Thin Tonkatsu 豚カツ (Thin Japanese Breaded Pork)

thintonkatsupj

When I try to explain, for the hundredth time, that sushi is not the daily fare of the huge majority of the Japanese and that my favourite, regularly eaten Japanese dishes are not based on raw fish, I usually get incredulous looks and am asked to give some examples. Apart from Korokke, Okonomiyaki, Oyakodon and Karaage, I always cite Tonkatsu. Even though this dish has obvious Western origins (“katsu” is a Japanised version of the word “cutlet” or “côtelette”), it is different from its European counterparts. When I am asked, often with a mocking smile, what is so special about it, I say without hesitation: panko and deep-frying.

For those who have never seen panko, these crunchy flakes made of flour and water are used in Japanese cuisine instead of Western bread crumbs. They are flaky, thin, much crunchier and much lighter after the frying process and, strangely, absorb less fat than traditional bread crumbs. As for deep-frying, it is quicker and gives less fatty results than the European shallow frying method (as long as the right oil temperature is maintained). After having shallow-fried breaded pork all my life, I was amazed to see the dramatical change obtained thanks to panko and deep-frying.

I started to prepare Tonkatsu before meeting Hiroyuki, Nami or Robert-Gilles, bloggers who are my main internet source and inspiration in Japanese cooking adventures. I do not even remember the exact recipe I used for the first time, but it was probably taken from one of the books I own. Every cook has of course his or her tips, but the basic tonkatsu preparation can be resumed in very short instructions. The thick cutlets are pounded, seasoned, dipped in flour, egg, panko and then deep-fried. Tonkatsu is served either on a “bed” of shredded cabbage, on top of a rice bowl or in a sandwich, usually with the equally famous commercial tonkatsu sauce. When I was in Tokyo I had a tonkatsu burger, the most delicious fast food treat I have ever tasted.

Even though I have always wanted to share with you my enthusiasm for this simple dish, it was left in the waiting list because my favourite, very thin tonkatsu is far from the traditional thick version. In my opinion very thin pork cutlets are lighter, crispier, quicker and easier to prepare (no need to pound them), but I had been convinced no one prepared them this way and I didn’t want to be accused of sacrilege.

Imagine my surprise when, last week, while browsing through my friend Nami’s older recipes (Just One Coobook), I saw a thin Tonkatsu version! I was pleasantly surprised to have had the same idea as such a renowned expert and this discovery has emboldened me to write about my version, in spite of the messy presentation and an unorthodox way to serve it. In  fact, instead of the traditional tonkatsu sauce (see the TIPS) I most enjoy my tonkatsu with mayonnaise and thick crunchy chili oil sediments ( taken from my Taberu Rayu).

TIPS:

Deep-frying scares many people, but in my opinion it becomes very easy and quick with time. Everyone has different preferences of course, but the basic rule to observe is to make sure the food is completely dry before it’s fried (or breaded) to minimise the risk of oil splashes. Personally I prefer deep-frying in a small cooking pan (I have one which is only for deep-frying) using a small amount of oil. I also place the pan as far as possible from myself, just in case the oil splashes.

Deep-fried food should “swim” easily, so do not overcrowd the pan (otherwise the temperature becomes lower, the food fries slowly and absorbs more oil). I often have to cut mu pork slices in two, but they still taste great.

I am able to fry only one cutlet at a time. In order to make sure all the pork slices are hot when served, I place a baking dish in the oven at 100°C/212°F, line it with paper napkins and put there tonkatsu, one by one, until the whole frying process is finished.

Frying oil can be used as long as it doesn’t darken and is always filtered after each use (I usually throw it away after three times).

As I have mentioned above I serve my tonkatsu with mayonnaise combined with hot chili oil sediments (and sometimes with hot chili paste, such as Korean gochujang). The traditional tonkatsu sauce is available in Japanese grocery shops. Thanks to Hiroyuki’s kind advice (Hiroyuki’s Blog on Japanese Cooking), I know it can be substituted with a mixture of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce. I actually prefer now this home-made sauce because it is not as sweet as the commercial version.

If you want to see the very well explained and beautifully presented traditional thick Tonkatsu, hop to Nami’s blog.

A similar dish can be prepared with chicken breasts. Click here to see Nami’s Chicken Katsu recipe.

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two-three):

6 thin slices of pork loin (about 1/2 cm or about 1/4 in thick)

about 10 heaped tablespoons of panko

5 tablespoons wheat flour

1 egg, slightly beaten

salt, pepper

oil for deep-frying

tonkatsu sauce to serve (or a mixture of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce) or mayonnaise + thick chili paste or taberu rayu sediment

Season the pork slices with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oil for deep-frying.

(I don’t have the special thermometer and put some panko in the oil to check the temperature. If it starts making bubbles, doesn’t fall down and is fried immediately, it means the oil is hot enough. )

Dust the pork slices with flour, dip them in the beaten egg and coat in panko, pressing so that the whole slice is covered.

Deep-fry them until golden, one by one (unless you have a very big frying dish), on both sides (it usually takes one minute per side).

Remove excess fat, placing the pork slices on paper towels.

Keep them in a warm oven (see the TIPS) until you finish frying all the slices.

Serve on rice or on shredded cabbage with tonkatsu sauce or with mayonnaise and chili paste (or chili oil sediment).

 

56 thoughts on “Thin Tonkatsu 豚カツ (Thin Japanese Breaded Pork)

  1. Mr. Three-Cookies

    Very nice. I’ve never made thick or thin tonkatsu, I should.
    People think Japanese only eat sushi, sashimi, teriyaki etc- I wonder why. Most restaurants advertise sushi and don’t sell many authentic Japanese dishes – so they are partially to blame for not exposing more dishes???
    Deep frying probably uses less oil when compared with shallow frying, but I suppose most people will refuse to believe this.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Mr. Three-Cookies. I think that restaurants are to blame of course. Sushi (especially maki sushi, which is the most popular in Europe) is very cheap to prepare but costs a lot (=big income). Even if it’s prepared with raw fish, the amounts are so scarce…
      I think that only people who haven’t compared both, would refuse to believe it. Mine and my friends’ parents (European) still shallow fry most food (instead of stir-frying or pan-frying or deep-frying); it’s soaked in fat… so I don’t even feel I have to convince those who grew up with this traditional fatty way of frying… It’s logical too.

  2. wok with ray

    I love how simple and how you deliciously presented your bowl. I eat mine exactly like how you arranged it and then pour some curry sauce over the meat. Delicious. Thank you, Sissi and have a wonderful week!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you very much, Ray. I arrange it in a particularly messy way (I often cut the cutlets in two, so I cannot make the traditional Japanese way to present it).

  3. Jeno @ Week Nite Meals

    Hi Sissi, thank you for the deep fryer oil write up. I usually change the cooking method to pan fry even when the recipe calls for deep frying, because I am too cheap to use a large amount of oil, then having to discard the whole wokful.

    Your sauce sounds better than commercial tonkatsu sauce, in fact my little girl is the only one in the family who likes it (probably due to the sweetness). bet my husband would enjoy eating tonkatsu now with your version!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Jeno. I’m glad you found it useful. I always try to pan fry or stir fry instead, but sometimes (like in the tonkatsu’s or tempura’s case) it’s not possible. I was also afraid at the beginning and reluctant to deep-fry, but I quickly learnt how to do it quickly, easily and safely (and cheaply too!). I never discard the oil after the first time. It can be used three times as long as the colour hasn’t changed.
      I also prefer this home-made sauce and unfortunately I love tonkatsu with mayonnaise and chili sediment from chili oil… I feel guilty, but it’s so good.

  4. Katerina

    Well, as much as I love sushi I do not believe that anyone can live eating just that. So, I am sure that Japanese have a huge cooked dishes variety they make everyday. This one looks particularly appetizing Sissi! Bravo!

  5. A_Boleyn

    Gorgeous tonkatsu bowl, Sissi. And I see some healthy cucumber slices in a salad in the background. 🙂 Although I rarely deep-fry (in spite of my recent samosa/gulab jamun blitz) your dish would certainly be a great inspiration. I’m curious what a tonkatsu burger would consist of as well.

    Last week I enjoyed 2 of my traditionally made (bread crumbs not panko though I have it available) chicken cutlets in sandwiches though I didn’t use tonkatsu sauce as an condiment, just plain mayo, or rather salad dressing.

    I’d love to make chicken katsu the next time I get some chicken breasts on sale … although korokke and karaage are still dishes I need to attempt from my list of must-do Japanese foods. 🙂

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you very much, A_Boleyn. I love heavy dishes with a cucumber vinegared salad.
      If I remember the burger was composed of tonkatsu, some vegetables and tonkatsu sauce. I am glad to learn that you are also attracted to my favourite Japanese dishes 🙂 Korokke is I think the most amazing (but not just potato korokke; I mean the one with mushrooms,carrots and ground meat…heavenly).

  6. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles

    I love using panko too – In fact, it’s my breading of choice in many recipes including one of the boys favourite chicken dishes – the deep frying I have not been as adventurous with mostly for safety, and mess reasons (kids, animals, clumsiness, you know ;-)). Anyhow, the result looks fantastic Sissi and I would love to try your version of tonkatsu – I also like the idea of pulling together your own sauce here and your suggestions sound perfect to me. So much flavour – I love it! :0).

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Kelly. I think that panko is one of the rare miraculous commercial inventions (another one is the French dark chocolate mousse: it’s lighter than the home-made one thanks to the air… and also one brand of light mayonnaise I couldn’t live without).
      I always deep-fry next to the wall, far from myself, and always in a small pan so that if anything happens, I don’t suffer (I don’t have animals or children though 😉 ).

  7. Hiroyuki

    Congratulations on your new findings! You are absolutely right about panko and deep-frying! Deep-frying leaves less oil in the coating than shallow-frying, and makes the panko nice and crunchy.

    Thinly sliced pork katsu is common, so are “mille-feuille” katsu (pork slices only or a combination of pork and cheese slices) and “roll katsu” (rolls of thinly sliced pork, usually with other ingredients).

    Personally, I like to pour some lemon juice over the tonkatsu, as well as a generous amount of tonkatsu sauce, and have the katsu with karashi (Japanese mustard). And, I usually make a lot of shredded cabbage to make sure my children have enough vegetable.

    1. Sissi Post author

      THank you so much, Hiroyuki. I highly appreciate your approval and am glad you share my experience of shallow-frying vs deep-frying.
      I am so relieved to learn my thin tonkatsu is not an outsider (of course I have already seen it on Nami’s blog, but I think the only one I saw on yours was thick one made from thigh meat). Roll katsu is something I saw I think on your blog too! I must do it! Thank you for reminding me.
      Pouring the lemon juice over tonkatsu reminds of the way the Italian similar but veal cutlet is served: always with a quarter of lemon.
      I must finally start using the cabbage shredded I bought in daiso shop!
      (My new sauce is completely unhealthy but I love it: taberu rayu and mayonnaise is so good I regret I have discovered it 😉 ).

  8. kale

    thank you for the informative write up! the only thing i know about Japanese cuisine i learned from watching Tampopo… so, obviously i have plenty of holes to fill! 😉

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Kale. Tampopo is more than correct way to start learning about the Japanese cuisine!

  9. Tessa

    Beautiful tonkatsu bowl! I’ve never tried tonkatsu before but I have all the ingredients that you list on hand. This is a definite must try! Thank you Sissi!

  10. mjskit

    First of all – your presentation is beautiful and it makes me want to grab some chopsticks and start eating. Nami’s chicken Katsu is at the top of my bucket list and now this is right up there with it! I love fried foods and am not afraid to the fry things at all. It the oil is hot enough, the amount of fat in the final product is minimal. From the crispy look of your pieces, it looks like it’s fried perfectly to me. I like the idea of your simple dipping sauce of mayo and chili paste. Great dish!!!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi, MJ. Thank you so much for the compliments. I am glad that you also practice deep-frying. Life is too short… And you also like my crazy sauce idea! I am really flattered and happy to see we share the same taste. (The sauce is irresistible for deep-fried food: shrimp, chicken, tonkatsu…).

  11. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    Sissi, I’m so glad you shared your thin version! We are pork eater and I don’t surprise that you have been cooking this. You slice your own meat and I was very impressed when you mentioned that back then. You are a real serious home cook for Japanese food! 😉 I love your presentation. We talked about this before and I really liked that you added another bowl in the back. I really like this photo! Thank you for your kind mention and again I enjoyed reading your thorough explanation. One day you should write your own book – not only the recipes, but I’ll enjoy “reading” your explanation and history of the food as well. 🙂

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Nami, for so many kind words and compliments. I am so flattered to read it written by such an expert in Japanese cuisine and the master of photography. I am honoured to learn that you like reading what I write. Thank you again!

  12. Maria

    Hi Sissi! another delicious recipe!!! Thank you for sharing it with us! I’ve told you before how much I like your blog and you cooking! This time I am giving you The Beautiful Blogger Award. 🙂 Keep doing what you do best and most of all have fun doing it!!!

  13. Kiki

    Right, Mini-Schnitzel, I like Tonkatsu very much but due to health issues I am not allowed to eat deep fried dishes or pork dishes, let alone mayonnaise often (cry…drooling). Most of the time I cook those dishes for my husband and meanwhile I am eating Tofu (arrgh) so I have to cook two different dishes most of the time. Concerning my husband he could eat your dish every week easily (laugh). Since I learned about Panko flakes I use these instead of the common white bread crumbs, pain mie – they are much better.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi, Kiki. I’m so sorry to tempt you with deep-fried food 🙁 I also often cook two different dishes or slightly different, when I have squid for example (my husband is not as crazy as me for squid) or when I slightly “slim down” my dish (in tonkatsu there is nothing I can do though…). I am glad you like panko too!

  14. Eva

    This is one of JTs favourite dishes when we eat Japanese out. And you’re right about the panko, it does provide an exquisite texture for the tender meat. I use Panko often in place of bread crumbs.

  15. Barb @ Profiteroles & Ponytails

    After I made a white fish breaded with panko and pan fried last week my eldest ponytail told me that I was the best mom in the world. I can only imagine the moniker I’d receive for serving this dish — pork deep fried with the panko coating, oh it just sounds sooooo good Sissi!

    On another note, do you have a good pad thai recipe? I’ll have to dig around your site. My goal is to make sushi and pad thai with/for the girls over the next couple of weeks (but not at the same time). I’ve made both before but I’m looking for some good recipes. I know that you have some great sushi recipes, as I’ve seen your posts.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks a lot, Barb. Everyone loves panko I guess! It’s so crunchy and light…
      Unfortunately I haven’t posted Pad Thai here and have never made them. A_Boleyn has kindly given the link to her recipe. She doesn’t cite the source, so I don’t know if they are not modified, but they certainly look delicious. Sushi maki are very easy to prepare indeed! Good luck cooking with your daughters! Please let me know if you need any help.

  16. Zsuzsa

    Sissi it’s interesting we were cooking up something similar, although my pork cutlets with panko were Italian inspired if there is such a thing ha. I love panko but my husband whines when I bake with panko, but just recently I discovered that frying appeases him. He ate the fried cutlet breaded with panko and there was not a pip out of him. I will post it later; I still have to write up the recipe for it. Frying makes everything taste better, does it not?

    1. A_Boleyn

      I fried half of a batch of chicken fingers with italian seasoned bread crumbs and the rest with panko with just salt and pepper when I ran out. My nephew preferred the panko covered ones in both wraps and on top of a caesar salad. I was surprised but I think it was more a texture than a flavour thing for him. The panko was just crispier.

      1. Sissi Post author

        I am not surprised because panko and breadcrumbs have a similar taste. I discovered a long time ago that texture is the key element of what we eat (have you ever noticed how many children go crazy for Haribo jelly bears and not so much for hard candies with similar taste? I must confess I love Haribo from time to time). Asian cuisines give more importance to the texture than European cuisines.

        1. A_Boleyn

          The bread crumbs were seasoned while the panko wasn’t but you may be right. 🙂

          How did you know that I love gummy (jelly) bears? Though I don’t think it’s the brand that you mentioned here in Canada. And it has to be the mini ones NOT the large ones.

          1. Sissi Post author

            You love them too? Wow! The German famous and quite old brand (Haribo) is I think even sold in Japan, so I thought it was the same in Canada… These are the best gummy bears I know (there are many other brands too but no comparison), so if you find them one day, taste them. I have just read that they are sold in Canadian shops selling European food. Of course the best are the basic, standard bears.

    2. Sissi Post author

      Hi, Zsuzsa. This is not a traditional Japanese dish (traditionally there was no deep-frying in Japanese cuisine from what I have read), so the influence is obviously European… Frying improves almost everything, I agree.

  17. ping

    Ohayō gozaimasu, Sissi-san.
    I’ve had this at the restaurants. But I’ve always thought them a little hard and dry. But then, I should try ordering them again at better places. Yours look a million times better than what I had before.
    I’m one who’s not into deep frying. Not because of the fear but the wastage of oil. In our weather, the oil can’t keep as it turns rancid quickly. So, it’s only the commercial ones for me at the moment unless there’s a time where there’s more people around and we have a Japanese themed party. Guess where I’ll be looking for recipes then? 🙂

    1. shuhan

      same issue here with deep frying, though i do deep fry, btu only when it’s for parties or when i cook for supeprclubs, which I then feel justifies the amount of oil required!

      heh, that said, your tonkatsu is very persuasive…

      1. Sissi Post author

        Thanks, Shu Han. I never think in terms of oil amounts because compared to other ingredients the oil is very cheap… even the good quality organic oil, and as I have just told Ping, I never put more than 500 ml in my deep-frying pan (it costs less than 2 euros and I use it three times). Then I sometimes add a bit, but not much (I try to make the food absorb the minimum oil). Unless I fry for many people of course). It’s more expensive than stir-frying, but some dishes, like tempura or tonkatsu, have to be deep-fried. The difference between the first korokke (Japanese potato and meat croquette) I made in my life vs the one I had in a Japanese restaurant here could be compared to a real, Italian pizza in my favourite pizzeria vs supermarket frozen stuff I guess… I don’t exaggerate and don’t boast: korokke are ridiculously easy to prepare!. In short, it’s definitely worth it in certain cases!

    2. Sissi Post author

      Ping san, konbanwa 😉 Thank you so much for the compliment! I think that it’s not easy to prepare thick (traditional) tonkatsu in the way that they end up juicy not dry, so I totally understand you. I have started to slice them thinly because this way they are rather crunchy than dry…
      I had no idea it’s difficult to store oil in Malaysia! I keep mine in a closed jar, in a cupboard, sometimes for 2 months with 3 uses (I filter between the uses of course) and throw it either when it changes colour to brownish or when it starts foaming (the sign it’s no longer good). I usually use up 500ml oil per deep-frying (I mean I have to have this amount to deep fry, then I sometimes add fresh oil to the old one between the different uses).

    3. Mr. Three-Cookies

      My parents keep oil at room temp and it stays OK. I guess Malaysia is hotter. What about putting oil in the fridge? I suppose I am overlooking the main issue – you are not too keen on deep frying:)
      I don’t deep fry either. I was thinking – if I do it I will use the leftover oil in regular cooking so it gets used up.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Robert-Gilles. I really appreciate your compliments. Opening a small izakaya… Please don’t make me dream. (Although I would have to employ a good cook!). Thank you so much for the link. I’m hopping to your blog!

  18. Charles

    Hi Sissi – I’ve never made tonkatsu, and actually, I must admit I’ve never tried it either. Whenever I’m in a restaurant where it’s being served my eyes and stomach always start wandering over to other things and as a result this is something I’ve missed out on. Yours looks crisp and delicious, and I love the photo – did you get a new camera yet because it looks a very clean image!

    I always deep-fry in a wok – personal preferences I guess, but it seems so much easier when you have a big pan to maneuver things in adequately.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you, Charles. You MUST try tonkatsu! I am sure you would love it. Everyone does. Frankly I have never seen it here in restaurants (they serve much more “exotic” stuff, which results in many people hating Japanese food…).
      You have really made my day or rather the whole weekend with the photo compliment, Charles. I am almost jumping with joy 🙂 I haven’t changed my compact camera. I am sometimes fiddling with light, functions and manual mode (which is not 100% manual of course) and apparently I’m sometimes lucky 😉
      I don’t deep-fry in a big pan. My pan is really small… Otherwise I would have to put tons of oil. A small pan makes the frying process longer, but it’s safer and I can use only 500 ml oil.

  19. elisabeth@foodandthrift

    Sissi, this is seriously delicious…tonkatsu?…never really knew or remember the name, but I’ve had it in a Japanese restaurant, and it really was very good…crunchy on the outside, and very moist and flavorful on the inside. As I have mentioned before; our Asian restaurants; mostly the ‘momand pop’ family Asian restaurants make superb foods, and that’s where we eat out and know we get authentic Asian cuisine. The expensive elegant ones are also very good…just have to pay more for the decor, and abiance!
    Beautiful dish you created….and beatufiful presentation:)

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you very much, Elisabeth. Most tonkatsu cutlets are rather thick and juicy, but I prefer them very thin and crunchy. Otherwise they are deep-fried like in Japanese restaurants (my Japanese blogging friends confir though that very thin tonkatsu exists in Japan too). You are really lucky with these small but high-quality restaurants…

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