the oil. I don't fall for that oil palm sell and I'm happy with Canola oil. It's still fine even if it's oil from genetically modified rapeseed plants developed by a professor from my university (yeah, go Bisons go!). I test the temperature of the oil by stabbing a pair of wooden chopsticks into it. If the surface of the chopsticks sizzles immediately, the breaded cutlets go in, one after one. If you want make it a Japanese meal, do all the other side dishes first and apportion the individual servings before you fry. This is because it takes less than 2 minutes to cook and you should eat the tonkatsu while it's still hot, or at least warm. You should allow 2 big pieces per person.

For a more western version, add grated parmesan into the breadcrumbs mixture. Serve a tangy salad and some potatoes and that's an awesome meal, to me.

Tonkatsu (about 4 servings)
500 g pork loin (chicken breasts for chicken katsu)
2 t light Kikkoman soy sauce
1/2 t salt
1/16 t white pepper
pinch of sugar (optional)

coating: 2 cups white breadcrumbs (panko), 1 cup corn flour, 1 large egg

1. Slice the pork/chicken breasts into 10 or 12 mm thick slices across the grain. This thickness is perfect for quick cooking and still gives a good bite. Use a mallet to tenderize the meat on both sides.

2. Season the meat with the remaining ingredients.

3. Dip the meat slice by slice into the cornflour to coat lightly, shake off excess flour. Now dip the flour-coated meat into the beaten egg, drip off extra egg and lay onto the plate of breadcrumbs, sprinkling more crumbs over the top. I like to use my left hand to hold the meat when dipping into the egg, then use my right hand to handle the coating. This way, my fingers won't be coated with breadcrumbs. Press the meat on the breadcrumbs to make them stick. Coat both sides.

4. Chill the coated meat for at least 1/2 hour. Good idea to get the side dishes ready now. Make sure you have a pickle (to cut the grease), a miso soup, plain rice and the finely cut cabbage. I use bottled tonkatsu sauce (very tangy) and ponzu sauce which I prefer on the cabbage as a dressing rather than dip for the meat.

5. Heat up 2 cups of veg oil (believe me, palm oil IS saturated oil and that's no good no matter how much carotene or whatever the food scientists the palm oil people pay to tell you) and when your wooden chopsticks sizzles when you dip them into the oil, or a piece of breadcrumb immediately rises to the top of the oil, you can fry the breaded meat. Reduce the heat to medium when the cutlet goes into the oil. It takes about 2 minutes to cook both sides. Fry the meat individually to maintain the heat.

6. Remove the cooked cutlets onto kitchen paper to drain and cut into 2 cm slices and arrange neatly on a plate or over the cabbage.


Sonia said...

wah, this look 100% Japanese meal, better than those serve outside restaurant..We also love Japanese food, I must cook this for my kids soon. FYI, recently I tried your Japanese potato salad, it was really great.Thank you for kind sharing.

Mina said...

This looks so good and very Japanese. Will cook it tomorrow, but can I borrow your Japanese bowls? Thank you for all the recipes. I miss your poss when you don't write.

Mary Chey said...

I like to follow your blog. my niece, Lily Anette introduce your blog to me, few months ago. Hmmm... you read my mind as i thought of cooking this dish for my kids and what a suprise to on your blog. Must have tasted great! :)

All the best to Wey in his PMR.

The Little Teochew said...

I thought you were doing a restaurant review when I saw your first photo. Then I realised this was all your cooking! My gosh, what can't you do???

mycookinghut said...

Ahhh.. this looks really good!! I really love it!

Agnes said...

That's so delish!! :O

Denise ^ ChickyEGG said...

hey, ur jap plate very beautiful ! (the one with Tonkatsu! ) haha, and can tell you really put effort in preparing this! look at those side dishes. I want to know what if Wey strike straight As ????? :D

Precious Pea said... good as those served in Japanese restaurant, if not better. should really open up a restaurant, am sure it will be a great success!!

Dr.Pop said...

Hi Terri, palm oil really isn't as bas as you think. It's fruit-derived and naturally occurring saturated fats. Palmitic and lauric acid, are 2 kinds of saturated fats that are known to increase cholesterol. Yes, increase! While this may seem like a drawback and outright proof that saturated fats are bad for us (because, after all no one wants high cholesterol), it actually isn’t: palmitic and lauric acid raise both LDL and HDL cholesterol together and in proportion to each other, which means good things for your cholesterol.

Also, interestingly, saturated fats are found in the breast milk of mammals. This means, we’re being fed and sustained on saturated fats right from birth. If this is the case, could they really be so terrible for us?

Many vitamins are fat-soluble and our brains, joints, nerves, hair, skin, and nails all require fats to function. It's just a shame that more people are delineating between the bad kinds of fats and the good/natural/from-the-ground kinds of fats.

This link will show you how to test if the vegetable oil you're currently using will turn into plastic:

Palm oil also has a high smoke point of 235C - it evaporates less when used in frying which makes our kitchens cleaner.

Sorry for rambling. Btw, i think your kids are really fortunate to have such a good cook as a mom! :)

zurin said...

I'm torn between canola and sunflower for deep frying so I buy a bottle of too many opinions about these things these days....information overload is as bad as ignorance sometimes. well... almost.

I make my own breadcrumbs by processing a few slices of stale bread in the food processor.if I have any left over I keep it in the freezer. works for me. Wonder waht makes japanese breadcrumbs so special tho.

TeaLady said...

If you do it with tenderized beef it is Chicken Fried Steak and very popular in the South USA.

bryan said...

Yummy! Back in high school, we used to make bets, not involving money, but katsu dons! The loser would have to shout the winner one, or maybe even three katsu dons!

terri@adailyobsession said...

sonia: thnks, do try it n tell me. i went to ur blog n ur jap potato salad looks great, fluffy n soft.


mary: hav u cooked it yet? i was at nishiki, a jap rest. here n their tonkatsu was not good, very thin n bland. home-cooked food is so much better bc we use the best ingredients, yes?

thnx, wey's almost done with his exams. we hav survived.

lilteochw: just like u, we do our best for our family:) u know what i can't do? good malay dishes.i'm no good with spices.

cookinghut: make it soon!

agnes: it was, it was.

denise: ironically, all the bowls n dip saucers were bought in japan but the rectangular plate you like was bought in melbourne.
ha, if wey scored straight As, i'll invite all my kk readers to a celebration party!

terri@adailyobsession said...

pp: it's the presentation, the ceramic plates. many jap rest. here use cheap plastic lacquer-looking plates now.
opeing a rest. is really hard work. i'd rather be a chef in a good restaurant--no need to shop or manage the rest.

dr pop: i can only think of 2 good things about palm oil: it is cheap and it has a high smoke point. other than tt, evrything about it goes downhill.

altho there's saturated fat n cholesterol in milk, it doesn't mean tt we shd pile on more of that stuff. we need some fat n even cholesterol in our diet bc some chemical reactions in our cells need fats to function but we shd still control the amount of harmful fats such as sat fats n cholesterol which are scientifically proven to cause vascular diseases by clogging our blood vessels, harden the arteries n cause heart diseases.

one thing i find very offensive is the way oil producers advertise that their veg oil have NO cholesterol. ALL veg oils have NO cholesterol, cholesterol is only found in animal fats so the thing we need to be aware of is whether the veg oil has saturated fats. plant oils can have either saturated or non-saturated fats (or both?) n palm oil n coconut oil are high in saturated fats, period.

so i still wouldn't eat palm oil just bc saturated fats occur naturally. n the irony is, palm oil's advantage of high smoking point is because it is saturated--saturated oils are more stable because they are so, well, saturated, all the 4 carbon bonds are attached to a hydrogen (frm my year 2 organic chem), so they can take high heat. but this very trait means they are thicker n so cause heart blockage n so on.

zurin: yes, i'm concerned to about oil for deep-frying. is using a high smoke point oil with saturated fat oil like palm oil better or a low smoke point and unsaturated fat oil like canola better?

tealady: tt's news to me. must try one day

bryan: tt sounds like in singapore? it's not a sabah thing to do

b said...

Hey Terri, thanks for the receipe. I cooked it last night and B says we do not need to eat out at Japanese restaurants anymore.

Frequent Reader said...

MY BROTHER'S FAVOURITE DISH! Goes great with japanese curry .It would ALWAYS be my duty "whacking" meat at home.*bambambam* Some taiwanese like to upgrade the pork a little by adding some plum powder to the breading or marinade. GOODSTUFF . Both HOT and COLD . And with japanese style potato salad.=] The chicken version is a GREAT PORTABLE SNACK in taiwan. Thanks for this particular post. Was really comforting staring at the pictures.

bryan said...

Nah it was in Adelaide, Australia.

Nothing beats home cooked food, when Terri is cooking!

terri@adailyobsession said...

b: tt's great :) been cooking a lot recently huh? is it the new oven or the new house or the new baby? gosh, u are so blessed!

frequent reader: yes, u r right, jap potato salad would be perfect with this. next time, i'll do tt:)

bryan: ah, someone's so priviledged ah, high school in australia.did you make all the girls cry?

S and O said...

Wow this one I'm definitely going to have to try! It looks wonderful and I just love breaded chicken!

Do you by any chance have any pad see ew recipes?
I'd love to have, it's one of my favorite dishes it is so addictive!:)



bryan said...

Me, make the girls cry? Never why would I do that?

Smart Payment Plan said...

I thought this was called Katsu and the dipping sauce called tonkatsu. At any rate, this is one of my favorite meals and your recipe looks fantastic!

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